Japanese Food in Singapore
What do the Japanese say?
Japanese cuisine has flourished in Singapore for decades, and the variety available is downright impressive for a country that’s less than two-tenths the size of Japan. We probably have more Japanese restaurants per capita than any other country outside of Japan!
Singaporeans certainly enjoy plenty of Japanese fare from the comfort of their own shores, but where would native Japanese go in Singapore for a taste of their homeland? Have you ever wondered if a true-blue Japanese would eat at the same Japanese restaurant as you do if living in Singapore?
Let’s talk to Bunka Language School’s staff to find out!
Hoshino Coffee (星乃珈琲店)
Founded in 2011, Hoshino Coffee rapidly grew to around 200 outlets in Japan. They came to Singapore in 2012 and have already branched out to eight locations here.
Hoshino Coffee is a café-restaurant that serves Japanese-Western fusion food, which is far from the traditional Japanese food that one would expect our Japan-born friends to head for. Yet, one Japanese (let’s call her Alice) loves to visit Hoshino Coffee in Singapore, because it reminds her of the times she visited them in Japan.
And what would Alice order there? Nope, not coffee – “Fruits Ice Tea is the best!” she says. She adds that although the cuisine offered is Westernised, they still have a ‘Japanese taste’ that reminds her of home.
Saizeriya stores in Singapore (Source: facebook.com/Official-Singapore-Saizeriya-206980542841352/)
Another restaurant in Singapore with a ‘Japanese taste’ that Alice frequents is Saizeriya. To our surprise, this family-style Italian restaurant started as a shop house above a grocery store in Japan in 1967, with over 100 restaurants to date. In 2008, they opened their first of 21 stores in Singapore, capturing the hearts of Japanese who want a taste of home. Who’d have guessed that Italian food would kindle fond memories of Japan?
At Saizeriya, Alice always orders chicken wings and two bowls of salad. She offers passionate advice: “Any salad is okay, but please take two!! Salad! Salad! Salad!”
Saizeriya stores in Japan (Source: Left – japantimes.co.jp/news/2011/01/25/reference/family-restaurants-falling-from-flavor/#.WqY9RuhuaM8, Above – uniquetours-japan.com/restaurant/japan-restaurant.html)
Azmaya in Singapore (Source: Left- facebook.com/azmaya2013/, Right – pinkypiggu.com/2013/03/azmaya-robertson-quay-wagyu-shabu-shabu.html)
Azmaya is a Japanese restaurant located by the river at Robertson Walk. They specialise in shabu-shabu, a hotpot dish featuring thinly-sliced meats and vegetables boiled in water. Opened by Japanese residing in Singapore, they must offer a pretty tasty dining experience, since another one of our teachers gravitates there for their shabu-shabu with special tomato-based soup.
Aside from authentic food, their value-for-money promotions is probably a great draw as well – Enokida Sachiko sensei recommends their all-you-can-eat buffets!
Yayoiken in Singapore (Source: facebook.com/yayoisg/)
Yayoiken, also known as Yayoi, is an extensive chain of Japanese restaurants with the mission of introducing people to the authentic ‘teishoku’ style of Japanese cuisine. Traditionally, meals in Japan consist of one soup dish, one main dish, two side dishes, and the staple steamed rice. Served on a tray, this set is called a ‘teishoku’, and is widely upheld as the foundation of a healthy, balanced diet.
Yayoiken’s history dates back more than a century with the opening of their first restaurant in 1886 which introduced the then-uncommon Western cuisine in Japan. With more than 250 outlets in Japan and eight in Singapore, this brand is one of the favourite local haunts of one of our Japanese teachers – She loves the variety of dishes you can find at this restaurant, although her favourite is the Chicken Nanban Teishoku!
Yayoiken in Japan (Source: japanhubdotcom.wordpress.com/2013/09/14/japan-eat-a-list-of-inexpensive-chain-restaurants-in-japan/
Hakata Ikkousha (博多一幸舎)
Ikkousha in Singapore (Source: facebook.com/hakataikkousha.singapore/)
With its origins in Hakata, Fukuoka, the ‘ramen-capital’ of Japan, Hakata Ikkousha boasts an authentic version of the classic Tonkotsu ramen since its first store in 2004. Tonkotsu ramen is now an internationally-renowned noodle dish served in milky pork-based broth. Did you know that it was originally referred to as Hakata ramen?
This delish Tonkotsu ramen is what keeps Kinue Usui sensei coming back to this restaurant for more. To follow in her footsteps, do order the Gyoza too!
Ikkousha in Japan (Source: japan-tour.jp/zh-hant/16659)
Machida Shouten (博)
Machida Shouten in Singapore (Source: www.japanfoodtown.sg/stores/machida-shoten/)
Machida Shouten serves up a popular variant of ramen known as Lekei. Lekei translates to ‘house-type’, which refers to the dish being prepared according to individual preference, as if homemade. Since Machida Shoten was founded in 2008 in Japan with 45 outlets to date, our teacher ‘Ms. Long Valley River’, has been enjoying this customisable version long Machida Shouten opened its first overseas outlet in Singapore in 2017.
Every month, Ms. Long Valley River treats herself to the Special Tonkotsu Shoyu Ramen with a bowl of rice to complete the meal by sopping up the soup. She says that Machida Shouten is probably the only restaurant where you can find Lekei Ramen – if you know of any others, do let her know!
Machida Shouten in Japan (Source: www.japanfoodtown.sg/stores/machida-shoten/)
Some of our Japanese friends do not visit any Japanese restaurants in Singapore, considering that they can prepare Japanese food for themselves at home. One prefers our Korean food options, and another prefers our hawker centres. Many also commented that Japanese food in Singapore isn’t affordable. So if you find Japanese food in Singapore expensive, you’re right – even the Japanese think so!