To say that, Teppei Japanese Restaurant is a popular restaurant is an understatement. We booked the restaurant in May but it was so fully booked that we were only able to get a slot in October.
We had originally made a reservation at Teppei for May. However, on the day itself, when the restaurant called to confirm the reservation with Sayang, she was in a meeting and thus was not able to answer the phone. Although she immediately called back once she saw the missed call, our places had already been given away to the people on the waiting list. Sayang tried to explain but the owner was adamant about it, saying that he had to be fair to his customers on the waiting list. Of course it just made Sayang even more upset and she immediately placed a reservation for the next available date, which was in October. She said, “No need to call me to confirm, we WILL DEFINITELY be there.”
Thanks to the previous incident, Sayang called the restaurant the yesterday to confirm her reservation and almost had a heart attack when the staff said that she could not find Sayang’s name on the list. On the verge of panicking, Sayang asked the staff to try searching for her mobile number. Thankfully the staff managed to find it and mumbled a name which did not sound like any of our names. But since the details were correct, Sayang did not care that the name was wrong.
Batman, Mao Mao, Sayang and I left the office together and arrived at the restaurant early. There were two slots for dinner at 6:30pm and 8:30pm, and we booked the earlier slot. Although we could see movement inside the restaurant, the door was closed and the blinds were drawn.
At around 6:30pm, one of the staff opened the door and all of us entered. We found out that Sayang’s reservation was tagged to a name which sounded like 消失 (disappear). Mao Mao was very amused and told Sayang, “They must be very scared of you and wanted you to disappear.”
The owner was a Japanese from Fukuoka and most of the chefs seemed to be Japanese as well. As we sat down, Mao Mao said, “The owner seemed to put on weight each time we visited.”
The place was pretty small. There were no tables and all the customers sat at the counter around the cooking area. We were all squeezed tightly together and Mao Mao counted 20 people, including us. This was probably the maximum number of diners per slot as there was no more space left at the counter.
The edge of the counter was raised higher, forming a shelf where the staff could put our dishes on. We would take the plates of food to eat and placed the empty plates back on the shelf for the staff to collect. On the counter were various condiments, like flavored salt and light soy sauce. However, the dishes were so flavorful that there was no need for them, apart from the soy sauce to go with the sashimi.
Dinner was omakase with different prices ranging from $60 to $80 for the different omakase sets, while lunch was Ala carte. After waiting so long to eat at Teppei, we decided to go all out and everyone ordered the most expensive set. As the restaurant was rather warm, all of us asked for iced green tea which were served in large beer mugs. Throughout the meal, one of the staff came around 4-5 times to refill our mugs.
The first three dishes came at the same time. The first was 帝王菜 (emperor vegetable) which was bland. None of us liked it very much although for Mao Mao and Sayang, it was partly due to their dislike for the vegetable as well.
The carrots and radish were boiled in soup until very soft. Both Mao Mao and Sayang loved it. As it was quite salty, Mao Mao ate it with the emperor vegetable.
The third appetizer was tofu skin. It was very soft and light in taste. At first, it seemed as bland as the emperor vegetable but after a few seconds, there was a light soya bean flavor which was quite refreshing. The colorful rice crackers provided some crunch but were otherwise tasteless.
Next we were given some edamame which had been toasted in a frying pan. Some pods were more burnt than others. It had the familiar edamame taste but there was an additional smoky burnt flavor to it.
The sashimi contained nine different types of seafood. There were fatty tuna, normal tuna, salmon, swordfish, prawn, scallop, ark shell, and seaweed. I could not identify one of the fish but it was probably yellowtail or snapper. From the fish slices, it was easy to see that the knife skills was not very good but the quality of the fish speaks for itself. The fish was fresh and tasty, and served to us at a slightly warmer temperature than other restaurants.
The wasabi that came with the sashimi was also very good. It was real grated wasabi and not the usual paste form that many restaurants used. It was roughly grated and had quite a kick to it.
The chawanmushi had some of those colorful rice crackers sprinkled on it. Inside of gingko nuts, there were corn kernels inside the steamed egg. When I bit into the corn kernels, they burst with juice.
The fish was juicy and tasty. It arrived sitting in a pool of savory broth, topped with a lump of grated radish and sprinkled with green onions and nori. Batman and Mao Mao suspected that the fish portion may be from the stomach area. There were some bones in the fish so I tried to eat carefully. After the fish was gone, I drank up the broth because all the grated radish was swimming in it.
