Great things happened when Singaporean restaurateur Ignatius Chan of Iggy’s fame, and his young business partner, Singapore-born Chinese-Filipino Russell Yu, developed Iki Concepts. Last year alone, they opened three dining establishments at the Forum on Orchard Road: Kaiseki Yoshiyuki, Uma Uma Ramen and a bar called Horse’s Mouth.
Kaiseki, a culinary art form of the highest degree, is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal derived from 16th-century tea ceremony rituals.
According to Russell, kaiseki is character- and personality-driven.” So, a meal at Kaiseki Yoshiyuki represents the heart and soul of the one who prepared it, which was how I felt when I had chef Yoshiyuki Kashiwabara’s food.
The experience transported me to discover the very best his country could offer.
The appetizer Sakizuke consisted of Fresh Yuba—tofu skins from Kyoto, topped with uni from Hokkaido, and finished with freshly grated wasabi from Shizuoka near Japan’s Mt. Fuji.
Each course centered on a prime ingredient, following a specific kaiseki sequence. Each little dish was artistically plated and created to achieve perfect balance.
Though we opted for the longer menu, we were nourished, not stuffed. Having this meal was a gentle reminder of how one must dine—enjoying every morsel, appreciating every bite.
From the movements of the chef, to the tableware, to the food and the manner it was plated, to the service—it was, for me, a profound, even serene, dining experience.
Suimono (soup) of Amadai (tile fish); Tsukuri (sashimi course) of Kochi (flathead fish) served with a delectable vinaigrette gelée and Maguro (melt-in-your-mouth bluefin tuna) two ways, raw and slightly seared with fresh wasabi; Yakimono (grilled dish) of Managatsou Yuan Yaki—silver pomfret marinated in soy sauce, mirin and yuzu; Takiawase (simmered seasonal vegetable) of delicious eggplant Osaka and daikon (radish); Shokuji (rice course) of Chirimen Rice (baby sardine-flavored rice served with Miso soup, pickles); Mizugashi (dessert) of Japanese Fig Gelee with to-die-for Macha Cheesecake.
It was no ordinary lunch, made more memorable by the company of good friends Vivian Go and Nancy Yu, and unforgettable because of the graciousness of Yasue Fukunaga, the assistant manager.
Yasue would give us the background of each dish and the origin of its ingredients using a map of Japan.
Yoshiyuki is an honored Chef of Diplomatic Missions by the Japanese Foreign Service. For seven years, he served as personal chef to the ambassadors posted in San Francisco and Singapore.
His formative years as a kaiseki chef were spent in the respected Kyoryori Hosoi in Saitama prefecture. He joined Iki Concepts as a director in 2011.
He aims to create the true experience of Kyoto kaiseki cuisine for those who wish to partake of it.
If you find yourself in Singapore craving for a bowl of ramen, you must visit Uma Uma, with its freshly made noodles.
I have been home almost three weeks now, but every time I get hungry, I end up craving for Uma Uma’s Mazesoba—dry ramen with bamboo shoots, spring onions, leeks and tamago, seasoned to my palate’s satisfaction.
I would also love to have the Uma Uma Ramen, Bushi Tonkotsu Ramen, chicken karaage, chasiu rice, dashi maki tamago, (that’s practically the whole menu) right now! My mouth waters at the mere thought. Which is why, on my last visit, I went back to Uma Uma repeatedly.
This Singapore branch is the first one outside Japan.
“Uma Uma Ramen’s name stems from Wu Maru, a ramen shop opened in 1953 by the father of Uma Uma Ramen’s current president, Masahiko Teshima,” said Russell. “In 1994, Wu Maru was renamed Uma Uma Ramen—a play on the restaurant’s original name as well as a pun on the Japanese word for tasty.”
It doesn’t use MSG, but finds ways to bring out the natural umami of the ingredients it uses.
To me, Uma Uma’s noodles make all the difference! Russell said: “The noodles are from an old-time family recipe from Hakata in Japan. We really work hard to maintain the freshness and the thinness of the noodles. We also make sure we cook it to perfection.”
Determining when the noodles are good enough to serve initially meant sending the noodles from Japan to Singapore and back, until the chefs were satisfied.
This restaurant is one of a few where the contents of the menu, from the mains to the side dishes, are all good. I am trying to find reasons to go back to Singapore, and the strongest one is to have a mouthful of comfort food, once again, at Uma Uma.
My wish is that it opens in Manila soon!
Kaiseki Yoshiyuki: For reservations, call +65 6235 1088, +65 8188 0900.
Kaiseki Yoshiyuki and Uma Uma are at 583 Orchard Road, Forum The Shopping Mall, Singapore