ESORA – Michelin Starred Trendy Japanese Kappo Type Delicacies in Mohamed Sultan Highway

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Esora is no stranger to Singapore’s dining scene. Since its debut in 2018, it has garnered accolades – most notably its Michelin star which it attained roughly a year or so after it opened. The modern Japanese restaurant focuses on Kappo-style cuisine where the menu is heavily influenced by the seasons. 

Entering the restaurant, one can’t help but express some awe at the skylight hovering above the chef’s preparation area. The glass is overlaid with lattices which probably creates some interesting shadows in the day with the light penetrating into the dining space. I was there for dinner and unfortunately, did not get to see the effect with daylight.

Flowers – both fresh and dried – are used prominently in the design of the restaurant. This, too, changes by the season. 

The kitchen is helmed by head chef Takeshi Araki who hails from Hiroshima. He assumed the role in Esora in 2022. 

Esora offers a 9-course lunch menu for S$328++ and a 10-course dinner menu at S$368++. Diners may also opt for beverage pairings like the wine and sake pairing, sake pairing alone or tea pairings for those looking for non-alcoholic options. 

At the time of my visit, Esora was already offering its summer menu. The meal began with a warming Bonito Dashi that  came with a citrusy zest of green yuzu to wake the senses. We then proceeded to the iconic Esora amuse bouche of Foie Gras Monaka – given a bit of a refresh with fruits of the Japanese summer: thick slices of sweet, juicy biwa (loquat) and a compote of tart Japanese apricots complementing the richness of the Maison Mitteault foie gras torchon base. As I personally don’t eat foie gras, the team prepared a customized version of the monaka for me with caviar instead. 

The Kasai was an instagram-worthy dish. It was perched on a nasturtium leaf – one that looks a bit like a water lily.  Here, a dashi-blanched Kuruma ebi rested on a bed of sweet corn puree and served alongside tomato jelly, boiled edamame and pickled Chinese yam. The ensemble is completed with uni, caviar and a combination of chive flowers and fried shallot powder garnish. This artful presentation was designed to resemble a floating water lily in a lake on a summer’s day. I enjoyed how the flavors came together here – primarily the sour notes from the tomato jelly against the slightly salty caviar. 

Inspired by the Japanese summer ritual of seeking respite by the stream and enjoying a grill by the riverside is a dish of Baby Ayu. It is thinly coated in a seaweed powder, crisp-fried and dressed with tade su, a white pepper and vinegar sauce and finished off with micro shungiku (chrysanthemum greens).

Another photoworthy dish in Esora’s summer menu was the Hassun which was plated as a mini zen garden complete with bushes and even a stone pathway. The elaborate presentation consisted of seasonal Kinmedai (golden eye snapper) from Shizuoka, seasoned with garlic shoyu, sesame oil, and served with sauteed okahijiki (land seaweed), sesame seeds and wasabi; and a Tachiuo (beltfish) from Nagasaki served raw and topped with plum jelly, cucumber, oba leaves and hanaho. Also on the hassun was a warm dish of Awabi (abalone), served alongside a renkon (lotus root) mochi filled with awabi liver sauce in a bowl of shredded steamed Japanese hairy crab with a silky crab sauce and finished with hand-chopped okra (ladies’ finger). And to cleanse the palate: a simple peeled Yamanashi grape, carbonated to tingle on the tongue, served with ginger jelly to whet the appetite for more. The 4 items in the Hassun where executed perfectly and I especially loved the surprise treat at the end in the form of the grape. 

The decadent Hassun was then juxtaposed with one of the most straightforward dishes of the evening. The Hamo Soba served as an assembly of tempura-ed kamo nasu (eggplant) wrapped within Kumamoto hamo (pike conger) and served alongside silky strands of house-made soba. Presented cold and topped with nori, chives and hanaho, it is enjoyed with junsai (water shield) in a cold dipping sauce made from hamo stock and tougan (winter melon). This was just nice for a hot summer’s day.

Wild-caught Kue (longtooth grouper) from Kochi took center stage for the fish course. The prized white fish known for its rarity was grilled over binchotan to draw out its natural oils and full flavors and served simply with subtle red paprika sauce made with a base of kue stock. The fish came with grilled asparagus on the side, a vegetable which is also evocative of summer.

Esora’s signature Omi Wagyu dish was complemented by a variety of seasonal vegetables — tomatoes, myoga, manganji (kyoto green peppers), yellow zucchini, okra (ladies’ finger) ginger and garlic. The beef was tender despite being presented as chunky cubes with the meat easily falling apart with a knife. There was also a bit of gravy on top of the beef chunks but I found it good to eat and flavorful on its own.

The Donabe course offers guests the option of incorporating grilled unagi (eel) or akamutsu (blackthroat seaperch). The star here was obviously the unagi which was grilled perfectly on a binchotan. The paper-thin skin was unbelievably crispy and totally unlike what I expected from the usual slippery texture of unagi skin. 

Rounding the summer menu were desserts featuring a choice selection of the season’s fruits. The Passionfruit is something one won’t expect to find in a Japanese restaurant (passionfruit is actually grown in the southern parts of the country). A sphere-shaped shell was filled with passionfruit sorbet, lemon cream and fresh passion fruit pulp. This was a most refreshing dessert and was my preferred sweet ending among the two we had that night. 

In a separate course, Miyazaki Mango — which holds the reputation of ‘King of summer fruits’ in Japan — was served as large succulent chunks alongside house made almond milk ice-cream, brandy butter crumble and mango sauce. In contrast to the sour notes of the earlier dessert, this was sweeter with the perfectly ripe mango complementing the slightly nutty flavor of the ice cream.

If there’s a word to describe my experience at Esora – it would be “exquisite.” It would occur to me that a great deal of thought was put into the menu to the extent that it also influences the aesthetics behind the plating and even the decorative objects in the restaurant itself. Compared to other restaurants in Singapore serving Kappo cuisine, Esora is also different in terms of sensibilities. There is an undeniable “east meets west” touch to the presentation here – most notably with the starters and desserts. These factors collectively set this place apart. Here, it’s not just about providing guests with a delicious Japanese meal. Sure, that is part of it but beyond that, it is also about providing diners with a more holistic experience – even if it’s just for 2 or so hours. 

Esora
15 Mohamed Sultan Road
Singapore 238964

+65 8533 7528

Wed & Fri: 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm
Thurs: 12 pm – 3.30 pm / 6.30 pm – 10.30 pm
Sat & Sun: 5.30 pm – 10.30 pm (2seatings)

Bino

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