Food Review: Japanese-European cuisine at Umami 10 on 163 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068616

I was super intrigued when new kid on the Telok Ayer block, Umami 10, which opened this year in July, invited me to try out their Japanese-European food and sake at the Yoshoku Sakaya concept shophouse restaurant. It was brave of them to open a sake gastro bar during these trying times for F&B, especially with the 10.30pm no-alcohol deadline. But with every crisis comes opportunity, and I'm glad they are available as another option for food and sake!

Upon walking in, you'll immediately be assaulted on two fronts, depending on where your eye line goes to. First, the gigantic open kitchen on the left where all the chefs are busy cooking up a storm, and on the right, a wall of textured OTT gold. There's also a mild smell of food, of course, since they are being cooked right in front of you, but I find that it isn't too strong or greasy (it will barely leave a hint on you at the end of the night). Thank goodness!

To start, we first picked a carafe of a strong and slightly sweeter sake, the Ishichi Junmai Ginjo Asahi (S$47 for 350ml), which like the restaurant name suggests, is very umami and pairs well with food like that. 

Here's their sake list. For the full menu, visit their website.

And here's the food menu, which is thankfully a limited one. I don't like it when there are too many choices! As you can see, there's starters for sharing, and what they termed as tapas (hot or cold) which can be considered appetiser-mains, portion wise. 

On to the food! We first tried the Scallops Carpaccio (S$26) from the Cold Tapas section. The artistic plating was cool, but what's more impressive was the interplay between the fruity and slightly sour mango salsa mixed with truffle and basil caviar, with sea asparagus on top of some fresh, raw scallops. Super refreshing and I have to say.. umami. 4/5

Next was this artfully presented Tuna Ceviche (S$24) with yuzu ponzu, shallots and the surprising but great addition of guava strips and pomegranate bits. The fruit gave it an extra crunch, texture and fresh sweetness that harmonised with the savoury tuna to bring out the natural sweetness of the raw fish. 4/5

Then, the stunner of the night, the Sanchoku Wagyu (S$48).  It's made of Japanese A4 wagyu cubes served with veal jus, and reminiscent of the Taiwanese braised beef! The deep, beefy flavour was completely enhanced and then left to shine in this dish, with the melt-in-mouth fats intermingling with the sinews and jus. It was so good if you're after the beefy flavour like me (but not if you can't take this type of 'meat flavour')! Presentation was also AAA. A glass ash tray, seriously??? 4.5/5

Then something which was a bit too strong in terms of the seafood flavour for me - the Firefly Squid Tempura (S$25, which uses the Toyama Firefly Squid with all the roe inside fried to a crispy goodness. If you enjoy prawn heads and crab roe, this might be your thing. This is also a dish that goes VERY well with a Sapporo beer. 3/5

What we both loved to death instead was this Asari Clams (S$18) of using yuzu, cream and San Marzano tomatoes on clams, cooked fresh upon order. Wow our Asian tastebuds were screaming in delight at this moreish dish that just clamoured for a bit of bread to dip into. The clams were so fresh and brightened by the yuzu, yet there's the salty round flavour from the cream and tomatoes. Basically a recipe for.. umami. If you are there, this is a must-try! 5/5

We were so stuffed, but when Chef-Owner Mark Tay asked if we'll be interested in the Tsukune (S$15), or the chicken "meatball" made with a chicken pattie and walnuts and topped with a raw egg yolk, I couldn't resist! It was fantastic indeed with the creamy egg yolk coating the sweet, minced chicken with its delightful texture. We also thought it would be even better if there's a smokiness to it, and Chef immediately took the feedback and got the smoker out! 3.5/5 without smoke, 4/5 with smoke. 

To end off the big meal (we were bursting), we had a delightfully refreshing Yuzu Ikura Sorbet (S$13). Yes you heard that right. The Yuzu sorbet had salty, seafoody ikura added to them and it was topped with an oba leaf. You would think it strange like we did at first, but it really worked when we tried it. The sweet, cold and slightly tart sorbet counterbalanced those little pops of salty umami flavour. I see what they did there... 4.5/5

And I do hope you had more space in your stomach than us because the house-made three-liqeur tiramisu called Pick-me-up (S$13) is another must-try from the menu. It looks unassuming here but when you dig in and have a bite, it will fill you with that melty alcoholic goodness that makes your head spin (in a good way). 4.5/5 That's together with the great house-techno music that's on in the restaurant, by Chef-Owner Mark Tay again who used to spin on the international circuit as a DJ. A man of talents!

Overall, it was a superb meal of epic proportions in flavour, innovation and guts at Umami 10. I think this level of experimentation might not be for EVERYONE though, if you prefer the typical Japanese or European fare. Me? I'm on for anything so this is my cup of tea. Go check them out if you are in the area and in the mood for something interesting!

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Umami 10
163 Telok Ayer St, Singapore 068616
Weekday lunch 11.30am-2.30pm
Weekdays and Saturdays dinner 5.30pm-10.30pm (5.30pm-7pm happy hour)
Closed on Sundays
Reservations on website or call 6513 5789

Thanks Jasper for the invite!

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