Shinya Izakaya @ Boat Quay, Raffles Place – Casual Izakaya in Central Singapore (Media)

Boat Quay has gotten somewhat of a makeover as a foodie destination in recent years, with the addition of a few bars and eateries that helped it shed its reputation as “that place with all the overpriced seafood restaurants”. 

One of these new joints is Shinya Izakaya, a Japanese bar and sister business to Georgetown Tze Char (also located at the far end of Boat Quay) and Nonbei Izakaya. 

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Gochi-So Shokudo @ Jewel Changi Airport – Premium Iberico Pork Restaurant with Seasonal Specials (Media)

It’s not often you can use the words “Iberico pork” and “wallet-friendly” in the same sentence, so it was a pleasant surprise to discover that Gochi-So Shokudo, a casual Japanese eatery, has been serving quality dishes at affordable price points. 

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Since its opening in 2019,  more outlets have popped up around Singapore, bringing its pork dishes to customers islandwide. Its Jewel Changi Airport is situated next to the HSBC Rain Vortex, with plenty of seats abound. 

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When in Tokyo: Udon Shin うどん 慎 @ Shibuya City, Yoyogi – Must-Try Udon in Central Tokyo with 2 Hour Queues

Udon is often overshadowed by the more popular ramen, which is a shame considering how versatile this noodle can be. Hot or cold, it’s hard to resist those thick strands with their distinct chewiness. 

Udon Shin うどん has emerged as one of the absolute must-try spots for udon which queues of up to two hours forming every day outside its premises near Shinjuku Station

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When in Tokyo: Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory @ Setagaya City, Tokyo – Adorable Totoro-Shaped Cream Puffs Limited to 200 Pieces Per Day

Whether you’re a hardcore Ghibli fan or a casual viewer, you can’t deny that Totoro, the titular character of Hayao Miyazaki’s animated film, My Neighbor Totoro and mascot for Studio Ghibli is one of the cutest and most iconic creations to grace Japanese animation. 

If you’ve visited the Ghibli Museum and are craving more Totoro – you can get a taste of this kawaii character at Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory in Setagya-Daita, Tokyo!

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Tucked away in a cozy, residential neighbourhood, Shirohige’s Cream Puff Factory was opened by none other than the sister-in-law of Studio Ghibli’s founder and director, Hayao Miyazaki. It is the only bakery in the world that currently has official permission from the studio itself to churn out sweets and pastries in the shape of Totoro, so you can be assured you’re getting the real deal. 

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Nonbei Izakaya @ South Bridge Road, Chinatown – Japanese-Style Sister Bar of George Town Tze Char & Craft Beer (Media)

George Town Tze Char & Craft Beer has expanded into Japanese cuisine with the opening of its sister bar, Nonbei Izakaya on South Bridge Road. Inspired by Tokyo’s Drunkards Alley, this part-indoor, part-alfresco bar features tantalising bar bites with an assortment of Japanese sake and beer in a cozy setting.

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Mentai-Ya Japanese Cuisine @ Tampines GreenWeave, Tampines – Affordable Mentai Bowls in the Heartlands

Mentaiko is one of those guaranteed crowd-pleasers in Japanese cooking. After all, who doesn’t love a blanket of creamy, umami goodness layered generously on their rice bowls? 

With five branches scattered across Singapore, Mentai-Ya Japanese Cuisine is serving up this thicc Japanese-style cod roe sauce for customers in heartland areas like Tampines and  Bukit Panjang. 

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When in Kyoto: Matcha Republic 抹茶共和国 宇治本店 @ Uji, Kyoto – Traditional Matcha With a Modern Twist in Perfume Bottles

We visited this place in November 2019, prior to Covid-19. Do check for pandemic-related updates and precautions before making your visit.

What do you get when you combine a nearly thousand years old drink with a hip, modern setting and the allure of social media pictures? You get Matcha Republic!

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Wandering somewhat aimlessly around Uji, Kyoto and overwhelmed by the sheer amount of shops touting variations of matcha in the hometown of this marvellous, historic drink, Matcha Republic’s minimalist white storefront called out to me from the myriad traditional stores brimming with packets upon packets of matcha powder.

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