Hashida Garo [はし田画廊] | Art, Matcha and Washoku.


30th October 2015
There I was seated with other diners, seeking a space for contemplation and a space for the mind to wander. It is a haven within Mandarin Gallery, a simple but elegant room with pieces of contemporary artworks of varying colours and textures. We were seated around an irori, between the shopping gallery outside and the room are glass panels partially obscured with blinds, it is like being in the reception room of a kyo-machiya in Kyoto or a chaya in Kanazawa. Perhaps this new creation is Chef Kenjiro ‘Hatch’ Hashida’s (橋田Hatch建二郎) contemporary take of the Japanese tea room.

Hashida Garo reminds me of the experience of sitting around the irori in Kanazawa's Kaikaro.

Hashida Garo opened in August 2015 this year, tucked next to a shop selling some of Hashida’s own confectionery is this cosy dining area. Here you can get a taste of what washoku (Japanese cuisine) is about. You get to appreciate a specially curated selection of sake, teas, art and of course food where Chef Kenjiro puts in more creativity compared to its sister restaurant Hashida Sushi which is a more formal dining concept. Hashida Garo is Chef Kenjiro’s effort to both engage the public while at the same time present quality Japanese cuisine in a more casual setting. While the space could be an interpretation of the tea room, it has the casualness of an izakaya and a little bit of theatre-like quality as Chin Xiong, one of the staff would prepare matcha on the spot for diners.


Tamaryokucha Ureshino | 玉緑茶嬉野
My visit to Hashida Garo begins with a cup of Tamaryokucha Ureshino harvested from Saga Prefecture in Japan’s Kyushu. While Uji and Shizuoka teas are famous, the often overlooked Ureshino tea is just as interesting and famous in Japan. This is because Saga Prefecture is known as the cradle of Japanese tea, a title attributed to the planting of tea leaves at the base of Mount Sefuri in present-day Saga Prefecture when Eisai, a Buddhist monk brought tea leaves back from China in 1191. This tea at Hashida Garo is a spring harvest and while flavourful it is a ‘comforting’ mild tea.


Kamokun | 鴨燻  | Good
Smoked Duck, Cream Cheese & Yuzu Jelly
Like an izakaya, there is a special menu of snacks to go with your choice of sake or beer at Hashida Garo. One of the simple but very nicely prepared snack is the kamokun which features tender slices of smoked duck with cream cheese and citrusy yuzu jelly that help cut the meaty flavours and adds a sweet tinge to the snack.


Con Con Sand |コンコンサンド| Okay.
“A Touch of Mexican “Quesadillas” with Japanese influence. This is maki roll which uses fried tofu skin instead of seaweed. Within the roll are ingredients such as pork, cream cheese, avocado, red miso, tomatoes and leek. Personally, while I liked the unconventional use of fried tofu skin, I thought this is less impressive than Kamokun as the flavours here have blended together and nothing sort of stands out.


Bijin Chawanmushi |美人茶碗蒸し | Good.
Riding on the craze for collagen is the Beauty Chawanmushi with a layer of collagen essence and topped with abalone and shitake mushrooms. Priced at 35 SGD, this is no doubt one of the most expensive chawanmushi I ever had which is probably attributed to the abalone and collagen. However, I enjoyed every bit of this dish. The egg custard was just right and loved the bite from the abalone and shitake mushrooms.


TEISHOKU |定食
Hashida Garo also offers teishoku or set meals for both lunch (and dinner for now). Personally, I felt that the sets offer better value for money and if you are into sake or beer, they even have a 49.90++ SGD Beer Tasting Platter which includes 6 kinds of the finger food and three types of artisanal beer.
All set meals include a wagashi of the day and choice of tea.


Oz-Onigirazu |おにぎらーず| Good.
Also known as “rice sandwiches”, Onigirazu is a recent twist to the onigiri. It is basically a sandwich version of the onigiri and here at Hashida Garo, they are served as a set along with miso soup and pickles. I tried their salmon onigirazu and it was pretty good. The rice was excellent. I was told the rice is a special mix of different grains sourced from Hokkaido.


