Ignatius Chan is unique, a quiet and gentle man who is sparked into animation when talking about food and drink. He is celebrated and respected in Asia but not as a chef: he is Asia’s sommelier.
Singapore is considered by many (this writer included) as one of the finest of food capitals, not just in Asia but the whole world. Ignatius has contributed to that reputation with his eponymous restaurant ‘Iggy’s’. It’s high-end, polished, with outstanding dishes, and unsurprisingly a striking wine list. Its location in the Hilton makes this eminently accessible to international visitors and locals alike.
But Ignatius has other culinary ventures and Kaiseki Yoshiyuki exudes the same quality as ‘Iggy’s’ but it’s discreetly tucked away in the basement of a shopping mall next to the Hilton, on Orchard Road. One might not find this by accident but it’s worth seeking out. The entrance is unobtrusive with just a grey and white banner covering the door and a light-box displaying the restaurant name in flowing calligraphy.
Kaiseki is a style of Japanese cuisine. With many courses that represent both simplicity and complexity, it is becoming more popular outside Japan with those who are looking for the very essence of classic Japanese food preparation and presentation.
Kaiseki is still to be found in ryokan (traditional inns) in Japan, but it is also served in small restaurants, as it would be impossible to produce such refined dishes for large numbers. Kyoto is well known as the home of Kaiseki and outside Japan these restaurants are sometimes called Kyoto Kaiseki restaurants.
Kaiseki’s origins can be traced back to traditions of elaborate feasting at the imperial court and the formalised Japanese tea ceremony, along with the customs of Zen monks of the 17th century. The dishes are characterised by not only their elaborate presentation but the use of seasonal ingredients. The meal should be a homage to taste, texture and visual appeal.
Finished dishes are carefully presented on plates and trays that are chosen to enhance both the appearance and the seasonality of the fresh ingredients. Dishes are thoughtfully placed and garnished with vegetables sometimes carved to represent plants, birds or animals.
Kaiseki meals have a traditional order of serving with consideration of cooking techniques, but an experienced chef will introduce or admit dishes to help emphasise the theme of the meal. It’s the highest form of culinary artistry, and chef Yoshiyuki wields his knife to form epicurean tableaux.
Ignatius Chan and two partners opened this US$1.6m restaurant which is named after its head chef, Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara, who has impeccable culinary credentials. He spent seven years as the personal chef to the Japanese ambassadors in San Francisco and Singapore. Chef Yoshiyuki honed his Kaiseki skills at the respected Kyoryori Hosoi in Tokyo, where he joined as a trainee and eventually headed the kitchen team. Yoshiyuki now has his own venue to showcase the very best of Kaiseki cuisine.
This restaurant is instantly recognisable as part of the Chan empire. Its design is thoughtful, inspired and a perfect vehicle for this talented chef. There are no overt trappings of Japan but it contrives to exude that distinct minimalist charm in contemporary fashion. Shelves of tactile wooden book spines, and cases of illuminated origami show imagination and flair but the décor doesn’t overshadow the food. Nothing here offends the senses.
A meal at Kaiseki Yoshiyuki is memorable. The presentation is classic with each of the many courses being offered to the guest as a complete set on their personal tray. Every dish is beautiful, light and delicious, and there are even elements of culinary whimsy. Yes, the impression is of timeless formality, but enjoy the food and the event. This is as far from one’s usual fast sushi outlet as one could imagine. Sit at the counter and savour the ambiance.
Iggy Chan never disappoints. Kaiseki Yoshiyuki is a credit to both Ignatius and this worthy chef who takes advantage of Singapore’s access to the best ingredients from across the globe. This must surely be on the must-visit restaurant list of any local or tourist.
Monday – Friday
12:00 noon – 1:30 pm for lunch
7:00 pm – 9:30 pm for dinner
7:00 pm – 9:30 pm for dinner
Forum the Shopping Mall
583 Orchard Road,
Restaurant review by Chrissie Walker © 2018