Restaurant review: Osomatsu brings izakaya grub and smoked uni tarts to Paya Lebar's Kinex

PHOTO: Facebook/Osomatsu

A quintessential phrase from the ever-humble Japanese, osomatsu-sama deshita means ‘it was no big deal of a meal’ – often modestly said by a host in response to guests’ praise. But modesty aside, Osomatsu Japanese Kitchen & Bar is certainly worth making some fuss about. Tucked away in one of Paya Lebar ‘s quieter malls, this fresh face in KINEX gives izakaya grub a peppering of modern twists.

The brains behind the brand are a duo of local chefs: Two-time World Gourmet Summit winner Angus Chow and Le Cordon Bleu-trained Justin Foo. Together, they’ve dreamt up a spacious 60-seater restaurant decked in warm wood and faux sakura trees.

Get there early enough, and you might be able to snag one of their snug tatami-style booth seats screened by rattan blinds. Otherwise, three private tatami dining rooms are also available for booking, where you’re invited to leave your shoes at the door, pull on indoor slippers, and cosy down on zabutons.

Chef Angus was most recently Executive Chef of Japanese-inspired tapas bar Sake Labo, and he’s brought something of that east-meets-west spirit into his new venture.

Take his star creation at Osomatsu, the Uni Ikura Tart ($22 per piece), which marries sea urchin with hickory-smoking techniques to make a sweet, intensely smoky mouthful of bliss. The smoked uni is then laid atop a tart packed with ikura and truffle cream, and served to our table in a bell jar – lift the lid, and the smoke billows out in theatrical style.

The chefs’ flair for presentation comes through in another signature plate, the Shiromi Truffle ($30). Flown in from Toyosu Fish Market, the sea bream sashimi is clean and tender, seasoned delicately with shio kombu before being crowned with truffle-scented Avruga caviar.

With the slices prettily arranged in a fan shape and sprinkled with gold dust, it’s a feast for the eyes too. For another refreshing starter, opt for the Maguro Tataki Salad ($28). Tossed in a peppy yuzu wasabi dressing, this salad packs generous portions of thick-cut akami tuna slices alongside seaweed and mesclun.

Besides sashimi and raw plates, Osomatsu sizzles up a classic array of izakaya fare too, from binchotan-grilled skewers to deep-fried bites. There’s no going wrong with the Tsukune ($5.20) or homemade chicken meatballs, with its pleasant crunch from chopped cartilage, shiitake mushrooms, and onions. We also enjoy the charcoal-battered Charcoal Chicken ($16), which might resemble lumps of coal but burst with flavour thanks to marination with ginger juice.

Tofu Nuggets ($8) don’t sound the most appealing, but Osomatsu’s rendition is surprisingly likable. These pan-fried nuggets turn out pleasantly firm to the bite with a mix of pressed housemade tofu, almond meal, and potato shreds, and they’re even better dunked in spicy mayo.

It’s rare that you’ll find an omakase concept in the heartlands, but Osomatsu is looking to change that. Alongside the current à la carte menu, an omakase experience ($160++ per pax) is in the works, slated to launch after Chinese New Year.

We had a sneak peek of their shokuji course, the Miyazaki A4 Wagyu Cha Zuke – a luxurious take on the Japanese classic of green tea and dashi poured over rice. Pairing well-marbled Miyazaki wagyu with fluffy Japanese rice from Akita Prefecture, it’s decadent yet comforting.

ALSO READ: This Japanese restaurant's 22-course omakase meal takes at least 3 hours to complete

Osomatsu Japanese Kitchen & Bar is located at 11 Tanjong Katong Road, KINEX, #02-21, Singapore 437157, p. +65 9235 9419. Open daily 11.30am–2.30pm & 5.30pm–10.30pm.

This article was first published in City Nomads.

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