Unagi Ippon |鰻一本| Excellent.
This is essentially a unadon, an Unagi Donburi. It has really yummy, tender (but a tad oily) unagi on a bed of kinshi-tamago (shredded omelette) and nori (seaweed). This was really good. It is quite a heavy dish but totally worth it. The eel has a very tasty soy sauce glaze and marinade. The rice was perfect and the earthy flavours from the nori added depth to the dish.


Garo Curry |画廊カレー| Good.
Perhaps one of the most unassuming dishes on the menu is the curry rice. However, a seafood Japanese curry is not very common and Hashida Garo’s seafood curry was pretty amazing. The curry, has the fragrance of Indian curries but much milder and instead carries the flavours of scallop and prawn, quite like a bisque or gumbo.



Miyazaki Wagyu |宮崎和牛| Excellent
This is the most expensive item on the food menu at 90.00++ SGD for the set meal and understandably so.  The star item is an A5-grade wagyu tenderloin from the Prefecture of Miyazaki (宮崎県) in Japan. The wagyu from Miyazaki prefecture has been the overall winner of the 2007 and the 2012 edition of the Zenkoku Wagyu Noryoku Kyoshinkai (全国和牛共進会), the National Competitive Exhibition of Wagyu or simply “Wagyu Olympics” in Japan. The wagyu came with four kinds of condiments including wasabi which is my favourite condiment to enjoy with the wagyu. With such good marbling and fats present in the A5-grade wagyu, the wasabi not only accentuates the flavours from the beef but also gives a kind of sweetness to the meat.


After the mains, we had desserts. Of the few I had, I shall just introduce two memorable ones. Could have been three but the warabimochi didn’t turn out as it should be due to consistency issues.


Foie Gras Macaron |フォワグラマカロン | Good Blend of Savoury and Sweet flavours.
Priced at 12 SGD a piece, this is perhaps the most expensive macaron I ever had but it is still a must-try if you are willing to splurge. It is a Foie Gras Macaron dusted with raspberry powder with a velvety smooth and savoury foie gras mousse. Amazingly, the textures and the savoury flavours of the foie grass went pretty well with the sweetness of the meringues. This is was really good. The Hojicha Macaron on the other hand was too sweet and lacks the layers of textures and flavours as well as complexity of the Foie Gras Macaron.


Yuzu Yubeshi |柚餅子| Refreshing and Excellent.
Next the Yubeshi, a kind of snack that goes back to the Nara period of Japan but a Sweet Yubeshi that is being served at Hashida Garo has its origins in the 1700s in the Edo Period.  There are different versions of yubeshi from confectionery to confectionery and region to region in Japan. Hashida Garo’s version is a yuzu yubeshi which has a yuzu-flavoured jelly like flavour on top of a dollop of white bean paste. It is light and refreshing.


MATCHA
Finally, I ended the meal with a pairing of Matcha and a Chocolate Cake by Snaffles, a result of collaboration between Hashida Garo and the famed confectionary in Hakodate, Japan. The matcha here isn’t as heavy as the ones you would get in Kyoto but still carries the fragrance of the matcha powder and went very well with the rich and sweet chocolate cake. The matcha was ceremonially prepared in the center of the room.


Hashida Garo may not be cheap but it certainly delivers and it is not just in the food. Fine details were being paid to the place as to how it is being designed, the choice of artworks, and the lampshades which are actually antique lampshades from old lamps made in the early 20th century during Japan’s Meiji, Taisho or early Showa periods. The waiters' and waitresses' attire is also a collaboration with Japanese fashion brand. Then there is also a particular way the sweets are being served, little details that originates from Chef Kenjiro’s cultural backgrounds. If there is a special occasion, I would love come back for tea and sweet.

The old facade of Mandarin Singapore Hotel.Taken in 1992. Source : National Archives

The nearest MRT Station is Somerset MRT on the North-South Line. Hashida Garo is located within Mandarin Gallery, an extension of the Mandarian Orchard Hotel formerly known as Meritus Mandarin Hotel. The hotel was first opened in 1971 and designed by Stanley T.S Leong. Mandarin Gallery extension was completed in 2009 by DP Architects.


Special Thanks to Tecks from Asia Link House Communications for the invitation and hospitality!

Hashida Garo | はし田画廊
333A Mandarin Gallery
Orchard Road #04-16
Singapore 238897
+65-6235 2283

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