It’s November – always my favorite month of the year. Apart from being my birthday month, it’s also when the hot weather makes a turn for the cooler. It’s starting to rain daily, and it’s getting really cold at night. And do you know what this means?
That’s right, it’s time…for…steamboat!
To me, year ends are always the best time for a delicious pot of food cooking over a stove, and friends gathered together in a warm, cozy circle. So I was really excited when I was invited by an old, old friend, Alvin otherwise known as Alvinology, for Japanese hotpot and a long overdue catch-up session at SHIMA.
SHIMA is a Japanese fine dining restaurant located atop the hill next to Goodwood Park Hotel. Low in height and furbished with woods and concrete on the outside, SHIMA has a quiet, mysterious dignity that’s discreet yet elegant at the same time – not unlike Japanese tea-houses of the old tradition.
We were whisked away into a quiet corner of the restaurant upon entering. This is a section especially for guests wanting to enjoy a quiet Sukiyaki dinner, away from the main crowd.
Decked in timber flooring, opalescent wallpaper, minimalistic dark wood furnishing with accents of reds splashed across the rooms, the interior is as simple as it is elegant.
Our first dishes, the Sashimi and Sushi platter, were served in a brilliant flurry of tangerines, emeralds and crimsons.
The Sashimi is beautifully cut and extremely fresh, being specially air-flown twice a week from the Tsukiji Fish Market, a hugely renowned market (and major tourist attraction) located in central Tokyo that handles everything from the cheapest seaweed to the most expensive caviar.
As a side mention, the Tsukiji Market is also the largest wholesale market for fish in the world. This makes it not just any fish market, but THE fish market. Impressive, right?
Next up is the Beef Sukiyaki set.
For $80++, we got the US Prime Ribeye Sukiyaki Set please, that includes an appetizer, US prime ribeye, noodles, mushrooms, tofu, assorted vegetables, rice and seasonal fruits.
First, the appetizer from the set menu.
This is Edamame – steamed young soybeans that are served in their pods, and garnished with salt. I have the weirdest way of eating Edamame so don’t mind me. Of course conventionally, it’s eaten by gently sliding the beans out of their pods before popping them into your mouth. You can do this either one at a time, or by slipping all the beans into a bowl, and then dipping them into a garnish of your choice.
We also had side orders of poached salmon that Alvin went for, and my choice of Teriyaki chicken.
The chicken is tender and juicy, generously doused with a special Teriyaki sauce prepared by the chefs that tastes great. As a side order, it was pretty good and got me all primed for the Sukiyaki. My only complaint is that it might have been a tad bland, and could have done with a little more zzzingg to the flavour. Then again, that’s me, the salt lover.
Our Sukiyaki was prepared by this lovely lady who has been working with SHIMA for years now, and she whips up a mean pot of Sukiyaki!
One of SHIMA’s secrets to an amazing bowl of Sukiyaki lies in this luscious piece of fatty meat, which is used to grease up the pan during preparation, to add on to that delicious flavour.
Very carefully, she starts preparing the pot. This is done by greasing up the pan with the fatty meat chunk, and then priming the base with onions for extra yumminess.
Next comes the vegetables and the soup base.
A combination of Teriyaki sauce, mirin, pureed vegetables such as Dutch onions, sake and other flavorful ingrediants, the Sukiyaki sauce is thick and savory. And it should be, being specially prepared in-house with a recipe that was passed down by the original Japanese chefs themselves.
Here’s an assortment of vegetables, again flown in all the way from Japan.
Large, fragrant wafts of steam is produced when the soup hits the pan, and great care is taken to ensure that the soup base is a perfect mix of sweet and salty. It’s yummy tasting soup that’s so good, you’ll want to just keep slurping it up.
On a side note, you may choose to either have your hotpot prepared by the staff, or do it on your own. I know many people enjoy cooking, but I’m a lazy ass, and I love to feel like a king so I’ll always opt for someone else to prepare it for me instead.
