Getting invites is part of the the ‘perk’ of becoming a ‘known’ blogger, but there’s the question of whether one loses credibility when they dine for free. The word ‘flogger’ comes to mind, but I think that’s an unfair label.
There are two camps of food bloggers. Those who accept PR invites, and those who are against it. The disharmony can sometimes get quite hostile.
But there’s one thing I’ll acknowledge, these social media exercises are effective.
Around late April, a bunch of fellow bloggers published posts covering a progressive dinner along Southwharf Promenade, organised by a PR company. They swept through five newly-opened restaurants in one night. The buzz on twitter and instagram steadily grew.
Fakegf and I strolled down that stretch out of curiosity one night. True enough, we discovered a slew of interesting new places cocooned into the boat sheds there. We then looked into Akachochin from the outside and liked it. Within a month, we visited.
Aka-chochin is named after the red rice paper lanterns that hangs outside traditional Japanese izakayas. Incidentally, I think it’s a very fetching name for a restaurant.
… As the blog’s author, I felt a little overshadowed… haha!
Getting into Akachochin was quirky. You have to enter via its playful (non-Japanese, Lego-inspired) sister restaurant next door – The Sharing House.
Akachochin’s interior is gorgeous, minimalist and spankingly crisp. Very Tokyo, I’d imagine. The sushi bar spans the entire length of one side of the restaurant, and it emanates a mystical, effusive glow.
Glazed tuna (complimentary)
The menu is divided into sections according to various traditional cooking styles, with a nice long list of sakes to match. The dishes themselves don’t seem to lend towards sharing, so we each chose what interested us, on the proviso that everyone gets to have a tasting nibble. Our choices covered all sections, I’ll now blog our dishes according to each section and its style of cooking.
Shiromi Senbei – 5 pieces
12 deep fried fish chips w salt and ao-nori
Leaf ordered a delightful serve of fish crackers. They were perfectly seasoned, crisp, and with some fish skin left on.
sushi and sashimi
Saba – Mackerel 6 / Anago – Sea Eel 8
Traditional-style sushis next. Leaf originally wanted Sanma (Pacific Saury) but the waitress openly admitted that it was frozen and suggested Saba (Mackerel) instead. The saba nigiri tasted fishy, but that was expected from mackerel.
And I finally got to taste Anago (Sea Eel). Foolishly, I sort of expected it be served raw. The anago had a firmer, less fatty texture compared with unagi (freshwater eel), so it tasted quite dry. And the sushi rice had that typical sweetish sauce that comes with unagi dishes.
While it was something new, I did not warm to anago being served as a sushi. I’ll try it as sashimi next time.
Tamago – Omelette 6 (2 serves) / Unagi Avocado Roll 12
inside out roll w eel, avocado, sliced onion, masago, cucumber, sweet soy
Daisy and Mr Bao shared two serves of traditional-style tamago nigiri, which they really liked. They also ordered a more contemporary inside-out sushi roll for us to share. It was wonderful. The delicate cloak of fresh cucumber gave the sushi a clean taste, cutting through the sweet richness of the unagi and avocado.
Grilled Eggplant, Oyster & Cheese 15
2 oysters on deep fried eggplant w grilled cheese and den-miso
Leaf had read from another blog that this eggplant dish was great, so she gave it a go. I like how we all have different palates, because Fakegf and I would never order anything with that ingredient combination. The tasting nibble I had confirmed it, I found the cheese odd and reminiscent of Hong Kong-style baked rice. But Leaf seemed to like it.
Deep fried items
Sansai Age Dashi Tofu 15 deep-fried soy milk egg tofu w Japanese wild mountain vegetables
This dish was a let down. I ordered it because of the description ‘Japanese wild mountain vegetables’. While the tofu was beautifully soft, I wasn’t fond of the gooey, sweet-salty sauce. It was too salty. All that sauce also meant you don’t get to taste the crispness of the deep-fried tofu. The wild mountain vegetables did not stand out either.
Buta Kakuni 16
pork belly simmered in sweet soy sauce w Japanese mustard & shiraga-negi
Daisy and Mr Bao ruled this section of the menu. The pork was truly soft and succulent, but they thought the simmering broth was on the salty side. This dish would’ve probably worked okay if they had rice to accompany it.
Ocean Trout Sake Kasu-ni 16
slow cooked ocean trout in sake kasu soup w vegetables
I think it’s interesting that nimono (simmered) dishes can come out so rich-looking. First, a rich fatty piece of pork belly, and now this almost creamy-looking sake kasu soup.
I believe Daisy and Mr Bao enjoyed this dish. Again, good that we all have different taste preferences. I would not have liked my dishes so rich.
Shinsyu Mushi 16
steamed soba w white fish, shimeji mushroom in clear soup topped w shiraga-negi and wasabi
My ‘mains’ dish was a winner. I think what sold it for me were the words ‘clear soup’ and the gentler mushimono (steamed) style of cooking.
The white fish and soba arrived neatly bundled as a ‘parcel’ using a stalk of spring onion. The broth was beautiful, with a soft push of soy and mirin, lifted by the fresh zing of good wasabi. Amazing.
soup and rice
Fish Ochazuke 14
soy marinated sashimi on rice, served w hot green tea, wasabi, kizami-nori, spring onion and oshinko
Even gentler was Fakegf’s rice and soup dish. Piping hot mild green tea was poured over the bowl of ingredients in front of us, tenderly cooking the fish on top.
A truly cleansing soup dish which Fakegf really enjoyed. It was reminiscent of fish porridge in Singapore, where (unlike congee) the rice grains remain discrete. But this dish was finer. And having fresh wasabi inside that clear soup was just… so… *happy sigh*.
Tofu Cheese Mousse w Umeshu & Pear Compote 12
We shared 3 dessert dishes. This mousse was meant to be eaten with the shortbread spoons provided. We thought the raspberry-like jelly on top overpowered the mousse, which was very very light in flavour by contrast. I couldn’t really taste the tofu or cheese. I did not warm to this dish but Leaf seemed to find it interesting.
Sweet Potato Brûlée 12
Then came my surprise favourite dessert. While my companions commented how it lacked the ‘crack’ of caramelisation when you plunged a spoon in, I really liked the smooth, earthy sweetness of this dessert. And it was not as creamy rich as a normal creme brûlée. Very nice. This dessert grew on me.
Black Sesame Pannacotta w Green Tea Ice Cream 14
We ended on a high note with a dessert that most of us loved. It’s hard to fault the sacred trilogy of Asian dessert ingredients – black sesame, adzuki red bean and green tea. But the black sesame pannacotta was extra marvellous!
At the end of our meal, a senior-looking Japanese chef came over to ask how we liked it. I exclaimed “it was good!”, then had a brain freeze and could not say anything else. Awkward… I’m like that with new people. In retrospect, what I really wanted to say then was how lovely our meal was, and to thank him and the kitchen for nourishing us with good food.
I loved the space, its ambience, and the thought put into the menu. Admittedly, the menu isn’t as easy to share unlike the dishes at Izakaya Den, and there were a few misses. But the good dishes were stunning.
Fakegf prefers Izakaya Den in terms of pricing and food quality, but I’d return to either place happily. And the up side is, unlike the Den, you can make bookings at Akachochin.