No restaurant operates in a vacuum. A close relationship with farmers, winemakers, and other producers is key to getting the best ingredients. Some, however, take this F&B ecosystem further by going beyond mere commerce. One example is chef Akane Eno of intimate Kappo restaurant Ichigo Ichie – who has embraced the concept of “sanpo yoshi“, a longstanding Japanese code of social and commercial behaviour that emphasises relationships, trust, and acts of reciprocity.
For Eno, this means creating menus that showcase specific produce from suppliers – the latest being a month-long menu highlighting things like beef from Iga city in the Mie Prefecture, golden ikura (roe from the whitespotted char). Perhaps more interestingly, a portion of the proceeds from this menu will be used to buy rice from farmers in Yamagata – where said rice will be used to create a private label sake exclusive to the restaurant. The label of the sake, meanwhile, will be designed by Students from the Tōhoku University of Art & Design.
What’s on the menu? Eno is offering a mix of new dishes and crowd favourites from her repertoire of refined yet comforting kappo dishes. To start off, golden ikura – similar to the stuff we’re familiar with, but with a milder flavour and firmer bite – is paired with Hokkaido hairy crab in a sashimi box that also includes refreshing simmered eggplant with silky, fresh yuba; as well as maitake mushroom tempura showered in snowflake salt.
Eno also has a knack for introducing unexpected, non-Japanese elements into her dishes. Like an ethereal chawanmushi interspersed with harmonious nuggets of texturally-similar cream cheese, and surprise pops of crunchy Hokkaido corn. There’s also her signature dish that’s inspired by Asian prawn noodles: cold somen, Japanese tiger prawn, uni, and tonburi in a clean, intense prawn broth. To cut the richness, there’s yuzu-chilli paste made from snow-aged salt-marinated red chilli, yuzu rind, and rice koji.
With hot dishes, Eno excels at balancing luxury with comfort: Hokkaido abalone dumpling and meltingly soft daikon sits in a slippery nori sauce. There’s a single, prodigiously large piece of deep-fried scallop, just barely coated with rice flour for a delicate crunch. Finally, savouries end with donabe rice served with a sukiyaki prepared with Iga beef – an umami-packed wagyu that comes from virgin female cows that are slaughtered at 30 months old instead of the usual 20 months – not that’s we’re advocating the slaughtering of any virgins.
Ichigo Ichie is located at 1 Nanson Rd, #02-07 Intercontinental Robertson Quay, Singapore 238909.