[SG] Fuku Fine Fugu Kaiseki | 1st in Asia to serve exquisite puffer fish all year round!Tuesday, November 04, 2014
While most would be familiar with the stretch of Japanese restaurants along Mohamed Sultan Road, it would be worth paying attention to this inconspicuously located restaurant, Fuku Fine Fugu Kaiseki, which is the first restaurant in Asia outside Japan to serve the exquisite puffer fish all year round!
Before you wonder if you misread that statement, you did not. Most people, myself included, would assume that puffer fish (also known as fugu in Japanese) is poisonous but what many did not realise is that with more than 100 species of fugu out there, there are only 20 species that are edible. Of which, Fuku imports the most prized Tora Fugu (Tiger Puffer Fish) both wild and farmed, twice a week by air from Shiminoseki (the specialty area of fugu).
Under Japanese law, all chefs have to be specially licensed by the government before they can prepare and serve fugu to guests as the fish can be potentially fatal if prepared wrongly. Diners at Fuku can be assured of their safety as all of the air flown fish have to be removed of their internal organs, cleaned and meet the strict regulations by Japanese authorities before they are approved for import into Singapore.
What we learnt also was that there are in fact farmed varieties that are bred without the poisonous organs!
At Fuku, the chefs prepare the prized fish kaiseki style, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner. It typically refers to a set menu of selected food served on an individual tray to each member at the table or gathering.
Starting from S$150++/person for a six-course meal to S$580++/person for a nine-course wild fugu set which requires a 5-day advance booking, each set promises to impress your dining guests and companions.
A popular appetiser for a fugu meal, the skin of the fish is parboiled to become a gelatinous texture similar to cartilage before being served in ponzu sauce, spicy radish and finely chopped chives to enhance the light flavours. For the ladies who crave for their collagen boost, this would be a dish to load up!
An absolutely gorgeous platter of fugu sashimi was served and you could not help but admire the fine slicing skills of the chef. If not prepared right, it would result in instantaneous death hence this was once regarded as gun-powder.
Interestingly, the paper-thin shavings or usuzukuri ends with a sloping thicker end for an elegant presentation as above where the translucent and intricate arrangements flaunt the exquisiteness of fugu. On its own, the sashimi tasted quite bland though it has an unique elastic texture to its flesh.
We were advised to consume it together with specially imported Japanese baby leeks, ponzu sauce with spicy radish and shoyu sauce with wasabi which collectively instilled flavours to the fish. What I enjoyed in particular was the finely grated radish which we recently learnt about its health benefits during our visit to Tonkatsu by Ma Maison. At Fuku, the otherwise standard grated radish was treated with special care as it was allowed to rest with chilli oil, absorbing the heat to impart flavours to the fugu when consumed together with the other condiments.
Like any authentic Japanese restaurant, you could identify instantaneous the quality of its ingredients starting from the shoyu used and more importantly, the wasabi. At Fuku, the wasabi are freshly grated and you could taste the freshness, almost.
One of the popular techniques in serving the fugu is to grill the marinated collar, with an added hint of salt to crisp the skin and also for additional taste of the sea. A simple pairing with sea salt made the delicate meat within the collar a whole lot more palatable.
Nobody can ever resist a golden-brown crispy karaage, as portions of fugu were deep fried, giving that much desired crispness on the surface while retaining the juiciness of the flesh on the inside. The juxtaposition in textures between the batter and the flesh made this a clear favourite among the diners!
After showcasing the various techniques of the chef, there was no better way than to enjoy a hotpot! The broth was prepared very simply with dashi water and a big slab of kelp. Many would be familiar with dashi, which commonly forms the base for miso soups. The fugu bones and assortment of vegetables were then added to the broth.
For those who enjoy their fugu cooked the right way, I would advise against putting it in together with the bones for that augmented the flavours of the broth. Cook the thickly sliced chunks of fugu as and when you are ready to have some in order not to waste the precious protein as leaving it in the broth for an extended period tends to make the flesh rather rubbery.
There was no wastage to the essence of the broth as rice and egg were added to the rich and sweetened broth from the hotpot and left to simmer, forming a luscious and tasty porridge. Adding the specially imported shreds of seaweed, chives and vinegar, this is the usual staple to conclude an elaborate fugu spread.
As we enjoyed the Tiger fugu, the filet mignon of puffer fish, it should not be neglected that its distinctive flavours come with its unparalleled concentration of toxins and the shirako is among the most potentially fatal parts of the infamously poisonous fish. Also known as the sperm sac, I was rather sceptical in trying it but curiosity got the better of me and I eventually took a portion, which to my pleasant surprise, was one of the finest delicacies tasted. With a rather elastic texture such as squid on the outer layer, the inside had a lightly mashy feeling which quite honestly one would form either a love or hate relationship though it went well on my palate as the acidity from the lime and salinity from the sea salt balanced the flavours harmoniously.
With Fuku importing some of the rare sake labels and top Shochu varieties not available anywhere else in Singapore, the Hiresake, which is a hot sake with the Tora fugu fin caught our attention. Apart from the theatrical display where it was set ablaze, there was a distinct taste and aroma to the sake which made it very easy to drink even for the ladies. The fin was specially sun-dried to remove any traces of blood before being grilled, charred and steeped in the hot sake. Infusing the gorgeous bold flavours from the sake into the fin, expect a robust punch of flavours as you crunch through the fin!
While Fuku is a fugu centric Japanese restaurant, there are also non-fugu items such as grilled king crab and beef shabu-shabu. During our visit, the chefs had just launched a series of sushi platters and included uni (sea urchin) and different types of sword, fugu inclusive, of course.
There are three private tatami rooms which can seat up 8 to 10 persons with two of the rooms being connected by a movable sliding panel. Perfect for a private social gathering or even a dinner with business associates.
With a simple traditional Japanese setting decorated by wooden and bamboo features, stepping in for the first time gave a very comforting feeling with warm orange hues to set the atmosphere. Executive Chef, Koji-san (seen in the black uniform) would be at the front of the restaurant to greet his guests upon arrival.
To enjoy the prized fish surely does not come cheap with the kaiseki meals starting from S$150++/person but it was truly an experience and cuisine that would not be available anywhere else in Singapore or Asia for that matter apart from Japan itself. It was surely one of the more memorable meals I have had and given an occasion, I would return for an indulgent meal yet!
Overall Verdict: 8.0/10
Fuku Fine Fugu Kaiseki
14 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel: (+65) 6235 8216
Operating hours: Mon - Sun (6pm - 11pm; dinner only)