If you want to know where all the Japanese expats in Singapore go to eat after work, Sumiya Charcoal Grill Izakaya would be it. We were practically surrounded by people speaking nihongo all through the night! I reserved a table for two here on the eve of Valentine’s Day (they were booked full on the actual day) and we were very impressed with the food – there was just so much we wanted to order. So what do you do when you’re spoilt for choice and it’s a special occasion? Order 14 items off the menu and gorge yourself silly, that’s what.
Located on the rooftop of Orchard Central, the restaurant is designed such that it splits its huge floor area into three different concept spaces: a 1970s-80s izakaya dining space, a conceptual 1960s yokocho (alleyway), and a 1950s outdoor garden al fresco area. The interior of the restaurant is fitted with very retro elements (including a DIY cotton candy machine) and decorated with Japanese folk art and prints. If you decide to sit outside or near a window, you will be treated to a view of Orchard Road and beyond.
The establishment places emphasis on their char-grilled items and their high-grade sashimi. They also get many of their ingredients air-flown straight from Japan 2-3 times a week and this means they have limited servings for some of their more exclusive items. The following are some of the more memorable dishes we tried.
Char-Grilled Chicken with Crazy Salt (SG$6.80) – Seasoned with salt and herbs, topped with spring onion and served with crunchy granules of roasted garlic on the side. Due to being char-grilled, the edges of the chicken pieces were quite dry, though the middle bits were adequately tender and juicy, with a good amount of fat.
Char-Grilled Assorted Vegetables (SG$11.80) – Bulbs of garlic, shiitake mushrooms, red peppers, Japanese sweet potatoes and green beans, all carefully arranged on a long plate, served with a side of house special miso sauce. Very well presented, and the vegetables had that deliciously smoky flavour and fragrance of having been char-grilled.
Fried Semi-Dried Stingray (SG$7.80) – One of the more unique items we tried, which turned out to be one of the best things we’d ever eaten. I’ve always been a fan of dried seafood (like dried squid and dried cuttlefish), but this was my first time trying “semi-dried” stingray. Not as pungent as those dried squid snacks, but definitely tastier and infinitely meatier. A great bar snack.
Double-Steamed Rice in Bamboo with grilled eel & salmon roe (SG$16.80) – A bamboo container filled to the brim with incredibly fragrant, gorgeously fluffy and moist rice, topped with some very juicy grilled unagi (eel) and an abundance of reddish-orange ikura (salmon roe). The subtle sweetness of the unagi sauce and the distinct saltiness of the ikura ensures an ultimate flavour sensation.
Signature Kaisen Mori (SG$68.00) – A huge platter of assorted sashimi, beautifully arranged, served very fresh (I could have sworn even the legs on the shrimp were still moving). This was the most expensive item we ordered. My favourite sashimi has always been hotate (scallops) and briny, wonderfully creamy uni (sea urchin). I was very happy that this platter came with both. Top marks for presentation. Look at all the pretty colours!
Chicken & Leek Skewer (SG$5.20) and Kurobuta Teriyaki Skewer (SG$6.50) – Their skewers are maybe a little on the pricey side. You only get a single skewer per order and that may not be worth the six or so bucks. That said, I highly recommend the chicken and kurobuta skewers as they will definitely fix that char-grilled meat craving.
For dessert, we had their Karinto Manju (SG$3.80) and Grilled Butter Mochi (SG$3.80). I don’t have pictures of these, so you’ll have to make do with my description. Warm and crisp, their karinto manjū is basically a tiny deep-fried bun with a sweet, creamy pumpkin filling. The butter mochi is extremely gooey and sticky, exactly how grilled mochi should be. If you’re one for glutinous cakes and chewy textures, this one’s for you.
For drinks, James settled for Sumiya’s Original Sake in Bamboo (SG$9.80) whereby the alcohol is served in a tube made of bamboo wood, which in Japan symbolises growth and longevity, and I had Umeshu on the rocks (SG$8.80). James also ordered an Asahi Super Dry (SG$5.80) halfway through our meal during happy hour.
All in all, this visit made for a very satisfying Valentine’s Eve dinner, which we subsequently worked off by watching an excellent movie afterwards at Cineleisure (Kingsman: The Secret Service) and then hiking through Fort Canning Park in the middle of the night.
SUMIYA CHARCOAL GRILL IZAKAYA
#12-02, Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road
Opening hours: 12-3pm (lunch), 6-10:30pm (dinner)