From sushi and sashimi to udon, oden, matcha, ramen, yakiniku and more, Japanese cuisine offers plenty of pleasures to be savoured regardless of your palate and preferences.
The Japanese are often lauded for their culinary skill and creativity – be it in terms of flavours, food presentation or the sheer effort that goes into preparing a meal. And with an almost reverent attention to quality and detail, it’s no surprise that Japan places second when it comes to ranking countries with the greatest number of Michelin-starred restaurants.
Although heading to the Land of the Rising Sun isn’t possible at the moment, here are eight cafés in Singapore you can pop by to satisfy your appetite for Japanese food.
Originating from Hokkaido, this Tras Street spot (they also have another outlet in Sentosa) employs the Japanese island’s sweet, creamy milk in its luscious coffees, dishes and desserts. We recommend sampling the carbonara pasta – which is made with rich Hokkaido milk and comes with an onsen tamago – and the famous cream puff, where a crispy shell encases a thick custard cream.
This popular Japanese dessert café – which has several outlets in Japan and locations at Plaza Singapura and 100 AM in Singapore – is known for its picture-perfect offerings, namely the gravity-defying soft serves made from premium Japanese milk. Fun fact: you can hold your cone upside down and it will still stay in place (cue the Instagram Boomerangs). The Singapore-exclusive Boba Taco Softie is certainly worth a try – it’s an airy wafer shaped like a taco that’s filled with milk soft serve and topped with chewy tapioca balls.
When Boulangerie Asanoya – which has operated in Japan since 1933 – opened its Singapore outpost on Queen Street in 2015, the outlet had the honour of being the storied brand’s first overseas venture. Freshly baked treats are the lure here, among them a curry donut and a sweet caramel apple cube. The bakery is also known for its rustic Japanese-style breads that are baked in a traditional stone oven.
4. Maccha House
A green tea lover’s haven, Maccha House, which originated in Kyoto, serves an extensive menu of drinks and desserts infused with the beloved green tea variant at its various outlets across Singapore. Signatures include the Maccha Parfait, Maccha Latte and Maccha Lava Cake. If you aren’t a fan of green tea, you can still swing by to tuck into a comforting hot meal. On the menu are donburi bowls, juicy steaks and Japanese pasta.
Established in 1969 in Japan’s Hyogo Prefecture, Henri Charpentier specialises in creating French-style Japanese cakes for every type of occasion, packed in beautiful gift boxes. Try the patisserie’s ten-layered Mille Feuille crepe cake decorated with berry sauce and fruit, or its best-selling Double Cheese Cake that has a baked bottom layer of cream cheese, an upper layer of non-baked mascarpone cheese with fresh cream and is topped with crunchy sablé crumbs.
Gelato and cakes are the specialty at this Jewel Changi Airport establishment, all of which are made with Japanese ingredients such as azuki beans and matcha. Popular gelato flavours include Japanese strawberry, black sesame and hojicha, while one of their more intriguing creations, the Machu Pichu, is a dessert made of sweet potato and matcha chestnut cream. They also serve savoury options including the Seafood Miso Nabe and Torimono Chicken Katsu.
Hailing from Osaka, Singapore marks the brand’s first foray into an overseas market. Customers flock here for the multi-layered Japanese pancakes made from fresh milk, which are firm on the outside but soft, fluffy and light on the inside. You can’t go wrong with any of the options, but we suggest trying the Matcha Pancake – multiple fluffy pancakes are stacked on top of one another and topped with rice balls, azuki red beans and homemade whipped Hokkaido cream.
This cosy and minimalist café’s Somerset branch features an unconventional seating area built to look like a series of steps, allowing customers to view the rest of the space from higher ground. Design aside, Hvala (it has another outlet in CHIJMES) is known for its specially curated selection of teas from various regions in Japan. Sip on its signature tea latte, which comes in three flavours – matcha, hojicha or a blend of both. There are also plenty of sweet treats to choose from – we suggest going for the Goma Pebble Gâteau, a curious dessert that involves black sesame mousse, fragrant sponge cake and sprinkles of black sesame crumble.
For updated information on the Covid-19 situation, please visit the MOH website. Please check the restaurants’ respective websites for opening hours before visiting, and remember to adhere to safe-distancing measures while out and about.