If you’re looking for a substantial and one-of-a-kind selection of authentic Japanese fare, you may well indulge in the gastronomic grandeur in Rakuzen house, owned by chef Naokatsu Koda.

From the traditional Japanese patterned wallpaper to the timber wood panelling and furniture, the restaurant catering largely to the corporate and families is tucked in Tampines Central. It consists of a 6-seater sushi bar, an open-window concept kitchen as well as 2 private rooms.

The dining experience was a refreshing take to say the least, with its customised menus and special preparations of food such as the milling of their own rice imported from Japan. A glance at Koda-san’s extensive menu seemed like Nippon Narnia and could feel a little overwhelming for the average diner, but UrbanWire sussed out some of the signature dishes and returned from the experimentally wild side of Rakuzen alive.

Garden of Variety

My favourite starter was the Mama Aji Tsumami ($5). They were lemon-tinged fried horse mackerel bites with a golden delightful crisp on the outside.

In addition, the Ehire ($8) was a crowd-pleaser. A strong polarity of sweet and savoury, the strips of stingray fins that were grilled to a honey hue tasted close to dried cuttlefish, which was probably made for habitual snacking.

The only disappointment was the Himatsubishi ($5), which was surprisingly bland. Despite being extremely crispy, the julienned root vegetables’ zest was robbed by frying it with potato flour.

The picture quality and decadence of the Sushiya Salad ($8), drizzled with sesame dressing, are directly proportional. This lip-smacking winner of a hot pick is served on a bowl with of raw tuna, salmon, scallops, crab sticks, prawns and salad greens aplenty. To cater to different customers’ palates, 3 sauces – Rakuzen special, sesame, or wafu dressing – are available.

Flame Grilled to Perfection

Make sure you look into the Special Broiled section on the menu. It features a wide assortment of close to 150 exquisite food items that are blow-torched to a perfect charred finish.

A must-try is the Moeyo beef roll ($18), a 6-piece sushi roll with lean slices of raw beef tenderloin on top, entwined with nori (seaweed) and filled with chunks of fresh avocado and tempura tenkasu (batter bits). This special dish is served with Rakuzen’s ponzu (citrus soy sauce), which invigorates the raw and bold texture of the beef for the ultimate gusto.

The fisherman’s catch of the day goes to the Fire Mackerel ($16), a tender, juicy saba fish pre-marinated with rice wine vinegar wrapped in konbu (dried seaweed). The tangy slices of fish are flamed to tantalise the taste buds with a mild taste of melted fat and a wonderful roasted texture.

Okonomiyaki ($10), also known as Japanese pancake, is a prominent street food from Japan and a veggie-lovers delight. It is pan-fried with a base of egg, flour and dashi (cooking stock) with nagaimo (Japanese yam), cabbage, carrots and mushrooms on top. Finally, it’s garnished with Sakura ebi and bonito fish flakes. The crowned snack, however, didn’t get my vote even for its chock-full of nutrients and I’ll admit that I wouldn’t pay that much for an almost vegetarian interpretation of our local oyster omelette.

Chef Koda, who opened this Japanese joint, took inspiration from his hometown for the Asari Miso Shiru ($10), a clam miso soup. Served in country style tofu broth, the chunky morsels of clams within the soup are not to be missed.

Next to the appetisers and main course, desserts at Rakuzen are ordinary and unpretentious. What you get is mainly ice cream in matcha (green tea), yuzu (citron), and black sesame flavours. The black sesame ice cream, which is an acquired taste for most people, turned out to be just average. Nevertheless, it helped to cleanse the palate.

A Stylish Affair

What made the restaurant so seductively inviting are the red ceiling lamps and the vast space for comfortable seating, suitable for company lunches.

Photos courtesy of Rachel Ong

Despite the likeliness of being generalised as just another Japanese posh nosh diner, Rakuzen will be unforgettable if you pick the right dishes on the menu (preferably recommended by the staff) to suit your palate.

Address: 300 Tampines Avenue 5, #01-01A NTUC Income Tampines Junction, Singapore 529653
Telephone: 6786 8484
Opening hours:

  • Mon to Fri, 11:30am – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm
  • Sat and Sun, 11:30am – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm

Rating: ★★★★✩
Price Rating: $$-$$$