Tucked next door to Black Sheep Restaurants’ Ho Lee Fook is the prolific restaurant group’s latest project. Fukuro, which means “owl” in Japanese, is a cool-casual Japanese eatery modelled after the izakaya concept. Wood panelling adds a touch of rustic charm to the sleek, modern space, while seats upholstered in dark denim give the decor plenty of edge. Slated to open next Tuesday, 15 May 2018, we got a sneak peek and taste of the menu.
Izakayas are all about casual eating and easy drinking, and highballs always make for a good start. We started with a trio of highballs, ranging from the smoky Kurafuto ($98), made with mezcal, grapefruit tonic and shiso flowers, to the classic Japanese whisky Donto ($98), to the innocent-tasting Kyoto grape liqueur Natukashi ($98).
Deceptively cut at an angle and packed tight into columns, we did a double take before realising that what we thought was cucumber was actually tightly packed cylinders of spinach ohitashi ($58). Dressed with sweet white sesame sauce, this utterly simple dish was also utterly delicious.
The seasonal vegetables pickled in yuzu ($58) were similar in their simplicity yet won big on flavour, thanks to the uplifting fragrance of the yuzu that gave the veggies an edge over any regular pickles.
Japanese oysters ($78 for 2) were creamy, with the sweetness of the shellfish further accentuated by the yuzu-shallot dressing.
The platter of market fish sashimi ($298/$598) had plenty of contrasting flavours, thanks to the various treatments applied to the fish. The salmon was cured in cherry blossom, which complemented the smokiness of the bonito and the tartness of the mackerel cured in vinegar. The snapper was slightly torched, while the abalone was served up straight.
The crispy caramel-butter corn ($68) is our prediction for most popular bar snack owing to its fried, crunchy crust made from sweet mirin, butter and beer.
The agedashi tofu tempura ($78) came in a mushroom vinaigrette dotted with prawn oil, with a hint of smokiness from shredded, dried bonito. We particularly liked the contrast in texture provided by the slippery enoki mushrooms and the zingy heat from the minced ginger.
The hamachi collar ($158), topped with crispy rice and drizzled with a spicy Fuji apple ponzu, flaked off in buttery perfection. The tartness of the sauce helped to balance the richness of the fish.
The ingredients used with the grilled octopus ($178) reminded us of a Spanish dish rather than a Japanese one. Sous-vided for six hours before grilling in order to ensure tenderness without sacrificing on flavour, the octopus arrived amongst a potpourri of confit potatoes, turnip and garlic bonito in a gingery ponzu-mirin sauce. The flavours were a tad overwhelmingly intense for us – we almost needed a bland carb to counterbalance these big flavours.
The Wagyu sukiyaki ($258) reminded us of a startlingly similar dish at Ronin that shares the same ingredients, from the smoked leek to the cured egg yolk. Although Fukuro’s version uses A4 Wagyu shoulder meat, we still think the Kagoshima beef from Ronin wins based on finesse and refinement. The slices of beef at Fukuro were a bit too thick and well cooked for our liking.
The Wagyu bavette ($268) drizzled with seaweed soy was grilled to perfection, with a juicy, pink centre. This would be our pick for beef on the menu.
Carbs and fat are made to be together, and the yaki miso ($178) did not disappoint. Each luscious, chewy strand of udon was coated with an addictively rich miso-sesame-crab-butter sauce, topped with sweet snow-crab meat.
We capped off our meal with some libations, including a creamy, cloudy sake and a coffee-yuzu-cream cocktail ($98) made with citrus vodka, espresso coffee liqueur and yuzu cream. This may be our new favourite cocktail!
The monaka ice cream sandwich ($48), made with seaweed ice cream and sakura jam sandwiched between two thin, crisp rice wafers, was the perfect conclusion to our meal. Imported from Japan, the seaweed ice cream actually reminded us more of hojicha, and its slight savouriness balanced well with the sweet jam.
We predict that Fukuro will quickly become a favourite hang-out thanks to the bevy of interesting cocktails and delicious, well-executed dishes. Well priced for the quality of food and experience on offer, Fukuro feels like a less serious, more approachable version of Ronin, which has been on our go-to list from day one.
1–5 Elgin Street, SoHo, Central, no reservations (aside from one table for 10–12 people that can be booked with a minimum spend of $8,400)
This write-up is based on a complimentary media tasting provided in exchange for an honest review and no monetary compensation. The opinions expressed here represent the author’s.
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