What I find most notable about Japanese cuisine is how much attention is required for a diner to appreciate the subtle sensations hidden behind vibrant exteriors. Sliced raw seafood on a ball of rice (sushi) for instance, despite being paired with bold flavours (think wasabi) the calm and cleansing taste of the fresh seafood still shines through…but only if one’s mind remains still and focused on the task at hand.
In a recent visit to Kabuke, I found myself consciously rooted to my senses just so I could taste the myriad of flavours from a couple of beef rice bowls. Honestly, it was pretty exhausting but that moment helped me better understand and appreciate how ‘tasting’ is a lot more complex than simply ‘eating’. Maybe after spending more time with this fragile cuisine, I’ll get better.
But for now, let’s get to the meat.
During our lunch, the beef don that truly stood out was the Wagyu Suki Bowl ($18).
I loved every bit of the dish. The Wagyu Sukiyaki Beef Strips were tender and succulent, containing the sweet complexity brought about by the sukiyaki marinate. The mix of Shimeji Mushrooms contributed to the umami flavours, which I thought brought more life to the ‘meatiness’ of the dish. The slightly contrasting textures were also a tasty welcome. And the sauteed onions were caramelised just right, without being too soft or crunchy.
Then there was the perfect Onsen egg that tied my second half of my beef bowl together. Personally, I liked how the yolk wasn’t completely runny and had a firmness which allowed me to take bites without it exploding and spilling a yellow river all over the dish. It allowed me to have some control over how yolk-drenched I wanted my rice to be. And of course, let’s not forget the rice, which was cooked brilliantly.
When I sat back and looked at the dish that delivered as much delight as flavours, I found myself highly impressed. I mean, I didn’t even mind the spring onions! And that’s saying a lot. The price is well justified, but not quite at the ‘superb value’ level. 9.1/10.
Next up is the Gyudon ($15) which brings me back to the topic of subtle flavours. While this dish boasts a handsome piece of sirloin steak cooked to a perfect medium rare, the limelight shone on almost everything else.
Components like the garlic chips delivered occasional hits of pungent, aromatic flavours while the truffle shoyu tied the dish in with subtle (there’s that word again) saltiness. But in all this peaceful merging of highs and lows, the protein was far from being the hero. Instead, it was merely a filler in a dish that would otherwise have so much potential.
The value is good because diners still get a generous portion of quality beef accompanied by elements prepared with very decent culinary skills. But it pretty much stops there. 7.9/10.
Branded as a Sake Bar, it’s no wonder that the ambience promotes casual conversations over leisurely long meals. It’s cosiness paired with the friendly service is highly inviting and I believe it’s a good place for business lunches and catch-up sessions between old friends.
Should You Try It?
If you like having hearty meaty meals in one harmonious bowl, then I highly recommend the Wagyu Suki Bowl.
200A Telok Ayer Street (Level 2)
Mon – Fri: 11:30 am to 2:00 pm (Lunch)
Mon – Thu: 5:00 pm to 11:00 pm (Dinner)
Fri – Sat: 5:00 pm to 12:00 am (Dinner)
Tel: +65 8822 5525 (WhatsApp available)
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