I love sukiyaki and shabu shabu. I’ve tried both in Japan and I love it! In Singapore, the presence of authentic sukiyaki and shabu shabu is almost non existent. In fact, both types are often misrepresented and their identity is used interchangeably, or worse, served as a fusion with Chinese style steamboat. Japanese hot pot purists may want to take note of that you got to be more open minded in Singapore (and basically every country outside of Japan) if you wish to find Japanese hot pot at mass market prices.
On-Yasai is a shabu shabu chain from Japan, and it has been around for a while in Singapore but I just never took notice of it, until I started searching around for affordable shabu shabu buffets. Buffet prices starts from $24.90++ for a 120 min ala carte buffet, which is a pretty good deal for the overall quality I must say, compared to what you can find in Singapore.
But you would need to know that in Singapore, the menu for On-Yasai is entirely different from Japan’s. Even though the same name is used in Singapore, the menu has been localised to suit the common Singaporean taste by offering Chinese steamboat ingredients such as processed balls, seafood and instant noodles, Chinese style dipping sauces, as well as Chinese style soup bases like herbal or mala soups. It is pretty much a fusion steamboat restaurant in Singapore.
Sauce station, mainly for Chinese style dipping sauce but they did have Japanese stuff like wasabi and Japanese chili powder if you want (no idea who eats wasabi with steamboat!).
Good thing is, you can always choose your ingredients to adhere to Japanese style if you wish like Japanese mushrooms, raw egg, ponzu or sesame dipping sauce and a more Japanese soup base like miso or sukiyaki base. And even though it was labelled as a shabu shabu restaurant, it has more elements of sukiyaki instead. You can choose a split pot, so my meal was half sukiyaki, half chinese mala steamboat.
Shabu Shabu vs Sukiyaki
From my understanding and experience in Japan (Shabu Shabu of Hida beef in Nagoya, Shabu Shabu Tajima beef in Kinosakionsen, Sukiyaki in Hokkaido), shabu shabu should be using a clear soup base like dashi or even plain water, while sukiyaki base is that brown and sweeter broth. Ponzu and sesame dipping sauces are typical for shabu shabu, while the raw egg sauce is typical of sukiyaki. From experiences in Japan, shabu shabu and sukiyaki was served strictly in their respective styles and the differences were super clear cut, nothing was interchangeable and there was no confusion about what I was having.
And in both cases, the soup is typically not meant for drinking! Drinking the steamboat soup is pretty much a Singaporean idea I feel, hence a selection of different soup base is necessary to suit Singaporean customers. Name and authenticity aside, I did enjoy my meal here! From now onward I shall just refer this meal as semi-Japanese hotpot because it is really neither a true shabu shabu, sukiyaki or Japanese experience.
I opted for the $34.90++ buffet which offers Australian wagyu beef and pork belly. If you choose the $24.90++ option, you only get beef chuck, beef short ribs, pork collar and chicken thigh. I did not order any of those so I can’t comment, but the Australian wagyu and pork belly was pretty good, though it comes no where close to my shabu shabu and sukiyaki experiences in Japan! The marbling of Japanese beef I had in Japan was insane.
The other ingredients like seafood, vegetables, mushroom and processed balls were served automatically but I think you can indicate you don’t want them up front if you don’t. Seafood does not go well with sukiyaki but it was alright in the mala soup.
You can also have cooked food like chawanmushi, tempura and maki rolls if you wish. The chawamushi was pretty good.
The marbling score of the Australian wagyu beef is probably a MS 3 or 4 at best, but it tasted fresh and was tender enough even when cooked through. I dipped it in all sorts of sauces – raw egg, ponzu, sesame and also a self concocted Chinese style spicy dip, but I personally think raw egg was best. It was probably because I cooked it in sukiyaki base and the raw egg was a great match. By the way, I have no idea which cut of beef they used because it seems to be different each time I ordered more. Some have more side fats and come in a larger piece like sirloin, some do not and are in smaller pieces.
I chose to cook it sukiyaki style majority of the time. The last time I had real sukiyaki was 2 years ago in Hokkaido and I had A5 beef (equivalent to MS 12) in a fixed set and it was under S$50 per person. It is impossible to find such price and quality in Singapore since all our beef is imported, so for under $50, this is probably the what you will get.
Since this is an ala carte buffet, you order everything through the waiter. The service was good and the waiters were always present so I always got what I wanted pretty quickly, but this could also be because the restaurant was super small with indoor capacity of less than 30 pax (make your reservations before coming!). They occasionally came around with this cart which you can pick stuff from.
To end your meal, each diner gets a choice of 1 cup of gelato. I chose the black sesame which was good in my opinion. They had other flavours like green tea, vanilla and chocolate.
For S$40 after ++, it’s quite a good value for all you can eat semi Japanese steamboat in Singapore. Other competitors set their time limit to 90 or even 70 minutes for dinner, so 120 min is considered quite generous. The quality of ingredients, service and ambiance of the restaurant was above average (average referring to those typical chains in shopping malls) and I did not feel restricted and when the time was up, I just happened to feel naturally full and ready to leave! Of course you can get 10 times better quality and authentic sukiyaki or shabu shabu for S$40 in Japan, but let’s not get there.
If I were to come here again, I would make my meal fully sukiyaki style. I feel that if you want to have Chinese steamboat you might as well do it at the many Chinese steamboat restaurants in Singapore and you can easily get that within $40.
Overall: A value for money semi-Japanese hotpot buffet option in Singapore
11 Tanjong Katong Rd
Daily: 12pm – 11pm (Last order 10:15pm)