Finally, the hotpot is ready for its star attraction, the US Ribeye beef. Just look at the thinly cut slices and beautiful fatty bits of marble within the red meat. The US Ribeye beef is good stuff, sourced and imported from the best farms in America.
This is really the moment that I’ve been waiting for, and I’m not disappointed.
The beef is just really, really tender and fresh, and it goes so well with the rest of the dishes. I have to be unapologetically crass for a moment, and admit that I couldn’t stop stuffing my face with beef.
After it’s cooked in the pot, the beef is dipped into a bowl of beaten raw egg to bring out the best flavour of the beef, and enhance the Sukiyaki taste. This made me a little nervous but really, the heat in the pot instantly cooks the egg so don’t worry about it being unsafe for consumption. You can skip this but to me, good food is always worth taking a little risk for :)
Finally, here’s the oodles of noodles to go with the rest of the hotpot. These are Japanese Udon and Shirataki noodles, perfectly bouncy and chewy or as we usually say, very “Q”. The Shirataki noodles in particular are of a really interesting jelly-like texture. I seriously enjoyed the subtly sweet and salty taste of the noodles. And just chewing on the Shirataki in general.
After what seemed like a really long time (because there was so much to eat, and we just couldn’t stop eating!), we ventured out to explore the rest of the restaurant.
Secret passageway hidden behind an exotic Japanese print curtain? Me likey.
There are two of the private rooms suitably fashioned in traditional Japanese tea-house inspired style, for the most exclusive of gatherings and functions.
The rooms are minimalistic in nature, but just so calming and peaceful in their zen simplicity and authenticity. It makes you want to forget about the world outside and just indulge in this private space :)
Although I’ve been a huge fan of all things Japanese for a long long time, I really don’t have a clue what this sunken area is called, or why it’s constructed like so. If anyone has any ideas, I would love to know!
Pausing for a moment to for a selfie. BTW, it looks like the evening sun is casting a glow in the room, but it’s really just the lighting.
Here’s a view of the main Teppanyaki dining area. Teppanyaki is another of SHIMA’s specialties, and here’s where all the Teppanyaki diners are seated.
Long established places are definitely going to have a special tradition or two of there own. Here at SHIMA are cast-iron griddles that have been serving up at least 34 years worth of sizzling good food.
Custom-made in Japan some 30 long years ago, these griddles, old as the restaurant itself, are the secret to delicious Teppanyaki. That’s because the more seasoned the wok is, the better the cooking and flavour of the dishes. Imagine how good the Teppanyaki is gonna taste with these granddaddy of griddles!
A group of merry-making gentlemen looking suitably tipsy, and had stayed on long after the crowd had dispersed.
I’d like to just mention some interesting facts that I’d learned whilst dining here.
SHIMA was established – and I find this very interesting – in 1980 by a Japanese man named Katsuhiro Watanabe.
This lends the restaurant a very distinctive edge over most of its peers, because I believe firmly that nobody knows their food better than the locals. You wouldn’t prefer laksa and chicken rice cooked by an Angmor over Chilli crab prepared by a local, amiright? In fact, I was very impressed to learn that two of SHIMA’s senior chefs (that’s the Executive Chef and the Sous Chef) have been here since the the 80’s, and had trained under the original Japanese chefs decades ago.
Although Mr. Watanabe has since retired to his homeland several years ago, and SHIMA is now under new and capable hands, I believe that the spirit of such an old establishment lives on, through its tradition, its culture, and the culinary delights that it takes such great pride in producing and serving to the public.
All in all, If you’re looking for a place to quietly enjoy authentic Japanese dining at its finest, this is one of the must-visit restaurants to head down to. SHIMA has been touted as a quality Japanese restaurant, with more than 30 long years of rich history behind it. It’s no secret that the FNB industry in Singapore is a tough one to survive in. And so most certainly, with such a long history, comes authenticity, a dedication to serve, and most importantly, premium quality food. What more could one ask for, right?
#01-00, Goodwood Park Hotel
22 Scotts Road, Singapore 228221
Daily Lunch from 12noon – 3pm
Dinner from 6pm – 10pm
Tel: (65) 6734 6281