Shojin Ryori, Zen Cuisine by Chef Danny Chu of Enso Kitchen
at GOTO Restaurant, 14 Ann Siang Hill
Walking into the restaurant that boasts a minimalistic chic decor, we were greeted by a waitress and fellow Sunday lunchers that included a monk and hipster vegans.
The walls of GOTO Restaurant are decked out in quaint Japanese tea sets. The space that lay between each table were not so much gaping as they were a thoughtful consideration for the need for diner-to-diner privacy.
“Thoughtful” is undoubtedly the catchphrase du jour where it comes to Enso Kitchen. After all, as Singapore’s first and only purveyor of Shojin Ryori, the men behind Enso Kitchen, Chef Danny Chu and Graeme, will tell you that the Japanese Zen cuisine is all about mindful and artful cooking. More importantly, it is also a way of life.
Shojin Ryori, is a type of vegetarian cooking introduced into Japan together with Buddhism in the 6th century. Shojin is a term that refers to asceticism in pursuit of enlightenment, and ryori means “cooking.” In the 13th century, with the advent of the Zen sect of Buddhism, the custom of eating Shojin Ryori spread. Foods derived from soybeans and vegetable oils were popularised in Japan as a result of their use in Shojin Ryori.
Goma Dofu (sesamu tofu)
Enso Kitchen’s bestselling item was served at room temperature, set above a very shallow pool of soy sauce and topped with a small dollop of imported freshly-grated wasabi. The taste of the goma dofu was divine. We let out an involuntary “mmm” as is commonly heard when escaped from the lips of Japanese food tasting show hosts. The tofu, which we later learnt was made from scratch by Chef Danny, is a challenge to make. It takes the patience of a saint, an elbow of a tennis champ, or someone zen, we guess, to grind all ingredients till they are smooth as paste. Goma dofu is denser than regular tofu, and has an almost mochi-like texture which is made possible with the addition of the costly kuzu (arrowroot).
The Autumn Set which consisted of:
Short-grained rice with black glutinous rice
Lotus root and mushroom with mango in plum sauce
Cold tofu with seaweed
Blanched spinach and mushrooms in sauce
Sweet potato, yam and persimmon tempura
Soup with enoki mushrooms and fried yam
Chef Danny informed us that another principle of Shojin Ryori is that it uses only seasonal ingredients. Doing so taps on the natural energies of the ingredients because you know that lotus root was ripe and harvested not long ago.
Worth mentioning was the lotus root and mushroom with mango in plum sauce. It was a glorious burst of sweet, tangy and savoury flavours. The crunchiness of the lotus root and the plushness of the mushrooms provided a great contrast in texture.
Another dish that stood out was the tempura of three types. While the sweet potato and yam were nice, it was the persimmon tempura that stole the show. To our surprise, unlike eating the fruit fresh where it tends to burst into a mess of seeds and juice, the fruit deep-fried in batter remains firm to the bite. Another thing, it was saccharine.
Rock melon with mochi
We learnt a lot from Chef Danny and Graeme who not only put together for us a wonderful meal, but taught us what we needed to know about Shojin Ryori.
Sunday Shojin Ryori Lunch
@ GOTO Japanese Restaurant Singapore
inclusive of tea, starter, main course of 5 to 6 items, dessert
Date: Every Sunday Time: 11.30am onwards Venue: GOTO Japanese Restaurant,
14 Ann Siang Road,
#01-01, Singapore 069694
Fee: $45 per person
No minimum number of diner. Reservation is required.
10% service charge applies.
There is NO MSG, Egg, Diary Products, Garlic & Onion.
Tel: 8133 1182 | Fax: 6560 1644 | Email: firstname.lastname@example.org