HAN Naniwa Cuisine, Oden Kaiseki
We love odens. Having sticks of warmness on a cold winter night is just so comforting. Like I’m being wrapped in a chikuwa blanket. It took nary effort to convince this 2 skinnyfat girls (twin tummy and I) to check out the new Oden Kaiseiki meal at HAN, a restaurant specializing in in Naniwa (‘old’ Osaka) cuisine and Kushikatsu.
We were curious about the kaiseki aspect, since oden is typically a one-pot affair, a convenient store eat, a bar snack (yea Japanese). HAN modernizes and enhances the guests’ experience by serving each ingredient in individual courses, allowing for the distinctive taste of each component to be highlighted in every dish. For $160/set, we were very interested in seeing how Chef Arakawa elevates the simple ingredients.
We started with the appetizers of Anago, Whelk with Sake Lees and Wasabi, Chicken Fillet with Asparagus Terrine with Sesame Sauce. While there weren't anything spectacular, the flavors were familiar with an extra touch of TLC e.g. the umami sake yeast and crunchy Hokkaido asparagus. God knows how much effort went into making that chicken fillet dressing.
Another pretty distraction was the Sashimi. The gelatinous pike eel was an interesting change to the usual mix of sashimi assortment served in restaurants and we had it alongside the fresh cuts of kinmedai, maguro, kanpachi and saba.
Finally! Oden was served! HAN has chosen to serve Kansai-style (specifically the Kamigata Osaka style) Oden, using a blend of kelp, dried bonito, white shoyu and mirin to yield a lighter and sweeter broth. Every piece of oden (7 in total) was served individually on a beautiful ceramic dish (the pottery artist in us couldn't stop admiring the artworks). The simplicity captured the essence of ‘wa' in Japanese art. Sitting at the counter, it was as though we were transported to a Japanese family-run restaurant, having a comforting meal after a hot soak in the onsen.
Cold is how i typically like my Hokkaido Snow Crab Leg, but the sweetness of the succulent and fluffy meat was brought out by the dashi. We could certainly do with more of this!
The Thick Fried Tofu with homemade Inaka Miso, and Fried Beancurd Skin, tasted just like their names—simple and homely. The bean products were of high quality, having been sourced from Osaka and Kyoto respectively. We are fans of the silky sheets of beancurd skin-- the layers picked up the lovely broth so perfectly. And that personal touch of inaka miso.. oh how i love miso.
“One cannot claim to have eaten oden if he did not eat the daikon”. Famous words by the twin tummy and i concur! The beauty of daikon is that it absorbs the flavours of the stock that it had been carefully simmered in, and a bite into it is like eating a round block of TLC. The Boiled Radish with Sweet White Miso at Han satisfied the tastebuds. The daikon was well-prepared and can be eaten without the miso. However, the miso was delightful with hints of yuzu and that citrusy sweet-salty combination is a winner that can be easily eat on its own.
Also served was the Simmered Pork with Ankake Sauce, Sardine Ball with Yuzu Chilli Paste and Cabbage Roll with Minced Beef and Pork. We loved the healthy vegetarian-looking Cabbage Roll which exploded with the taste of a hamburg with a touch of light homemade tomato sauce.
The simmered pork belly was first broiled, then steamed for 3 hours with ginger, garlic and spring onions to break down every sinew for that melt-in-your-mouth texture. Delicious.
Even though i'm not a fan of sardine, this sardine ball mixed with horse mackerel reduced the strong fishy flavor and the yuzu green chili paste masked it further. That said, it was a little powdery on the palate.
The grilled course consists the Burdock Cake and Red Ginger Fish Cake. I was never a Japanese fish cake fan as it's often quite dense and jaw-breakingly chewy. HAN didn't change my mind but the flavors were interesting enough. As for Z, she was in love with the Burdock, something she only fell in love with while living in Japan.
Kushikatsu was next and one can't go wrong with breaded and fried food on sticks. The taste of Italian-Japanese cuisine was reflected in the Cherry Tomato with Cream Cheese. Give us more!
The Angel Prawn and Scallop Kushikatsu (the later hails from the Aomori sea) had the distinct taste of the ocean.
Like at a chinese wedding dinner, the last course (before dessert at least!) served was a carb dish. It was a choice between Udon or Ochazuke (plum, seaweed or wasabi). The udon was decent but you should not miss the Ochazuke. The smoky soup porridge is best paired with seaweed for that comforting and warm buzz, plum for a sour hit, or the seasoned wasabi stem if you like a punch (i loved this too).
The evening at Han was a cozy affair and ended with the refreshing Shizuoka Melon and Peach. Now, the big question is, would you pay $160 for the simple (but high quality) produce that are prepared perfectly? You decide. It did kind of 'transported' us to Japan, and made us forget that we were dining in a restaurant right smacked in the 'Civic District' on a Tuesday night.
HAN’s Oden Kaiseki Course is available at dinner and it includes an Appetizer, Sashimi, 7 kinds of Oden, 1 Grilled course, 1 Fried course, a choice between Udon or Ochazuke and Dessert. Those looking for the complete Oden experience can opt for HAN’s Oden Omakase Menu at $120++ per person. Ala carte Oden is available at market price.
This article is proudly presented to you by the Skinnyfat Twin Tummies C and Z.
331 North Bridge Road #01-04
Odeon Towers Singapore 188720
Tel: +65 6336 2466
Daily: 12 - 3pm, 6 - 11pm