As traveling to Japan is implausible these days, the past 8 months has seen greater demand in omakase-style dining in Singapore. Establishments offering omakase tend to feature rare ingredients flown in from various parts of Japan, drawing in diners who miss getting traveling to Tokyo, Osaka and other cities to get their fix.
The Gyu Bar which is located within the same grounds as Novotel Singapore on Stevens differentiates itself from other Japanese restaurants by specializing in beef. The restaurant opened some 3 years ago as a yakiniku joint and bar but has since diversified its menu to offer other types of seafood. The Gyu Bar is also offering omakase in its repertoire but because of its “beef-y” proposition, their omakase is distinct from the bulk of sushi / seafood dining that other Japanese restaurants have. The Gyu Bar’s omakase is 9-courses and all but two (the dessert and soup courses) have beef in them.
We started with the Gyu Bar Snacks which consisted of two items – the Uni Yukke Cone and the Uni Tempura. While both had sea urchin as the main ingredient and were on the crispy side of things, the overall flavor between the two could not be any more different. For the cone, the uni could actually be thought of as a finishing touch, with finely chopped beef tartare set within this crispy item as the main taste profile. The tempura, on the other hand, was also on the crispy side but did not contain any beef. This allowed the sharp uni flavor to be more pronounced as compared to the cone.
One of my favorite courses during the omakase was the Roasted Wagyu Salad. While the Satsuma Wagyu was extremely tender with well-balanced marbling and buttery flavor, it was the intensely chewy combination of Japanese white fungus and ice plant that stole the show in my view.
Next up was the Seasonal Platter. On the day of my visit, it consisted of the following items: Ohmi Wagyu Temari, Deep-fried Hotaru Ika, Kanimiso Tofu Dashi Jelly and Kumamoto Tomatoes. Of these, the Deep-fried Hotaru Ika was particularly notable. It possessed a custard-like texture that made me think twice whether I was actually devouring oysters instead. The rice ball was also particularly flavorful and this is due to the oil from the wagyu being absorbed into the grains.
Another stellar course was the Wagyu Katsu with Homemade Curry. The panko was delightfully crunchy and despite the deep-fried nature of the piece, the wagyu within which comes from Iwate still remained remarkably rare, providing for a good soft and crunchy contrast. The whole piece went well with the coffee + beer + red wine blended house-made curry which was sharper than the usual Japanese curries I encounter.
For meat lovers (and I wouldn’t expect those who come to this omakase to be otherwise), the Yakiniku Platter serves as the highlight of the meal. The platter comes with 3 different cuts of Miyazakigyu, which as the name suggests, hails from Miyazaki Prefecture. The meat is known for its signature snowflake-like marbling which gives it extraordinary depth of flavor and tenderness.
The three cuts that come in the platter are Sankaku (chuck rib), Chateaubriand and Sirloin and each cut comes in its own suggested method of preparation. Along with condiments such as houseblend tare, garlic and leek sauce, sea salt, wasabi and garlic chips; it was like eating three different courses in one go. The Sankaku and Chateaubriand were served as-is after searing while the Sirloin was turned sukiyaki style with eggs.
A soupy dish came next, the Shabu Shabu was a nice departure from the fried and seared items that preceded it. Thin slices of Sanuki Wagyu were used here alongside cabbage, mushrooms, tofu, carrots, etc. The soup retained a relatively light taste profile with a special dashi base comprising of kombu and 3 types of fish such as saba and bonito.
Carbohydrate dishes marked the latter part of the omakase and diners can choose between the Uni Wagyu Chirashi Don and the Inaniwa Wagyu Udon. I pesonally preferred the Uni Wagyu Chirashi Don simply because it had a more diverse taste profile than the udon. The bowl was brimming with finely chopped aburi beef cubes, tamago, yellow radish, zucchini, ikura and Hokkaido uni.
For the customary soup course, we had the Hamaguri Clam Soup. It seems that The Gyu Bar tends to make relatively light soups and such was also the case for this course.
A trio of sweets – melon from Shizuoka, Japanese cheesecake and a piece of mochi comprised our Seasonal Dessert. The melon was extremely sweet, even sweeter than the cheesecake or mochi, and was my favorite of the lot.
Overall, it is hard to find fault in The Gyu Bar when it comes to beef. They house a wide variety of the finest cuts from different prefectures in Japan to the point that it challenges my geographic knowledge of the Land of the Rising Sun. I came expecting to be overwhelmed with beef but surprisingly, I did not feel that at all because each course came immaculately prepared with just the right portions and with other non-beef ingredients taking the spotlight as well.
The chef’s omakase is priced at S$238++ per person. Advance notice of at least 24 hours is required.
The Gyu Bar
30 Stevens Road
+65 6732 0702
Opening Hours: Daily, 12PM to 3PM and 6PM to 10PM