With its updated interiors that harken back to the days of ancient Kyoto, cultural storytelling is rife throughout the ryokan-like settings of high-end sushi-ya Shoukouwa.
Even before you step inside, you’re greeted by a row of intricately placed “inuyarai” — curved low bamboo fences which were originally installed in Kyoto neighbourhoods in ancient times as a way for residents to protect their walls from heavy foot and horse traffic.
Once inside, you’ll find a little water fountain reminiscent of those seen at the entrance of Shinto shrines; a pebble walkway (be careful if you wear heels); a ceiling filled with wood beams found in traditional tea houses; and an imposing wall of red to represent protection, strength, peace, and prosperity. Supposedly, the stucco texture of the walls is layered with a “juraku” finishing, comprising natural soil from Kyoto.
Inside the eight-seater main sushi counter, the walls turn a calmer shade of sage green — evoking the mood of a forest at dawn — drawing attention to a single bonsai plant that sits on an illuminated shelf. The six-seater private dining room, where I sampled its premium omakase, showcases luxurious gold and silver wallpaper with Japanese art motifs.
See also: Japanese flavour secrets revealed
Conceived by Tomoyuki Hisano, Japanese interior designer and founder of Tom Designs & Associates, all these striking elements are meant to reference a time and place in Japan’s history. However, the restaurant still looks very much contemporary with clean lines and unfussy finishings, while retaining signature details like the shoji screens and centuries-old Hinoki cypress wood used for the sushi counters.
Just like its name Shoukouwa — which refers to an oasis of stillness, serenity and harmony — the intimate dining space puts diners in this very state of mind to experience its exquisitely-crafted Edomae sushi.
Shoukouwa opened at One Fullerton in 2016. Within its first year of operation, it was awarded two Michelin stars — an accolade it has retained for six consecutive years. The restaurant is part of Food Inc, which also includes two-Michelin-starred Saint Pierre, a modern French restaurant helmed by chef-owner Emmanuel Stroobant.
Gourmands would be glad to know that head chef Kazumine Nishida remains at the helm of the restaurant. He presents three omakase menus with ingredients that change according to the seasons and availability. Diners can choose between the Miyabi ($350++ per person) and Hana menus ($520++ per person) for lunch, and the Hana ($520++ per person) and En menus ($680++ per person) for dinner.
What you’re paying for is the quality and freshness of every ingredient that is air-flown four times a week from Toyosu Market. With pristine produce at his disposal, chef Nishida works his magic on the board, sculpting delicate morsels of nigiri such as the baby sea bream, shiro amadai or white tilefish (the finest of all amadai), Hokkaido botan shrimp, tuna belly, or cherry blossom trout, a premium seasonal fish which tastes and looks like salmon.
To give you the best bang for your buck, there is no skimping of ingredients here. For example, the signature Kegani features a generous scoop of Hokkaido hairy crab with umami-rich crab roe sauce and N25 Kaluga caviar. The tuna hand roll is fattened with 60% chutoro and 40% otoro. And the Ika, simply seasoned with a smidgen of salt and lime, has more diced squid than the mouth can handle.
For more lifestyle, arts and fashion trends, click here for Options Section
Although nigiri-forward, the omakase menu also strikes a balance against cooked dishes to showcase the chef’s versatility and dexterity in the hot kitchen. I really enjoyed the slices of young tuna smoked with rice straw, and skin seared with charcoal; the steamed black throat sea perch accented with a delicious kelp-dashi sauce; and kinki rockfish soup, enriched with red carrot, bamboo shoot, gingko nuts and mountain vegetables.
As part of the revamp, my omakase was presented on specially-ordered tableware sourced from various prefectures: lacquerware from Fukui, ceramic cutlery from Saga, and minoyaki ceramic plates from Gifu. Additionally, Shoukouwa’s chefs and female staff now sport tailor-made robes and kimonos made of toray silk, a sustainable fabric from Japan.
To elevate its sushi menus, Shoukouwa has engaged Singapore’s first Master of Wine, Tan Ying Hsien, as its wine advisor to curate the restaurant’s new wine, sake and mixed pairings. Although not a sake sommelier, his well-trained nose and sharp palate aced the sake pairings.
One standout is Nagurayama Yokikana Junmai Ginjo, with hints of grape and pear aromas to match the creaminess of bafun uni sushi. The champion sake of 2019’s International Wine Challenge, Katsuyama Ken Junmai Ginjo is delightfully smooth, round and crisp, making for an immaculate pairing to the clean profile of baby sea bream nigiri.
For wines, there were mainly white varietals, a couple of reds to pair with tuna, and some bubbly to pair with the soup. Some notable labels included Châteauneuf du Pape Blanc La Crau Domaine Vieux Télégraphe 2021, Nicolas Potel Volnay Les Pitures 2003 and Jim Barry Assyrtiko 2021.
Guests can opt for the wine accompaniment at an additional $348++ per person, sake accompaniment at a supplement of $258++ per person, or a mixed wine and sake accompaniment at an additional $308++ per person.
1 Fullerton Rd, #02-02A One Fullerton Singapore 049213 Tel: (65) 6423 9939
Lunch: Tuesdays to Saturdays | 1pm–3pm
Dinner: Tuesdays to Saturdays | 6pm–8pm; 8.15pm–10.30pm
Closed on Sundays and Mondays