Katsuoboshi (かつお節) supplier Eiji Futagami quietly opened izakaya Dashi Master Marusaya (だし処丸佐屋), focusing on showcasing dashi and how it naturally enhances the flavors of various casual dishes in Japanese dining. Aged bonito flakes are additionally offered with our orders.
Their food has remained surprisingly good since they opened about three months ago. Thank goodness. Their previous incarnation at Lau Pat Sat wasn't the best. This version is so much better. It's located at the stretch directly across from the back of Riverview Hotel and Grand Copthorne Waterfront Hotel, few doors down from Kith Cafe, Toby's Estate Coffee, and next to Merry Men.
The service is friendly, earnest but patchy. There's this server whom I can't quite figure out if she's drunk, tired or absent-minded. When taking orders without the tablet, she promptly forgets half of what we said. Unsurprising. Even when taking orders with the tablet, and she returns to confirm what had been said, she manages to still forget half, as in, not keyed-in at all. DOHH. Most strange. I wasn't in a combative mood on those visits, neither were the friends. We simply harassed the other servers to double-check on the items we really wanted.
The friends and I have ended up at Dashi Master Marusaya regularly for meals, not just at lunch, but also in the nights because their last order is at 11pm. That's a great timing. This is a casual izakaya that I always keep in mind. It's quite a gem in Singapore. I'm extremely fussy about Japanese food and there're many crap restaurants out there. I'm particular about dashi too. The grandparents taught me how to discern the quality of dashi from its base ingredients of aged bonito flakes and dried kelp. It's a balance of the sea, something light but not bland. When I do cook, dashi features largely in many dishes.
The friends simply love the restaurant's salmon sashimi. Oddly okay. The slices we had were fresh and cut close to the belly. There're many other 'Japanese' restaurants that serve chirashi bowls that I would never eat. I've learnt to order cooked/hot food at these restaurants that aren't my usual. Their raw fish is never up to my expectations. Importantly, this restaurant does good bowls of udon in about six variations hot and cold. YAYYY. I love udon. There's ramen too, if you prefer their lighter version in dashi instead of that thick oily chicken or pork broth at the ramen shops. They serve a superb version of a Satsuma-Kagoshima fried fishcake (薩摩揚げ) that is delicious, along with grated ginger. I dislike the fake fishcakes (kamaboko, 蒲鉾), say, narutomaki (なると巻き). There're enough items on the menu that makes it always a satisfying meal. Stay this way please!