A starter of Tuna, Tuna belly, and Salmon Sashimi. Yes there was more on this tray before I remembered to get out my camera. Give me a break here. We were hungry!
The senior chef at Inagiku is Chef Eric. Again, not his given name. From my vantage point Chef Eric seems like a large fellow by Singaporean standards. He looks to be about 5’10” and probably weighs in at about 190 – 200 pounds. He obviously takes his profession very seriously and really enjoys cooking. He also is good friends with my host in country, Joshua.
Although this is a pretty expensive restaurant, Josh tells me the trick is to not order from the menu. When you do that you are locked in to the prices as listed. We walk in and greet Eric, and Joshua says “make us whatever you like.” Now I don’t know if such an approach would have worked for me had I been on my own. I think Josh and Eric have actually taken their families on vacations together. It’s good to have connections. Like I’ve said before, when traveling to foreign places, having a local to rely on is the only way to go.
This was a teppanyaki setting, it is commonly called Hibachi in the states. This is where there is a large bar style table that is directly in front of a large flat griddle surface. The chef (Erik) stands at the griddle and cooks the food in front of the dinner party. The difference here is that where in the US, the chef concentrates on showmanship (tossing food around and juggling knives) here it’s all about the quality of the food. Every Hibachi place I’ve been to in the states, the show is phenomenal (aside from the occasional dropped knife, or shrimp that misses the plate) but all the food just tastes like teriyaki sauce. At Inagaku the food is prepared with little fanfare, and carefully plated at the grille before being brought to each patron. This is where the added bonus of knowing the chef comes in. Just as with my trip to Madrid last year, because I was with a friend of the restaurant, I was treated like a friend of the restaurant. First off, the food just kept on coming. I have no idea how many courses were served. I think I lost count at 7. Second, most of the dishes were not on the menu. With each dish, Chef Eric’s assistant plated the course and brought it to us, then Eric walked out from behind the grill and described every item on the plate. A soft spoken man, he almost whispered the description as he leaned over the table and pointed out each part. “These are fresh prawns, that I’ve cooked in a so and so style. And what you have here is a plum sauce that I’ve been working on. Tell me what you think of this one, I’ve not served this before.”
Absolutely unbelievable. We had Tuna, Salmon, Scallops, Prawns, Beef, some sort of clam... I didn’t even like scallops when I walked into this place. When I was served a dish that included them I quietly asked Joshua if he wanted mine, because “I don’t care for scallops.” He said, “Try this one first.” Wow, that was unlike anything I had ever had before. I decided to retract my offer, to Joshua’s delight. But it was just so much food. By the end I was really just eating to indulge the chef, he was obviously showing off at this point. But everything was just so good. Total price was roughly $100 US per person. This is much more than I ever pay in my private life, but based on the menu prices that I saw before Josh “ordered”, this meal would have easily been about $250 each had it been available in the menu. Always travel with a local.