cheap and quite okay japanese at the 100am mall in tanjong pagar. the first time I came here, we thought the food was impressive: large-ish portions, pleasantly-surprisingly-small prices and a huge menu composed of a clever permutation of a not-so-huge selection of dishes. this decent experience prompted an enthusiastic return, but it proved less sparkling: the food was too salty, the cooking of a lower standard – and the pater didn’t much like it.
which brings me, really, to a less-than-effervescent recommendation than I’d initially thought: this place will do you good for mid-week/office lunches – cheap japanese food with large portions and a big menu for everyone. but if you’re thinking of a sit-down meal with nothing on your mind but the food, it’s not ideal (or close to, in fact).
the place has an open concept – it’s more (nydc-style) cafe-like than anything else, and though I’m under the impression that the mall is pretty new, the chairs and tables show signs of wear. it’s a little dingy, actually – very food-court like – not really the sort of place you’d linger.
the menu is very cleverly composed of a small set of dishes combined ingeniously into a bible of a menu – a quarter of the menu populated with a la carte meats and dishes, and the remaining 75% a composition of set meals based on the very same. quality-wise, it’s a mixed bag: there are some dishes that are really quite enjoyable, though a lot of it is bog-standard middling japanese-chain.
started off with cold tofu – run-of-the-mill silken tofu in soya sauce and bonito flakes – and a tuna salad that was cold canned tuna pressed atop shredded cabbage. nothing special but perfectly acceptable.
the hot appetisers were a little more interesting – fried tako (octopus) pieces and tamago (a japanese sweet-ish omelette). the octopus, served hot and not tough at all – better with some lemon – was good, but the tamago was impressive. probably the most expertly-executed dish in this place actually, though not necessarily authentic – the omelette was warm (typically cold), a loose block of egg with a firm outside and a softly-cooked centre. not too sweet neither – very more-ish (we had seconds!).
on our first visit – the mains were very good. the hotplate was breathtaking when it arrived: a large slab of beef next to two prawn fritters and a generous side of cooked vegetables for a bare $24? and it was decent – the beef was relatively tender and not too fatty, though salted quite a bit too much.
my order of mackerel was a generous slice of fish, well-crisped outside and all silky oiliness inside – the stir-fried vegetables were a heaping mound of pork and greens cooked al dente. pretty good.
the second visit, however – almost all the food was too salty. quite unbearably so, and while the food was cooked to the same standard, that heavy seasoning made for a rather unpalatable meal. the horse mackerel (not the saba shown here) was particularly salty – I know it’s cured, but this is the saltiest of the ones I’ve had. you won’t be able to finish (or eat much) without rice.
the best way to describe the food here, really, is that it does what it says on the tin. nothing more, nothing less – precisely what you’d expect from a middle-to-low ranged japanese chain (probably hovering about the sakae sushi level). the low prices make for a compelling argument at lunch – but at dinner time, when I’m hoping for a meal to wash the workweek away, this place will not do at all.
Yayoiken 100AM (Amara Hotel)
#03-12 Amara Hotel
100 Tras Street,
tel +65 6694 8809
$.5: most bentos < 15, most ala carte < 10
p.s. their branch at liang court has fantastic queues – and I wonder if the food is actually better there. now that I’ve been to this one, I think the low-low-low prices might be the draw.
p.p.s. for a better chain experience, stick with my favorite sushi tei.