Hararu Izakaya @ Bussorah Street

IMG_20180428_193152_008A 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.
IMG_20180428_193152_009Hararu 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.

2018-04-27 19.53.54 (640x537)

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.

2018-04-27 19.58.34 (640x587)
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.

2018-04-27 20.09.49 (640x640)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.)

2018-04-27 20.05.15 (640x640)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.

2018-04-27 20.27.18 (615x640)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.

2018-04-27 22.03.25 (640x640)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).





The Mad Sailors @ Haji Lane

2016-06-03 21.05.01 (603x640)THE MAD SAILORS @ HAJI LANE
Finally found a foodie pal to check out Haji Lane with me. The narrow road, located in the heart of Kampong Glam, and the other streets running parallel to it  has been quite happening since more than a dozen hipster shops, cafes and restaurants have been popping up there in the last few years. As popular eateries such as European-influenced I Am… and Mexican restaurant Piedra Negra were packed to the brim, we decided on the rather cosy-looking The Mad Sailors, a British kitchen at No.24.
2016-06-03 20.00.18 (640x480)Given a choice of a table out front or upstairs, we opted for “where the aircon is” on this sweltering hot evening. So upstairs we went and we were glad ‘cos though the area was simply decorated, what was really cool is the way they made used of old HDB doors (pictured above) as part of the decor. Also, the windows face the Singapura Club next door which has fascinating Singapore-skewed murals on its facade. The place is relatively new too as condiments on the table such as the vinegar bottle and mustard tubes were unopened as yet!
2016-06-03 20.09.07 (633x640)As The Mad Sailors modeled itself on a British kitchen, the place has authentic English favourites such as Bangers & Mash, Toad in the Hole and Steak Pie. Going with the recommendations made by the European lady who served us (and whom we reckoned could be the lady boss), we opted for the fish and chips as the main course. There were a couple of choices for the fish (dory, cod, haddock and halibut, $18-22) and we went for  cod. The dish was quaintly served on white paper placed in a deep tin tray with tartar sauce and salad. It was a good choice – fish was fresh and tasty and the chips were among the best we’ve ever tasted.
2016-06-03 20.10.42 (480x640)Another dish recommended to us was these Marmite Honey Wings ($9). Upon seeing us grimaced when she mentioned “Marmite”, the lady boss was quick to ease our fears, explaining that the honey totally “plays down the  marmite taste” and that “most customers who had tried it loved it!” Lucky for her, we were in an adventurous mood so we decided to go for it. And voila, it was yet another good recommendation as the wings were really good with no overpowering marmite taste at all.
2016-06-03 20.11.57 (534x640)We were hoping to have beer to go along with the fish & chips and chicken wings, but then we were gently reminded that The Mad Sailors is a halal cafe since it is in the Kampong Glam area, which is of course logical. Though they try to get us to try their Slushy Pints ($7.50, comprising Ribena and Black Tea blends), we decided to go with these Firefly tonic drinks instead, which were refreshing enough.
2016-06-03 22.03.27 (602x640)DESSERTS @ JI DE CHI
Though there’s desserts at The Mad Sailors (apple pie, chocolate melt, carrot cake and fried snickers), we decided they were a tad too heavy and hence rather walk all the way down to Bugis/Liang Seah Street and have the cool desserts at Ji De Chi (#01-03). The place was packed as always but the waitress on duty outside was quick to get us a table and the queue for orders were relatively short. And the long walk was worth it for this gorgeous, be-still-my-heart Durian Pomelo Sago ($6.50)! Heaven in every spoonful!
2016-06-03 22.01.20 (607x640)My foodie friend however – durian fan she ain’t – decided on this “safe and sound” Gui Ling Gao or Turtle Jelly ($3.30) instead. To each her own, as they say.

It was definitely a good food adventure night. The experience at The Mad Sailors was most enjoyable, even though we do feel for the serving staff (young as they may be,) of having to run up and down the stairs every now and then in order to serve the tables. Well, on the bright side, they will build up strong leg muscles in the long run. For us, maybe we will consider a table downstairs next time. Then again, with our horrendous hot weather here, maybe not… But whatever, it won’t be our last visit to TMS or Haji Lane… 🙂