I love Japanese food and there is no shortage of supply in Singapore. From food courts and hawker centres to high end restaurants, you are spoilt for choice in terms of Japanese food options. However there are very few authentic Japanese Izakayas in Singapore. An Izakaya is a Japanese tapas and sake bar, where you go to enjoy snacks and drink alcohol. So of course I had to ask my Japanese friends for their recommendation and they all insisted I check out Himonoya at Robertson Quay.
Flossie’s rating: ★★★★
Robertson Quay is a totally expat area so I was a little dubious about visiting a supposedly authentic Izakaya located here. That was until I found out that all the Japanese expats (as well as European foreigners) live in this area too. Himonoya is on the second floor of the Roberton Quay complex and a little out of the way, so it is the kind of place you need to know about in order to find it. I have been here a few times now and it is always full of Japanese customers, which has to be a good sign.
A regular Izakaya in Japan would be a cosy hole in the wall crammed with people and noisy with chatter. Himonoya at Robertson Quay is a more comfortable, high end type of Izakaya. It has private seating booths as well as regular tables and there is plenty of space. I recommend reserving a private booth because they are quieter and awesomely decorated with empty sake bottles.
The best thing about this place is the food. It is authentic Japanese food with a focus on fresh seafood. You absolutely must order the tuna sashimi here, which is of excellent quality. For $20 you can get a plate of three types of bluefin tuna sashimi, o toro (fatty tuna), chu toro (medium fatty tuna) and akami (lean tuna).
The fattiest tuna sashimi is considered a delicacy and is the most expensive part as it comes from the belly of the fish. It is soft and light pink coloured and it melts in your mouth. The leaner cuts of tuna are bright red and have a firmer texture. They are less flavourful but are lighter to eat. If you are with a group of people, you can order a larger serving of tuna sashimi that comes with two fillets consisting of all three types of tuna, which is great value for money.
Other sashimi dishes worth trying are the yellowtail tuna sashimi, also known as buri, which is a firmly textured and fatty white fish, as well as the octopus sashimi, which is not completely raw (it is run through hot water) but incredibly tasty.
Moving on from the sashimi offerings, the seared cod roe is an interesting dish to try. It is well seasoned with peppery and salty flavours that add extra kick to the natural fishiness of the roe, and it has a soft grainy texture on the inside that tickles the tastebuds. This is one of the less authentic items on the menu, as Japanese typically eat cod roe raw and with rice. Nonetheless it is an unusual punch of fishy flavour that hardcore seafood lovers will appreciate.
The broiled Japanese scallops are another standout dish. They are served in the shell cooked with butter, sake, soy sauce and seaweed. The scallops are meaty and tender, and there is plenty of tasty sauce to slurp them up. However they are one of the more pricier items on the menu at $13 for only two scallops.
For something a bit cheaper but just as tasty go for the Dashimaki DX, which is a Japanese omelette served with generous lashings of crab meet and salmon roe. I usually do not like eggy dishes but this omelette is buttery and light and there is practically a mountain of yummy roe all for just $24, more than enough for two people to get their fill.
There are plenty of other seafood dishes on the menu as well including sushi (although some of them are not so authentic), dried shark fin, crab legs and many varieties of grilled fish. Himonoya actually means dried food in Japanese, and their specialty is drying fresh fish on premise and grilling it. Himonoya also have a few exceptional side dishes. The grilled eggplant with radish, soy sauce, ginger and chives is incredible. Likewise the dressed tofu with salmon roe is another best seller.
Himonoya are also famous for their sake selection and they serve many common as well as rare sakes that you would not find in other Singapore establishments. I’m not really a sake drinker although the cheap sparkling sake is not too bad if you are trying to get into it.
Of course no restaurant is perfect and there are a few less authentic elements to Himonoya. The sushi options are more catered to Western tastes and some of them contain mayonnaise. Let’s face it, California Roll is not a Japanese dish. The menu is also limited. If you are not a fan of fish or sashimi, there are not too many other satisfying dishes to choose from.
If you are looking for authentic Japanese food at Robertson Quay I recommend you head to Himonoya for fresh and beautifully served seafood dishes.
11 Unity Street
#02-14 Robertson Walk