When Jeremy and I first started dating, I used to make the joke that he never needed to wine me, just dine me. And as our relationship has continued and we've now moved in together, I find myself so excited that our culinary journey is still proceeding. Together we find ourselves exploring the different cuisines on offer in our city and also on our travels.
One of our favourite cuisines is Japanese, so it's of little surprise that in July when Urbanspoon were promoting a 50% off special at Shiro Izakaya in Central Park, we jumped at the chance and booked for late August (as far out as we could to take advantage of the discount keeping in mind we were about to jetset off to Kuala Lumpur).
I'd actually forgotten that we had this booking until the day before when I received a reminder email from the restaurant, which was a pleasant surprise! A mid-week date night is always welcome in our eyes.
It's a gorgeous view, and funny to be sitting here because the last TV commercial my company produced (and my team worked on as the marketing department) had a short scene with the main character sitting in that same spot!
Our meal starts with one of Jeremy's choices, the Yellow Tail Carpaccio ($19). It's a beautifully plated cold starter - slices of yellow tail, fish roe, wasabi soy and diced dashi jelly, edamame, herbs and wasabi ponzu sauce.
I love the sprinkling of fresh herbs on top for some texture and much needed greenery; and the crispy lotus root chip. As our meal continues we soon learn that lotus root chips are their go to garnish, and this is something we very much appreciate - we're big fans!
For my dish choice as our starters, I find myself torn over whether to order the delightful sounding New Style Edamame which is grilled beans finished with truffle oil and green tea sea salt. In the end I opt for a larger dish, following my heart in the direction of (as usual), Soft Shell Crab Tempura ($28).
What a gorgeous dish, and for Jeremy, the dish of the night. Crispy fried soft shell crab with watermelon, baby spinach, lotus chips and a balsamic reduction and wasabi soy sauce.
I highly recommend ordering this gorgeous dish if you ever come to Shiro Izakaya, it will not disappoint - and could easily attract even the most sceptical of eaters who haven't yet embraced my beloved soft shell crab.
I offer Jeremy a sip but I can tell as he swallows it down that it's not to his liking. He's never drunk aloe vera before and I have to admit, it is an acquired taste! Luckily I grew up on it as a beverage so I'm in heaven as I drink away.
A beautiful wooden bowl comes out to us with a bed of mixed lettuce leaves underneath crispy Japanese style fried chicken pieces and yes more of those addictive lotus root chips! There's an accompanying bowl of homemade mustard sauce on the side perfect for dipping the bites into.
This was fingerlickin' good!
What I particularly like though is the pile of herbed crumbs and the truffle salt that sat in two of the corners. I'm quick to sprinkle both atop of my fish and as I bite down on that wonderfully soft and ethereal flesh, I get the rich salty crunch that contrasts so brilliantly with the meat.
I would have absolutely no hesitation in ordering this again. The fish is perfectly cooked; it's so soft and falls apart but isn't mushy. The skin underneath is silky to my mouth and has just the right amount of rigidity to it as I barely tug with my chopstick.
Since we're taking advantage of the 50% off deal from Urbanspoon/Dimmi, we decide to go all out and order dessert. Jeremy's off sugar with the exception of when we eat out, so I know he's going to enjoy his choice of Tempura Ice Cream ($11) before it even comes out to us.
It's like an explosion on a plate. A golden crisp tempura ball filled with green tea ice cream, surrounded by icing sugar and green tea sugar, diced strawberry and a chocolate sauce.
This dish is very much like a Japanese take on the Chinese classic, fried ice cream. And they've done it justice! The batter is light but thick enough to house the ice cream and prevent it from melting. The green tea ice cream is strong in flavour, and surprisingly it works well with the strawberry and chocolate flavours that accompany it. It's such a fun dessert and I'm pleased to see him clean up the entire plate before emitting a satisfied sigh.
For my dessert, I opt for the Banana ($11) after learning the Yuzu Meringue Pie is sold out (damn!). But it is definitely not a consolation prize. No, this is a masterpiece of carefully constructed elements - banana maki, caramelised banana, sugared almonds, black sesame ice cream and a slick of dreamy caramel sauce down the plate.
There's probably more icing sugar and green tea sugar than I'd say necessary for the dish, giving it a slightly messy look but outside of that the dish is beautiful. The banana maki is savoury and sweet at the same time, the pastry crisp and thin. It cracks with just the slightest pressure of my spoon.
The caramelised banana is outstanding - a fresh piece of fruit with a covering of toffee on the end, allowing you to crack through with as much excitement as you would with a creme brulee. And those sugared almonds, well they're one of the best things on the plate for sure! Sweet, crunchy and delicious.
This is one of the few times in my life where I've eaten black sesame ice cream, and I'm happy to say that this was my favourite of all experiences. It's a distinct flavour, full of sesame and flecked with the occasional textural crunch amid the velvety smoothness in the custard. A great accompaniment to the banana, and a wonderful way to finish our meal.
So our night only cost us $96 in total, including my cocktail! For the quality of food (and quantity) we indulged in on this occasion, that is definite value for money as I would happily pay full price for it. I really enjoyed Shiro - from the courteous and attentive staff, to those stand out flavours that have left me a very satisfied customer. With so many other delicious sounding dishes on the menu, I will come back - perhaps for lunch one day so I can enjoy the sun streaming in through those clean glass windows that overlook our city park.
Needless to say after our first experience taking advantage of an Urbanspoon offer, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for the next one they promote!