Cuppage Plaza may not be the nicest looking mall along Orchard Road, probably one which you’d never think of stepping into (and it looks so dated, it probably shouldn’t be on Orchard Road), but it is one place where you can find really authentic, non-pretentious, and good Japanese food.
More well known are several other Japanese food enclaves in Singapore, in more high profile and well marketed locations: Liang Court, Parco Itadakimasu (100am), Japan Food Town (Wisma Atria), Eat At 7 by All Nippon Airways (Suntec City) and the area Tanjong Pagar MRT including the cluster of F&B at Orchid Hotel / Craig Road/ Wallich Street / Tras Street and the new Tanjong Pagar Centre. At all of these locations, you can find a huge variety of Japanese restaurants all at one place (however not all of these are guaranteed to be good). Cuppage Plaza on the underhand, is a lot more understated and many of these restaurants don’t even have presence on social media or the internet. The mall itself does not even participate in internet things to market their cluster of Japanese restaurants, but still it is popular among those who know – because the restaurants here can be seriously good! It is definitely a hidden gem in town.
Most of the restaurants here are small but there’s something for budget of $200 or $20 – high end omakase style dining to casual teishoku style options for quick meals. For dinner today, I opted for a casual meal Izakaya style.
Izakaya Shinjuku serves a wide variety of dishes and is a very popular place especially on weeknights. I tried coming once without reservations on a Friday and did not manage to get a seat. On another occasion, I came on a Wednesday and only managed to get a bar counter seat. Sunday night was a lot more quiet and I managed to get a table when I decided to come here last minute.
Otoshi – $3.00++
This appetizer will be distributed by default to ever diner. Great for people who come in ravenous. The pasta salad had taste of smokey bacon / ham and was a delight to eat. I am not sure whether they change their appetiser daily, but this one was nice.
Dashimaki Tamago – $7.00++
We are familiar with Tamagoyaki which is Japanese rolled omelette flavoured with shoyu and sugar, but the version where dashi is included actually has a different name. With more liquid added to the eggs, this version is supposedly more difficult to cook as well, but dashi makes it way more flavourful. This one was nothing fancy but as good as what you expect from good old comfort food.
Jyaga Cheese Mentai
A gratin of baked potato, mentaiko and carrots. Gratins just cannot go wrong. Anything with melted cheese is good. The mentaiko was kind of too dry when it was cooked and it could have been better with some mayo perhaps? But for comfort food standards it was satisfying enough.
Nanban Chicken – $14.00++
Nanban chicken is deep fried chicken coated with a soy vinegar (nanban) sauce, originally from Miyazaki Prefecture. I fell in love with it the first time I tried it and is always on the lookout for places which serve it in Singapore. It is slowly gaining popularity here, thankfully! I ordered this the first time I came to Shinjuku Izakaya too, and I thought that it was better the first time. This time it was kind of less crispy – maybe the sauce was poured on too early or perhaps it was just not fried crispy enough. I am not sure. But I hope it’ll be better the next time!
Una Don – $25.00++
Unagi don is something which is trending in Singapore right now. I’m so glad that finally the standards of unagi in Singapore is improving. 5 years ago, unagi was commonly very badly prepared. This one is not top notch connoisseur standard for sure, after having tried unagi from Nagoya and Narita in Japan. However, this was better than those you get from mass market Japanese restaurants in Singapore for sure. At least the quality of the unagi itself was good. Shasho pepper was provided and that is always the perfect match with unagi.
Overall, this place serves casual but authentic Japanese food, better than a lot of other casual Japanese dining establishments in Singapore. I would definitely come here again when I want a casual Japanese meal. There are so many other casual Japanese dining options in Singapore, some of them being big chains, but the food is often very dismal yet the restaurant tries to look high class. I tend to avoid those if I can. I love how it is entirely non-pretentious at Izakaya Shinjuku (and most of the options in Cuppage too) and the focus is really to just serve good food.
Overall: My personal favourite Izakaya in Singapore for casual Japanese food
5 Koek Road
#01-01 Cuppage Plaza
11:45am – 2:30pm
6:00pm – 1:00am (Sunday 11pm)