A pair of ex-publishing pals and I continued our quest to check out interesting halal-certified restaurants in Kampong Glam and last week we descended on Hararu Izakaya, reportedly the first Muslim-owned Izakaya in Singapore.
The eatery was easy to find on busy Bussorah Street which is closed to traffic on weekends starting from Friday evenings. There is al fresco seating on the ground floor but we found it nicer to sit in the brightly lit seating area on the second floor where it is decked out almost like an authentic Japanese restaurant of old, complete with diners having to take out their shoes, sit on mats but thankfully without having to kneel throughout the meal. Love the wall art which comprises large black-and-white impressions of Japanese street life and buildings, fronted by lanterns bearing Chinese characters indicating various types of Japanese cuisine.
Hararu Izakaya’s menu is not that much different from the Japanese eateries that we are familiar with except of course there are no pork dishes or alcoholic beverages. The menu comprises the usual suspects such as Edamame or boiled soybeans ($5.50) and Chuka Kurage or Japanese jelly fish ($7) as appetizers; sushi and sashimi; tempura; kushiyaki (skewer items); plus a good selection of charcoal grilled and “from the stove” dishes. And of course, there’s also the various noodles, don and fried rice offerings. Beverage-wise, besides Japanese green tea ($3.50 free-flow, hot/cold) and soft drinks, there are also mocktails and non-alcoholic “beer/wine” available.
To kick off our meal, we had Salmon Sashimi ($8) which was satisfactory, while the Age Tori Kawa or deep fried chicken skin ($4) was fascinating. A tad harder than deep fried fish skin, it was nonetheless crispy and tasty and made for a good starter or snack.
Not that we wanted to try a fish but we wanted to see if Hararu’s standard was up to par. So we ordered the Saba Shio Yaki or grilled mackerel with salt ($12) which was not only good and flavorful, it was way above par.
Still on charcoal grilled items: We’d dearly love to try the Wagyu Beef but $44 seems a tad steep even with three of us sharing, so we settled for the cheaper option, Grilled Beef Ribeye ($24) with Japanese sea salt, which was nonetheless a great choice as it was without contest the best item we had on the night. The meat, cooked medium, was super juicy and tender and it was something you could keep on eating (if only we had beer!) We probably could have done without the sea salt which was super saltish and besides, the beef slices were really good enough on their own.
Another delicious item was the Unagi Fried Rice ($14). The grilled eel was soft and sweet but its the yummy semi-sticky rice that really gives you the kick. Glad we ordered this instead of a bowl of Gohan (Japanese rice, $2.50) or Onigiri (the triangular rice, $3.50-$4) each as for their prices, we felt it was a tad too expensive for rice. (That goes for their green tea too at $3.50 which, though free-flow, is usually just $1 at traditional Japanese restuarants.)
By the time the Tori Karaage or deep fried boneless chicken ($8) came, we were actually quite full. Nothing extraordinary but munchable. At least it went well with the rice.
We actually forgotten that we have another item ‘cos it took so long in coming. And it was a pity as the Tempura Moriawase (deep fried assorted vegetables and prawn tempura, $12) was a disappointment. The two pieces of prawn didn’t taste fresh nor fully cooked, and the vegetables were not very flavorful or crunchy. We are guessing that the dish was left aside and served too late, making the items a tad soggy. Just glad it was the last item and that we had much better dishes prior.
All in all, we each paid about $35++ each for a close to $110 bill. I love the artwork in the place – this giant goldfish lies majestically along the stairway – which shows that much thought was given to make the place as Japanese as possible and they succeeded. If I do make a return trip, the grilled items are probably worth it, as is the fried rice. Definitely a good place for meetings between friends and associates.
Hararu Izakaya, at 16 Bussorah Street, opens daily from 12pm to 11pm (last order 10pm).