Leaving it up to the chef: Sou Omakase, The Gardens Mall
Despite being situated at The Gardens Mall, Sou Omakase manages to hide itself away from the noisy shopping lanes, thanks to its slightly discreet location.
For this review, we were fortunate to sample two prix fixes (termed as courses at this restaurant) offering its own unique take on what this new contender to the local dining scene can offer. As such, it would be near impossible to include each and every dish offered from these two courses, and I will instead cherry pick the dishes from both that stood out most for me.
Both courses, the first called sou dinner course and the other the special abalone course, offer multiple dishes for a complete meal—comprising from an amuse bouche to dessert. Although primarily Japanese-centric, the dishes at Sou Omakase meld traditional Japanese cooking techniques with a wider range of ingredients that are not normally used in the cuisine.
The first of the courses that I will touch upon is the dinner course, a set menu featuring eight dishes and a selection of what the restaurant had to offer. Of the two appetisers called sakizuke to arrive, the cheese sphere with Japanese eggplant curry sauce with fried onion was the more interesting choice. Like most Japanese curries, its spice level was mild yet pleasant while the eggplant added a slight starchiness and the fried onions a crunchy element, resulting in an appetiser true to its purpose.
A thick scallop onion soup topped with comté cheese, grilled scallops, tofu at the bottom and a nice savoury tang is also worth a mention. While the soup itself wasn’t big on onion flavour, it did however offer a broad range of other complementing flavours. The cheese too was an interesting addition to the dish, an uncommon ingredient found in Japanese soups, and provided a slightly sharp taste that blended well with the properly cooked scallops.
Fried sole fish with eggplant, miso and fried udon strips was also another highlight of the dinner course. The fish itself was fried to perfection with an almost cod-like texture that gives off a nice, meaty and oily feel from the fish when eaten. Salmon amazu, a small bowl of raw salmon, mango cubes and a variety of condiments served to us, was another example of the restaurant’s willingness to take risks and deliver a rather different type of Japanese dining experience that feels somehow familiar yet new at the same time.
While diners can only choose one dish for the main course, we tried both the beef and fish from both courses, with enjoyable results. The braised beef on a hot stone plate had a very clean and palatable taste with spring onion and shallots to add a nice crunch and additional depth of flavour. The yellow fin tuna collar on the other hand was spectacular, excellently chargrilled with a smoky, flaky and crispy meat to please the palate. The slightly sweet sauce that comes with the dish also made for a delicious combination.
Moving over to the dishes from the special abalone course is a similar experience to the previous set, except that this has nine courses and like its name signals, includes abalone. Of the few abalone dishes that we tried in the course, the initial appetiser to arrive, sliced abalone with Japanese mushrooms and Raclette cheese, was an obvious standout. The cheese was sharp, tangy and well melted over the juicy abalone and mushrooms, adding an earthy, savoury quality to the dish overall.
To counter the oiliness of the dish, Japanese peach and tomato salad came next. Fresh, sweet and tasty, the peach worked surprisingly well with tart and plump slices of tomatoes, creating a delightful contrast that was light and refreshing. Finely orchestrated, the next dish was interesting too, featuring tataki (a style where the fish is seared lightly) bonito fish with mustard seed, chilli oil and scallion.
Although both courses had sashimi, I chose to focus on the special abalone course’s sashimi selections because of its better offerings. What caught my attention at this portion of the meal wasn’t only the variety of fresh fish laid in front of me, but rather an unassuming portion of the dish that most people would rarely pay attention to, the humble shoyu, which comes in two versions—white and mousse.
The white shoyu is meant to be taken with white fish while the shoyu mousse was created so that diners can effectively control the amount of soy sauce they would like to apply on their sashimi. On the nicely decorated platter in front of me was toro (tuna belly), salmon, octopus, snapper and flathead fish. The tuna belly was the clear highlight of the platter with the sesame covered octopus and flathead fish being delicious standouts.
The climax of this set course meal was the grilled abalone with cheese sauce and condiments. I personally have never had abalone with a thick gooey cheese sauce before, but it worked together well to create a savoury, slightly sweet and smoky flavour that went down with ease. The abalone’s stomach, also another uncommon piece, was surprisingly delicious with a taste reminiscent of mussels. It proved to be not too gamey and instead was dominated by a wonderful smokiness, thanks to the manner in which it was cooked.
Dessert consisted of azuki bean with sweet potato and peach yogurt, the former being a sweet albeit slightly heavy ending after having eight courses, while the latter proved to hit just the right spot with its bite-size portion. What stood out about the peach yogurt was its presentation—made to look like an egg yolk filled with peach flavoured yogurt.
Sou Omakase is an interesting modern Japanese restaurant that doesn’t stray too far from its roots but welcomes the addition of other ingredients to offer diners a new way to enjoy the popular cuisine.
Fans of Japanese cuisine should also check out these brunch places that's perfect for weekend get-togethers.