Tucked away in a corner of Mohamed Sultan Road, IPPIN Cafe Bar is a bright new addition to the Japanese enclave that seems to have emerged in that area. A cafe cum retail store is probably the best way to describe their concept, and what a fabulous idea that is. If you liked one of those dressings you just tried with your salad, or that superbly fresh, quality wasabi that you had with your food, you can purchase it in their store to prolong your enjoyment at home.
Two of the cafe’s signature dishes feature oysters from the Hiroshima Prefecture, which is said to be the most famous source of oysters in Japan. True to my expectations, the oysters were deliciously succulent, firm, yet slippery and had a tinge of sweetness that made it really enjoyable. I’m certainly not a fan of oysters typically, but I ate so many of them during the tasting and absolutely loved it! The Grilled Oyster & Veggies in Ponzu Butter Sauce Set ($24) was my favourite out of the two sets we tried. The oysters were super fresh, and had a clean flavour, which was complemented perfectly by the ponzu sauce. ‘Ponzu’ is a Japanese sauce consisting of soy sauce, vinegar and (in this case) a touch of yuzu. The vinegar serves to neutralise the saltiness of pure soy sauce and the yuzu adds a refreshing element to it, which made the oysters even tastier.
The Deep Fried Oyster Set ($24) was another delicious rendition of the Hiroshima oysters. Though it’s not a dish that I would typically order because of the fact that it is deep-fried, I can’t deny that it was done really well! The perfectly breaded crisp batter encased the plump oyster, keeping it warm but not tongue-scorching hot. It comes with an interesting wasabi-mayonnaise, which is pretty similar to egg mayo (it does have bits of egg in it!) in my opinion. It would be been better if there was a stronger flavour of wasabi. All the sets come with sides including salad, miso soup and a Nikujaga pork and potato stew. There were various dressings for the salad – Wasabi soy, Ponzu sauce, tomato soy and a ginger sauce. Try them! I loved the pork and potato stew which was a heartwarming, well-rounded dish. The pork and vegetables were stewed till they were super tender and absorbed the essence of the sauce, which made it incredibly tasty. The set also comes with a hojicha pudding, which was delicious!! A smooth, slightly firm pudding that had a beautiful roasted flavour. I couldn’t get enough of it!
The Oyakudon Set ($15) is a classic chicken and egg Japanese dish. Boiled with dashi stock, the chicken was soft, yet firm, and I thought it was interesting how IPPIN blends its rice with barely to give it a unique texture, and added fibre. It I was picky, I would say that there was way too much sauce in this rice bowl though. Though I like my food sauce-y (literally), the rice was pretty much drowning in the dashi in this case, which could be seen as a little too much. The Yakisoba Set ($12) was a well balanced dish with lots of ingredients – lettuce, onions, carrots and pork belly.
Snacks retailed at the cafe include the Rattsu nuts ($8/cup), which are essentially flavoured peanuts! They come in three flavours – coffee, strawberry and matcha. I loved how the strawberry had a strong flavour reminiscent of pocky sticks! It was so nostalgic. The matcha, on the other hand, took a while for the aromas to develop, but was delightfully pleasant when it finally did.
I ordered a sake to go with my food, and I strongly recommend that you do as well! As we were eating the oyster sets, the staff recommended a cold sake that would complement the freshness of the seafood. The Kirai Junmai was refreshingly chilled, and I learned something new about the way it is served. Apparently the way some Japanese drink it is to pour the sake into the glass till it overflows into the the wooden container. You first drink it from the glass, and then from the wooden box, and the experience you get is intensified by doing so. The cyprus wood lends a richness to the sake, and mellows the flavour to give a more full-bodied feel to it.
Alternatively, you can go for one of their green teas – the Sencha is one of the most popular, delicate with a slight bitter aftertaste. Though I found the bitterness a bit too much at the beginning, I acquired quite a liking for it subsequently. The Genmaicha is perhaps a more universally-palatable option, with its rice flavours and stronger aromas. At the end of the meal, the Hojicha is great to help with digestion, and I loved the smokey nose of this tea. All teas are priced at $6.
For a chill afternoon in an authentic Japanese setting, this cafe is the place to visit. To make the deal even sweeter, prices are nett and there is also free WIFI.
IPPIN Cafe Bar
18 Mohamed Sultan Road
Tel.: +65 6733 4794