This upmarket outfit by the Sushi Tei group impresses with elegant decor and delectable grilled meats
By Meryl Koh
This article first appeared in the May/June “Southeast Asia” 2020 issue of Wine & Dine for our Incognito Eats column, where our journalists dine in as paying guests for unbiased reviews.
The first thing that catches our eye when we arrive for our reservation at Matsukiya Restaurant on the fifth floor of Paragon mall is the snaking queue outside its neighbouring outfit, Sushi Tei.
It’s hard to tell off the bat that the two are related; the latter being a popular chain known for decent and affordable Japanese food, while Matsukiya is the upmarket sister that is dressed to impress.
Dark slate floors are a sleek contrast to the warm tones of the lacquered wooden counter seats that frame an open kitchen. Dim lighting and soft ambient music set the mood for intimate tête-à-têtes over some grilled meats and cups of chilled sake.
Kushiyaki is the cuisine of choice served at Matsukiya, and the prime cuts of meat are expertly cooked over a grill fuelled by Japanese binchō-tan. The slow burn of the white charcoal infuses a delicious smokiness to the meats, all without releasing clouds of smoke that threaten to cling on to your hair and clothes post-meal.
Funnily enough, it is the tables set around the perimeter of the restaurant are filled when we arrive, though we more than happily slide into our seats at the counter. Don’t come with the hopes of sizzling theatrics– the team of young chefs are reserved as they dutifully cook each order called out to them, albeit with a masterful hand. Service is prompt, if a tad unpolished. Our orders were taken quickly and edamame snacks sent out soon after, but our friendly waitress did have to nip back to the kitchen for an ice bucket to keep our bottle of sake chilled throughout dinner.
But what Matsukiya lacks in atmosphere, it makes up for with its food. The selection of grilled meats run the standard choices such as Momo (thigh), Seseri (neck), and
Tsukune (chicken ball), alongside the usual hearts and gizzards on offer. The Tsukune, in particular, is beautifully charred on the outside, and holds its shape even when dipped into an accompanying saucer of raw yolk. Another standout dish is the Foie Gras, a definite must-order for lovers of fatty duck liver. At just $9 a pop, the thick slab of foie is served as a single skewer, but so decadent that you can share it between two. The liver is grilled to achieve a crisp exterior, while the inside is creamy with a delicious mushroom-y flavour. Sprinkle with a dash of sea salt for that bit of crunch.
Mains here are designed to be shared, whether you arrive as a couple or in a group. Our Tontoro (Spanish pork jowl with chilli oil) is served well-charred and extra juicy, coated in a piquant sweet-spicy ‘sambal’ of red chillies, leek and garlic. Brilliant red chilli fronds add a pop of colour on top of extra heat. If you’re in a group, the Unagi Donabe is a dish that is well worth the half an hour wait. The fluffy grains are steeped in a light dashi and burdock stock that gives the rice a clean umami flavour, with some nicely charred bits at the bottom to be scraped at with gusto. This is all topped with a generous portion of grilled unagi (Japanese eel), brushed with a sauce made from tamari, shoyu, mirin, sake and brown sugar.
It’s a shame that there’s no bartender on site to shake up a fancy sake cocktail to go with the food, but the sake selection by half or full bottle is decent. You’ll easily find a hot Junmai-shu or a delicate and sweet Daiginjo-shu on the drinks menu— depending on your taste, both will go down a treat.
Matsukiya Restaurant is located at 290 Orchard Road, #05-02, Paragon, Singapore 238859. Tel: 6219 1771
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