Fine dining Japanese omakase restaurant Fukui is inspired by the Japanese prefecture of the same name and explores Japan’s bounty in earnest.
Traditional Japanese omakase restaurants – especially those specialising in sushi – generally fall under two categories. Both feature exceedingly fresh seasonal produce, sourcing bounty off the various coasts of Japan and its surroundings. But one follows the classic formal Japanese approach where the sushi chef determines exactly what you eat, tells you how – and even when – to eat it.
The other, well, offers a far less intimidating environment.
Fukui (福井), I’m glad to report, falls somewhere in the middle. One of the newer omakase sushi restaurants in town, Fukui takes over what used to be Hashida Sushi at Mohammed Sultan Road. Set up by sisters Eugenia and Emilia Tan in March this year, the space embodies the typical minimalist Japanese aesthetic you’d expect from a high-end sushi joint, and highly reminiscent of a Kyoto ryokan.
Fukui may be inspired by the Japanese prefecture of the same name, but don’t expect it to be a showcase of regional provenance. Like most other fine-dining omakase restaurants, it does its sourcing based on seasonality. It gets whatever ingredients are at their prime from Saga Prefecture in Japan’s south, all the way to Hokkaido in the north.
The action takes place at a 12-seater sushi counter where Fukui Head Chef Nick Pa’an and his team. The affable Malaysian – who has over 20 years of Japanese culinary experience under his belt – eschews the usual grim demeanour of a veteran itamae and instead exudes the kindly disposition of a saintly uncle. Who just so happens to be highly skilled with his sushi knife.
And so begins our gastronomic tour of Japan. Our multi-course omakase of the day wavered from an appetiser of shiro ebi, ikura, and caviar, daintily garnished with chrysanthemum petals and gold leaf, to sawara (Spanish mackerel) smoked over straw, and then moving on to a sashimi platter of shima ebi, ootoro tuna belly, and akagai (ark shell). There was a shioyaki of mebaru (black rockfish) that was grilled to perfection, while a dish meltingly-soft yam tofu absolutely impressed. The sushi course of kanpachi (amberjack), tai (sea bream), and sayori (needle fish) – pardon the pun – also made the cut.
“We try as far as possible to understand our customers and give them what they want,” Chef Pa’an tells us. “For example, we wouldn’t put that on the mackerel when serving Japanese customers, especially the older ones,” he shares, pointing at the perfectly shaven slivers of black truffle atop the mackerel dish. Or the foie gras he sometimes put on his hotate (scallop) sashimi that he fires up with a blow torch, he says.
“They don’t like it when we mess too much with their cuisine.”
Then there are some local regulars he knows who love their uni, so he amends their omakase set accordingly to include more uni because that’s how they like it. “Ultimately we want them to enjoy themselves here at Fukui,” Chef Pa’an concludes.
As far as omakase restaurants in Singapore go, Fukui may not rank supreme. But between its convivial hospitality and Chef Pa’an’s earnest cookery, Fukui more than holds its own in Singapore’s brutally competitive dining scene.
A meal at Fukui starts from $88++ for six courses to $158++ for seven-courses for lunch, and dinner starts from $188++ for seven-courses to $338++ for 13-courses.
Address 25 Mohamed Sultan Road, Singapore 238969 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 12pm to 3pm and 6pm to 10.30pm Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays