Set up in October 2014, IPPIN Cafe & Bar is a Japanese food outlet that’s tucked away in a quiet corner of Mohammad Sultan Road. And unlike most other Japanese eateries in Singapore, IPPIN Cafe & Bar serves classic home-style Japanese dishes – so there is none of your standard fare of sushi and sashimi there. Instead, you will find delicious home-style dishes such Deep Fried Oysters, YakiSoba and Pork & Potato Stew.
The moment you step into this restaurant, you will feel immediately at ease – because of the very comfortable, homely and casual vibe that the eatery lets off. There are also shelves lined with a wide variety of Japanese products including green teas, ramen, beer & sake, rice, condiments and other Japanese snacks. It is definitely a comfortable place to spend a couple of hours dining together with friends
I was recently invited to IPPIN Cafe & Bar for a media tasting session – where I tried some of their home-style dishes and beverages. Here are my comments on the tasting session.
Deep Fried Oyster Set ($24.00)
This is the restaurant’s signature dish, and the oysters come from Hiroshima Prefecture, which is the most famous oyster area in Japan. The oysters are then lightly battered so they are crispy on the outside after frying. They are served with a wasabi mayonnaise dip. The set comes together with rice, miso soup, pork & potato stew, salad and roasted green tea pudding.
I found these oysters to be rich and creamy, but have a fresh and clean taste too. This item was quite enjoyable even though I would have liked the batter to be just a little crunchier.
Also, the wasabi mayonnaise dip had a very clean and refreshing taste to it. The first thing I noticed was that the wasabi flavour was not overpowering, but instead, made the dip very refreshing, and this went well together with the oysters.
Says the restaurant’s Head Chef, Naomi Kawakita, 43, “We import the oysters frozen and deep fry them twice. After frying, it is supposed to be crunchy outside and very creamy inside. For the wasabi mayonnaise oyster dip, it is home-made. There is supposed to be a bit of spicy flavour from the wasabi but it is not supposed to overwhelm you.”
YakiSoba Set ($12.00)
Comprising of stir-fried Japanese Soba noodles and mixed with sliced pork belly, onions & carrots, I thought that this was a very delightful dish. I found the noodles to be slightly springy and the sliced pieces of pork were not too chewy. The crunchy vegetables balanced out the textures quite well.
As for the taste, it was full of flavour, with so many ingredients mixed into the dish – but at the same time, it didn’t overpower the senses. It is definitely an enjoyable dish and something that I would return to eat again.
Said Kawakita, “This is a popular homely dish at our restaurant and is generally a favourite amongst kids. Everyone seems to like the taste from what we have noticed.”
This set is served together with Kobachi and roasted green tea pudding.
Oyakudon Set ($15.00)
This was a delightful chicken & egg on rice dish. I really enjoyed the strong soya-based flavour the moment I took a spoonful of it. The chicken was scrumptiously tender and moist and the egg balanced out the flavours quite well. I would have enjoyed this dish even more though, if the rice had been just a little drier.
Said Kawakita, “This is a popular Japanese dish and is quite easy to make. Many of our Japanese customers feel that this is a homely taste that reminds them of their mother’s cooking. The egg we use is half raw, half cooked so this makes the texture very smooth and rich. So you can enjoy the sweet soya sauce and smooth, creamy egg together in your mouth.”
This set comes together with miso soup and a roasted green tea pudding.
Grilled Oyster & Veggies in Ponzu Butter Sauce Set ($20.00)
Prepared once again with fresh oysters from Hiroshima Prefecture, the shellfish is grilled in Ponzu (yuzu vinegar) & butter sauce – and served together with Nikujaga pork & potato stew, salad and roasted green tea pudding.
The moment I took a bite of the oysters here, I could detect a very rich and creamy flavour. These oysters seemed to be richer than the deep-fried ones, probably because of the Ponzu Butter sauce that they were prepared with. But they also tasted very clean and fresh though, so that was good.
The lettuce that these oysters had been served with, added a nice crunch to the dish though to balance out the textures quite nicely.
Says Kawakita, “We wrap the oysters with aluminium foil before cooking it. When you eat this oyster dish, our intention is that you are supposed to feel a sour taste from the yuzu and a rich, creamy flavour from the butter.”
Nikujaga Pork & Potato Stew
Comprising of pork, potatoes, onions, carrots and Japanese Konnyaku noodles, I thought this was a really delicious dish – so it is a pity that this can’t be ordered as a main course!
I was immediately hit by the scrumptiously earthy flavours coming from here, the moment that I took a spoonful of this dish. The potatoes and carrots had been stewed till they were really soft and the soya-based gravy added another dimension to the flavours here. As for the Konnyaku noodles, they did a great job in soaking up the flavours of the gravy. Overall this was a really appealing dish – very satisfying and healthy at the same time.
Adds Kawakita, “This is a very traditional Japanese home dish and we serve it as a side with almost all of our main dishes. When eating this, it is supposed to make you relax and feel at home.”
Also a side dish, this salad comprised of cabbage, carrot, cucumber and cherry tomatoes and it is quite bland on its own – because you are supposed to mix it with the dressings on offer. The most unusual dressing of the lot was wasabi – because of the combination of sweet and tangy flavours that you get in your mouth – which is quickly followed by the spicy kick at the end that literally comes out through your nose.
Says Kawakita, “The seasonings & dressings that come with the salad is another of our specialities. That is why each of our dishes comes with salad, so that you can taste the many types of unusual dressings that we have available.”
Hojicha Roasted Green Tea Pudding
Served as a dessert with most of the set menus, I was quite impressed by this very light and delightful pudding. It was really soft and smooth in texture. The roasted green tea flavour was quite subtle – and didn’t overpower the whole dessert at the same time. The amount of sweetness in the pudding was just right too and didn’t overload my taste buds. In short, it tasted very natural and not artificial at all, unlike some other green tea desserts that I have tried in the past.
Says Kawakita, “Every dish comes with this dessert. Even if you are feeling full after the dinner, you should still be able to eat this dessert as it is really light and does not fill you up. The bitter flavour from the green tea goes really well together with the creamy milk that we add into this pudding.”
Rattsu Peanuts ($8.00 per cup)
These are crunchy peanuts coated with three different flavours – strawberry, coffee and green tea. I rather enjoyed crunching down on these and my favourite was possibly the strawberry one because the flavour was sweet but at the same time, was just right – it wasn’t too strong. The coffee one was a little bitter for me though. For the green tea one, the flavour was quite mild.
These Rattsu Peanuts would be good when accompanied with Japanese sake or beer.
Said Kawakita, “The peanuts are from Chiba Prefecture in Japan. This area is popular for their peanuts, and while they make many types of flavours, we chose these three because strawberry and coffee are quite popular flavours in Singapore, while the green tea is a traditional Japanese flavour.”
Besides the food, IPPIN Cafe & Bar also serves a wide assortment of beverages such as Japanese sake and draft beers, as well as green teas.
Kawakita explained, “The strawberry and yuzu sake are very popular with customers because of the fruity taste and the fact that they are easy to drink. These are good to have as a dessert after a meal, or as an appetiser before a meal as well.” When I tried both of these for myself, I enjoyed the fruity flavours – they were slightly sweet but at the same time, they tasted very natural and didn’t overwhelm my senses – because they use real strawberry and yuzu to produce the drinks rather than adding enhanced flavouring.
According to Kawakita, the restaurant also has a sake tasting set, priced at $15.00 – where customers can choose any three types of sake that they desire.
Some of the beers available at IPPIN Cafe & Bar includes Waku Waku Craft Beer as well as Rice Beer. Says Kawakita, “Our rice beer is very unique and light – which means that it’s suitable for the hot and humid Singapore weather.”
The three main types of green tea here are Sencha ($6.00) which is sweet and delicate with a mild bitter taste; Genmaicha ($6.00) with a strong yet mellow flavour and finally Hojicha ($6.00) which is a mild roasted green tea that is suitable for children. I tried the Hojicha green tea and the flavour was indeed mild and subtle – meaning that it is good for pairing with the eatery’s strongly flavoured dishes.
As a whole, this is definitely a very homely and comfortable restaurant where you can take your friends for a couple of hours of idle chitchat. The dishes are also unique and interesting, and certainly a departure from the traditional Japanese fare. My personal favourite item was possibly the pork & potato stew side dish – which I could not stop eating because it was so yummy.
IPPIN Cafe & Bar is at:
Address: 18 Mohamed Sultan Rd, 238967
Telephone: +65 6733 4794
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturdays 11.00am to 11.00pm. (Closed on Sundays).
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