“Wow, you even drank up the soup,” Batman said when he saw my empty bowl. He then took his bowl back from the counter shelf and drank the soup too.
The owner handed each of us a negitoro (minced fatty tuna) handroll. Some bits of rice were still stuck to the exterior of the nori and I noticed the owner’s hand was also coated with bits of rice. There was a surprising crunch when I bit into the handroll. Besides negitoro and rice, a generous amount of fried tempura batter was added to the handroll. I thought it was a very good idea as the crispy batter bits added a lot of crunch and some flavor to the handroll.
Even though, Sayang saw the chefs toasting the nori before wrapping the handroll, it was not as crispy as it could be. The chefs made a batch of the handrolls before giving it to us and while waiting, the nori had started to soften a little.
The raw oyster was briny. It was also somewhat tangy due to the ponzu sauce. On the shell, was a dab of what seemed to be spicy miso. The oyster was silky smooth and goes down easily. Mao Mao loved it and emitted moans of pleasure after popping one into her mouth.
We were given some gingko nuts which were covered in salt. They looked like candy on a stick. The gingko nuts were warm but tasted slightly bitter. Mao Mao said it was because the restaurant did not remove the pit.
The tempura cod fish was served piping hot. The exterior was crunchy while the fish inside was soft and moist. I took a bite and went, “Hot, hot, hot!” But unsympathetic Mao Mao said, “It’s not that hot.”
“Barnacles,” the owner said as he handed a small bowl to each of us. Then after a pause for dramatic effort, he continued, “From Sentosa,” and laughed. In each bowl was just one barnacle, but whether it really came from Sentosa, only the owner knows. None of us had tried barnacles before. I was expecting the usual chewy shellfish texture but I was amazed to find that it had the texture and taste of crab. It was really unexpected and this dish was one of the highlights of dinner.
The deep fried fish was crispy on the outside and moist on the inside. This time, Mao Mao suspected that the fish was from the cheek area.
We were given a stick with something wrapped around dark miso paste. At first, I thought it was deep fried tofu but when I bit it, it was very chewy, like mochi. The miso was savory but I kept expecting something sweet because it looked so much like red bean paste.
The sanma (Pacific saury) sushi was very nice. The oily fish was fresh and did not have any fishy taste.
Next was fatty tuna sushi which was cooked on the outside with the inside still remaining raw. It was very light in taste.
One of the chefs held up a chopping board covered with sliced beef to show us. “$80 set, right?” he asked. We nodded but he continued holding up the chopping board as if he was waiting for some kind of signal from us. We became puzzled, did he expect us to take the beef from the chopping board? Just as we were about to take up our chopsticks, he turned and left, leaving us bemused by the whole affair.
We were later given the beef on a plate. It was drizzled with a sweetish sauce and sprinkled with spring onions. Sayang did not like the sweet sauce. Luckily the meat was very good. So good in fact, that Mao Mao could overlook the sweetness of the sauce.
The next dish failed to impress any of us. The clams were in a salty broth but it wasn’t very tasty.
After the soup, we are given a smoked radish. It was slightly sweet and salty and had the springiness of a pickle. Mao Mao said that it reminded her of the preserved radish found on chwee kueh.
Over halfway through the meal, one of the staff came to take our choices for the main course and dessert. Batman had a spicy garlic fried rice with egg. The garlic rice was fragrant and a little spicy. We could see the yolk oozing out of the fried egg.
But no matter how good the garlic rice was, it could not beat our main course choice. Although the menu listed it as sashimi rice, it felt more like sushi to me. I ate from left to right, starting with the mildest taste to the strongest. All were good and I especially liked the last two which were fatty tuna and sea urchin. The sea urchin had a creamy, buttery flavor which was very nice.
Finally we reached the end of the meal. Dessert was a scoop of ice-cream. Sayang and I chose the yuzu flavor which was light and refreshing.
Batman and Mao Mao had the calpis flavor which was rather sweet.
I enjoyed the meal. The food was good but somewhat rough around the edges, sort of like home cooking. When we tried to make another reservation at the end of the meal, we were told that the restaurant was fully booked until March 2014. The staff told us that when the restaurant opened for reservations on 1 Oct, all the seats were snatched up within three days. Unbelievable…
Teppei Japanese Restaurant
Address: #01-1863, Orchid Hotel, 1 Tras Link, Singapore 078867