Type of Institution: Non-vegetarian (has vegetarian menu)
Address: #B1-41 Paragon, 290 Orchard Road
Tel: +65 6735 9882
Opening Hours: 11.30am – 10.00pm (last order at 9.30pm)
I am always more scrupulous when dining at a traditional Japanese restaurant because Japanese cuisine is very fish-centric – even if you avoid the sashimi and a lot of the sushi, katsuobushi (dried bonito flakes) is used in dashi (the traditional Japanese soup stock) and also as a topping on many dishes. Since my only experience at a purely vegetarian Japanese restaurant in Singapore was an unpleasant one, I was happy to find out that Shimbashi Soba at the basement of Paragon recently revamped its menu to include a dedicated Vegetarian Menu.
Despite the fact that my friend and I arrived during an extremely busy lunchtime hour, service was very attentive and the waiters patiently answered all my queries relating to the food.
Vegetarian Shokado set
I opted for the Vegetarian Shokado set because its variety provided an almost comprehensive overview of Shimbashi’s vegan offerings – soba noodles, sushi, tempura, fresh vegetables, and fruit. (To my fellow vegans: I checked to ensure the vaguely suspicious items, i.e. the spicy tofu sushi and the tow meow with sesame cream, were in fact vegan.) Now it’s time for a close-up…
The centrepiece of the Vegetarian Shokado set is the warm soup noodles. You’ve probably walked past Shimbashi Soba before, and you might have glimpsed one of their chefs making the soba noodles by hand. Aside from being freshly handmade, the noodles were perfectly cooked so they had a great texture. The lightly flavoured soup stock was made from konbu seaweed and soy sauce. Firm, crunchy bunashimeiji and enoki mushrooms as well as a variety of sansai (mountain vegetables) added earthy flavours and various textures.
Next we have three types of sushi – creamy avocado nigiri, shitake nigiri and spicy egg-like tofu gunkun. I like how the sushi was made with some of my favourite foods in the world, rather than some dubious mock raw fish. However the rice to ingredient ratio was ridiculously high, like most Singaporean Japanese restaurants. I understand that a lot of (in particular, Singaporean) customers will feel like they are not getting their money’s worth or they wouldn’t feel full if their sushi rice balls were rather small, but the plain white sticky rice is supposed to be a bite-sized ball that complements and highlights the taste of the sushi’s crowning glory rather than completely dwarfing it.
The boiled tow meow was fresh but tasteless on its own without the sesame cream, which was made by blending sesame with grinded peanuts.
The tempura was an assortment of seaweed, undercooked okra, and shitake mushroom. It was crispy, but too oily, and the accompanying green tea mixed salt was unexceptional.
Finally, the slices of watermelon and orange were disappointing because they were insufficiently sweet.
Conclusion: Shimbashi Soba joins the burgeoning list of non-veg restaurants that cater adequately for vegetarians and vegans with its dedicated Vegetarian Menu. Its Vegetarian Shokado set offered a pleasant variety of items that were of generally adequate quality. If I happened to be in the area, I wouldn’t mind returning to try the other items on the menu.