Our vow not to have Japanese food for at least a month after our trip was unfortunately broken sooner than expected. A’s friends are currently really into Ootoya, the Japanese casual dining restaurant at Orchard Central, so when everyone decided to celebrate a birthday there, we just went along with the group vote.
Ootoya is apparently a well established chain in Japan (we saw one in the distance), and this is their first branch in Singapore. They serve simple, no-frills Japanese home-cooking, almost comfort food. So don’t expect fine dining, or even typical Japanese restaurant offerings like sushi, sashimi or ramen. The closest thing to ‘standard’ fare would be cold soba, udon and tuna don.
Most of the items can be ordered alone, or as a set for a few dollars more. The set consists of a miso soup, rice and some pickled vegetables. A distinctive aspect of this place is that it states the calorie count of everything on the menu, both with and without the set. Depending on how you see it, this can be a good or a bad thing. I must say that subconsciously, I did veer away from the super calorific items out of sheer guilt. Hard to justify a 1000+ calorie item, when there’s something almost as enticing for ‘only’ 600+ calories…
I ended up ordering an oyster rice steamed in a bamboo pot, which came with a stew of fried chicken and vegetables (daikon, eggplant and lotus root). Flavours were simple and clean; nothing fancy but tasty all the same.
A went for a Hamburger steak. I only had a bite of it but the patty tasted quite good – roughly chopped meat and not too tightly formed, so it wasn’t dry.
Their desserts are pretty good – we tried a soy milk with brown sugar, and an egg custard with burnt soya sauce and red beans. Sounds exotic, but really it was creme caramel with a slightly salty edge. Some of the others had green tea puddings and banana parfaits, which looked pretty interesting too.
For all the variety here, my single favourite item is actually the humble potato croquette. The version here is excellent. The outside is breaded with panko and delightfully crispy and not oily. Inside, the mashed potato is light and creamy, with little bits of possibly bacon. My advice? Don’t share this. It may be 300+ calories but worth every bite.
The problem with Ootoya is that they don’t take reservations, and at peak hours the queue can be pretty insane since the restaurant is quite small. We had a large group of 12, so we ended up waiting about an hour. Yes, the food is good, but even with the yummy potato croquette, it certainly isn’t worth an hour-long wait.
Very, very good service and food (for the price). The potato croquette RAWKS! Unfortunately, they don’t take reservations, and as good as the place, it’s not worth the wait. Especially if you go in a big group of 12 like we did.
181 Orchard Road
#08-12 Orchard Central
Daily: 12 noon to 9.30 pm