Manseki 满席 (マン席)
マン席, pronounced as Manseki, means “sold out” or “all seats taken” in the Japanese language. And in effect with the yummilicious omakase meal I had recently, this semi-fine dining restaurant ought to be!
I wanted to name this post “A Tale of 2 Friendships” because it was a union of 2 old buddies and I bonding over dinner. They do not know each other but quickly warmed up to one another. Jerry, the guest, and Chef Ron who served us a “surprise me” menu of dainty sushi, exquisite sashimi, mouth-watering braised and grilled seafood with his own recipe of delicate sauces.
I’m acquainted with Jerry for nearly 30 years now. I knew Ron at Matsuki Restaurant at The Pinetree Town & Country Club back in the early 2000s, when he left *Nogawa after a 5-year stint.
*Back in 1978, Nogawa Japanese Restaurant is Singapore’s first sushi restaurant. Many of our local chefs apprenticed there. It was considered the industry’s top level then.
Chef Ron was proper enough to greet me at the door with a slight bow (Japanese style). I walked over and gave him a hug (Western style). Lol…
I was escorted to the sushi counter by Yumi, the cheery young waitress. Lo and behold! Jerry was already seated there. I was surprised as I thought I would be having sake with Chef Ron for a good half hour before he arrives. I’ll have to share more of the sake then. 😉
I prefer cold to hot sake and this bottle of semi-sweet, medium to full bodied drink was made from polished rice with SMV (Sake Meter Value – the lower the sweeter and higher, drier) of +2 or was it +1? Its complex bouquet revealed hints of ripe fruit (cranberry?), rose petals and even the earthy oregano! We enjoyed this luscious flow so much we had another smaller bottle to end the night.
Tatami Iwashi (たたみいわし) is a Japanese appetiser of shirashu (dried baby sardines) laid out and dried while entwined in a single layer to form a large mat-like (hence, the name tatami) sheet. They were crispy, slightly bland but went very well with my cold Sanka. The Fugu Mirin Boshi (the pale maroonish brown strips in the middle of the plate), on the other hand, tasted savoury-sweet with smoky flavours. They had pleasant soft chewy texture which reminds me of Bak Kwa (pork jerky).
Here’s an interesting fact about Fugu (フグ), which is pufferfish or blowfish. Did you know that Fugu contains a poison called tetrodotoxin, which is 1,200 times deadlier than cyanide? In view of the high risk involved, fugu-preparing licensed chefs are subjected to a 2-3year training program before certification. Eating them (not the chefs but fugu) with the mayo and tobiko (飛子 flying fish roe) dip is a luxury combined with high stakes gamble, don’t you think? Danger is now my middle name. 🙂
Our Sashimi Platter consisted of the following:
Shiro Maguro (白鮪): White Tuna
Kanpachi (間八): Greater Amberjack
Shima-aji (しま鯵): Striped Jack
Ōtoro (大とろ): fattiest portion of Bluefin Tuna belly
Tai (鯛): Seabream Snapper
Akagai (赤貝): Ark Shell
Mirugai (海松貝): Geoduck Clam
Ama-ebi (甘海老): raw Pink Shrimp
The light flavor of Isaki flesh is interesting because there is a noticable fat layer between the skin and meat. With a hint of sweetness, the fish had a very delicate texture. Isaki is known to be rich in protein, minerals and less mercury. However, it does contain a high percentage of fat (are they good fats, like omega-3 fatty acids?). The salted savoury crust drew out the fish’ natural sweetness and made it even more delectable. “More sake, please!”
Kajiki (梶木) has sweet flavors in all applications from raw to high heat. We had them deep-fried and served with Ron’s creative Sesame Sauce, which was velvety rich and aromatic. The bite-sized snack had good mouthfeel, slightly chewy and firm. Kajiki has robust flavours and its high fat content ensured they do not dry even when deep-fried. I bet they’re fantastic cooked as fish steaks!
NASU is a Japanese word for “eggplant”. EBI is prawn/shrimp. GOMA means “sesame” and AE means sauce in Japanese. My only vegetable for the night. The eggplant was very soft. There’s fresh prawns and if you look carefully, there were also some dried shrimps under the whitish… erm, beansprouts? The broth, although light and refreshing, was left mostly untouched since I didn’t have rice to go with it.
I ordered more Sake and told Chef Ron I needed more food. “Sushi!” I requested, as I walked out for a smoke break.
Aburi sushi, (炙り寿司) or roasted/flamed sushi, is sushi where the raw fish topping is partly raw and partly grilled (topside of fish) by a butane-fuelled blow torch.
Jerry said he could not eat anymore. I wanted more. So we compromised. Chef Ron said, “The next sushi will be served by hand instead of putting it on the plate.” I had to ask why. You’d want to know why, don’t you?
“Well, flavours from my hand makes the sushi tastes better. I have named it ‘Forget Me Not’!”
“No kidding! We have been eating (your) handmade sushi all along but why must this be poached from your hand?”
Further interrogations revealed that the heavy topping of minced Otoro and Uni would topple the sushi if he puts it on the flat plate. His slightly cupped palm holds the sushi better.
It is not unusual for an Itamae (sushi chef) to partake alcoholic drinks, compliments from their customers, and on one particular night, Chef Ron was served one too many from the merry making diners. In his tipsiness, he torched both the sushi and the unintended cheesecake. It was very well received. From then on, Aburi Cheesecake is on the menu! Hahaha…
Jerry was stuffed and relieved when the cheesecakes were served. He thought that was the end of the meal until…
Tuesdays and Fridays are Manseki’s cargo day. That means the fish/seafood from Japan arrives into Singapore in the morning and gets prepared immediately by the chefs so they could be served by lunch time.
I had picked a Monday to visit Chef Ron at Manseki so as to test the quality of food since whatever I was eating was from last Friday’s cargo. I must say Chef Ron did a very good job holding the helm at Manseki 满席 (マン席). I am also very happy with the efficient and unobtrusive service I got that night from the other staff. Don’t take my words for it. Go visit! I know I’ll be heading there for their Bento set lunch soon. And this time, it’ll be on a cargo day! 🙂
Address: 11 Unity Street,
Robertson Walk #01-07.
Tel: 6737 5968
11.30am to 2.15pm (Mon to Sun)
6pm to 10.30pm (Sun to Wed)
6pm to 11pm (Thur to Sat)
Happy eating, making new friendships and bonding 🙂
P.S. I think there’s a 10% off the food bill for OCBC cardholders. Do find out if it is still available.