As my companion and I pushed open Hanabi’s inconspicuous door, we were surprised to see a spacious restaurant filled with a sizable crowd for a Thursday night. Ah, a good sign indeed. This restaurant offers a popular, value-for-money daily à la carte buffet (lunch and dinner), but, for the purposes of this review, we had to avert our eyes from the buffet menu and focus strictly on à la carte offerings. Too many words and items crowded the menu, which made it a chore to browse, more so as our stomachs were growling away. Fortunately for us, the genial lady boss herself came by to introduce Hanabi’s specialties. After much deliberation over her mouth-watering recommendations, we ended up with a seafood-based dinner order. The server presented both of us with a complimentary amous bouche—a unique combination of egg custard, topped with century egg and fish roe, served cold—which was surprisingly pleasing and most definitely prepped our taste buds for more savory delights. Our food arrived in rapid succession. The salmon belly soup was lovely, with delectable slices of fatty salmon. The spider temaki (soft shell crab hand-roll) did not blow us away, but the Hanabi Special Maki —deep-fried king prawn with special sauce—was quite tasty. We loved the huge chunk of prawn in every bite, as well as the generous topping of fish roe. A slight letdown was the ebi mentaiyaki (prawn with spicy cod roe), which did not taste as good as it sounded. The spicy cod roe tasted more like tangy mayonnaise, while the prawn was a tad mushy. Fortunately, the saba shioyaki that followed was nicely done—the level of saltiness was just right and complemented the grilled mackerel perfectly. For a perfect end to an enjoyable dinner, we enjoyed the refreshingly light edamame ice cream. With helpful yet unobtrusive service, reasonable prices, and most importantly, good food, it is no surprise that the residents of Bukit Timah regularly patronize this unpretentious Japanese restaurant.
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