sumiya japanese charcoal grill and izakaya, somerset

utterly fantastic and amazingly fun izakaya at the top of the stupidly-designed orchard central. today, I bring you a gem. I visited this place for an invited tasting – and the food was great, the atmosphere authentic and incredibly fun – and I know, pffffff. invited-schmited what-had-I-expected.

so I sent my parents on to the restaurant the weekend after my visit for a proper litmus test, and they came back full of praise for the place. which makes me really glad – because now I can be utterly effervescent without qualm.


I can’t quite recall the last time I ever described a place as fun – and I’m not really that sort of bouncy jovial person anyway (I might swing a little too much to the other side of things) – but that’s all I thought while there. izakayas are boisterous places – plates of good food and never-empty glasses of beer to lubricate conversations and wind down after a long day, and staff who know how to keep the place cheerful and loud enough for you to do so; this place has all those qualities in spades.

I’m about to unleash a photo bomb – so I’ll keep the verbose to a minimum today. as it is, the dishes are both familiar and well-prepared – don’t come expecting overtly innovative preparations and poncy arrangements. the food surpasses my favourite conveyor belt place – and while it isn’t posh japanese fine-dining, it truly is very good. fresh ingredients simply prepared, an array of comfortingly familiar flavors, and served at a well-met pace.

we started off with ebiko-rolled maki, packed with prawn tempura, and silky slices of salmon sashimi (my parents tell me the hamachi sashimi is also very good – thick slices of not-too-milky fish), as well as a dish of pumpkin-raisin and mentai-potato salad (I preferred the pumpkin, though it was a tad sweet for some);

and a couple of dishes meant for the grill – an assortment of dried fish sheets which were divisive – some were tough and incredibly difficult to eat elegantly, but go well with beer; as well as the house specialty of skewered meats. the yakitori didn’t actually need time on the table grill for having been cooked in the kitchen – but we rather did it anyway, and liked the fragrant char.

order the sticks with leeks – they were delicious.

the edamame were fresh though ordinary-tasting – the notable part was the accompanying fanfare: a lady holds up a huge bowl of beans while you don surgical gloves and grab the biggest handful you can – all to the beat of enthusiastically loud drumming. I hope you get the same performance if you order these – I thought it really did something for the experience.

we finished with some grilled pork – not dry, and tastily porky – and a rather out-of-place dish of truffled french fries. the fries had the nutty fragrance of that black gold – and hey, nostalgia in the crinkle-cut, but it was just a little odd after what had been an authentically japanese meal.

the other strange thing was the stick of cotton candy they handed out post-meal – not quite what one associates with an izakaya. and spun sugar, really banally, tastes only of sugar.

the place is genuinely lovely: a vantage point over town, and a location so exclusive as to be both intimate and cosy – and it truly does remind me of japan. there is proudly-displayed vintage paraphernalia strewn all over – and the place is divided between three historic styles of izakaya dining, onward from the ’50s. my memory is a little wonky – so let’s call them the low-one (cosy and casual), the tall-one (more glamorous by the floor-to-ceiling-windows) and the outdoor-one (where you barbecue your own meats).

the staff were friendly, enthusiastic – and gracious the way only japanese can be. be prepared for a boisterous night – I’ve been told the asahi is the cheapest here at $4.90 a mug, which might account for it – and if not, it’s a welcoming place where you can, like me, clink your water to your friend’s beer mugs, and call it a day.

and if that weren’t enough, here’s the kicker: almost every dish on the menu is priced at less than a tenner. I think that’s completely ridiculous (by which I mean stupendously good) pricing, and it certainly made my parents happy when they got the bill. great ambience and good food (and cheap beer, if you’re into that) – I certainly will be coming back.

Sumiya Charcoal Grill and Izakaya Restaurant
#12-02 Orchard Central
181 Orchard Rd
Singapore 238896
tel +65 6509 9618
$$: most dishes go for under a tenner

p.s. if you try this place out – let me know. I would be a little heartbroken if the place turned out less endearing than we found it: it’s become one of my new favorite places – but even I remain slightly skeptical about how much I enjoyed myself.

p.p.s. if you hate this building as much as I do – the architect ought to be maimed – the best way to get up is to head for the lifts, and get on the one that ups to the eleventh floor. you’ll reach the restaurant via a small escalator on the side.

thank you, rachel, for the invite!

8 thoughts on “sumiya japanese charcoal grill and izakaya, somerset

  1. The Edamame performance is quite hilarious. Truffled french fries and candy floss? Sounds yum on their own but very strange for the theme. Sounds a little like a Japanese restaurant was fused with the owner or the chef’s own whimsical wish list. Not so much about authenticity, but about “stuff we like”.

    • I know, it was very strange! but it was an odd (as opposed to bad) point in what had been a meal of very-good – so it’s forgiveable.

      that drum-pounding was darn fun to watch. my dad says it has an ulterior motive: makes you so agitated you can’t grab as many beans as you otherwise would!

    • I’m exactly the same! I like izakayas because they don’t make you feel like you need to youi a drink zcaa2h the best way to get the best way to get ii uii the

  2. Hi, just chanced upon your blog today, and I wanted to say that my friends and I went two months ago (I was looking for good izakaya food), and I was impressed by their presentation – from the menu to the decor to the food (fuss-free, yet so good). In Japan this would be one of the more expensive izakaya, but in comparison to other extravagant Japanese places in Singapore, the prices are fairly reasonable.

    Going again today! :)

    • hi irene, thank you for stopping by!

      I agree that this would be quite expensive in japan (I keep hoping to go back soon), but we take what we can get in singapore eh? first, good izakayas are far and few between, and second – the prices are just as you put them.

      have you been to any other good izakayas in singapore?

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