Published on Thursday, 25 August 2016 00:00
Written by Cheryl Teo Kai Lin
The sun rays shone through the full floor-to-ceiling windows of Hajime illuminating our hearty Japanese dishes and giving them a mouth-watering golden tint. The tender tonakatsu pork cutlet coated in extremely fine and flaky golden-brown bread crumbs and cream-colored steaming hot bowl of shabu shabu ramen are some of the many gems to be found in this restaurant of the rising sun.
Hajime is short for the Japanese greeting Hajimemashite which means “nice to meet you” or “beginning”, and represents the restaurant's philosophy of returning to the food's beginning and warmly welcoming patrons from all walks of life.
Chef Tan-San helms the kitchen stoves of Hajime. Bringing over 25 years of experience to the kitchen, Chef Tan-San’s journey began after a stint in Japan, where he mastered the art of Tonkatsu and returned in 1993 to helm the kitchen of the first Tonkatsu specialty restaurant chain - making him the first Tonkatsu chef in Singapore.
In 2004, he took on the challenge of starting up a new Japanese concept restaurant which has since become a household name for authentic Japanese cuisine in Singapore. With a dedication to perfection and serving quality food to his customers, Chef Tan-San is famed for various creations such as Kurobuta Pork Tonkatsu and Tonkatsu Ramen. He retired for a short while, but his undying passion for cooking called him back to the F&B scene. Along with his son-in-law, they opened Hajime's doors in April 2016, where he once again combines various ingredients into an edible masterpiece.
Hajime is located within myVillage, a small, cozy mall situated in the heart of Serangoon Garden. Furnished modestly with modern wood tables and chairs, cushioned booths, hanging light fixtures and full length glass windows overlooking the neighborhood, Hajime emphasizes on bringing quality food in a comfortable setting with warm service akin to Japanese hospitality.
Roasted Edamame, $3.80
Hajime's version of the popular Japanese appetizer is roasted and sprinkled with salt that has a slightly charred flavor. The soybeans are crunchy with an ever green freshness. Though I am not a fan of edamame, this snack is great to munch on if you are feeling a wee bit peckish and pairs wonderfully well with beer, just remember to pop the beans out of the hairy pod first!
Fried to a crisp at the bottom but soft and squishy on top and packed full of crunchy, meaty savory goodness, Hajime's gyoza is just as good as any other you can find in Japan. The sauce that the gyoza is served with is quite extraordinary – salty, vinegary, and spicy yet light and somewhat refreshing and zesty.
Shabu Shabu Ramen, $14.90
This hearty bowl of shabu shabu ramen is one of the best I have had in a very long time. The creamy and tantalizing broth is simmered over low heat with pork bones for no less than 12 hours to achieve that full-bodied flavor without resorting to MSG. The soup is light with a big punch of taste from all the melted collagen and bone marrow which enriches it with a comforting aromatic fragrance. Fresh Nama ramen noodles that are slightly thicker and chewier than the thinner noodles typically used in run-of-the-mill ramen restaurants are added to the shabu shabu ramen. The Nama noodles absorb more soup than its thinner counterpart which gives a more flavorful and springy al dente bite. The premium pork belly is imported in chilled, never frozen, from Japan and sliced in-house for quality control over the freshness and desired thinness. The pork belly has a high marbling of fats and when it is sliced paper-thin, it creates a melt-in-your-mouth effect.
Premium Pork Loin Tonkatsu Set, $19.90
The type of pork specifically chosen by Hajime for its superb quality and high fat marbling is directly air flown from Japan. The flaky panko breadcrumbs that the juicy pork is generously coated in is guaranteed to stay crisp and crunchy even after being exposed to the surroundings as it is delivered to the restaurant in a controlled quantity every single day in order to maintain its optimal freshness and crunchiness. The pork loin is one of the fattiest parts of the pig with an intricate webbed distribution of fats and meat, so biting down into Hajime's soft and buttery pork loin tonkatsu makes the porky juices spew forth. The succulence of the pork is complemented by the crisp, light, airy and delicate texture of the panko breakcrumbs.
The pork loin tonkatsu that has been deep fried to golden-brown perfection is served alongside a bowl of rice from Niigata where it is grown from the pristine waters of melting snow, a steaming bowl of Tonjiru soup simmered for 12 hours in tonkatsu broth with Japanese pork, carrots, raddish, burdock roots and yuzu, homemade pickles to whet your appetite, shredded white cabbage with wafu dressing, and slices of watermelon to mark a sweet finish to your meal.
Tonkatsu sets come with free flow rice and cabbage.
Miso Fillet Tonkatsu Set, $17.90
The pork fillet is not as tender and succulent as compared to the premium pork loin, so I definitely would not order this, but it is good for those on a diet who are trying to cut back on the calories. Sort of like ordering Diet Coke instead of regular Coke. Honestly, if you are going to eat something as awesome as tonkatsu, go all out and get the premium pork loin instead that just melts in your mouth. We promise that it is worth the calories. But if you still would like to compromise gastronomical pleasure over an additional measly calories, this miso fillet is quite yummy too with a thick and sweet miso sauce. This set is served with the exact same dishes listed above with the premium pork loin.
Katsu Don, $12.90
Served with the same Tonjiru soup simmered for 12 hours in tonkatsu broth, homemade pickles, and watermelon, Hajime's katsu don is really value for money. Crispy sliced pork fillet tonkatsu is laid over a mountain of snowy rice and topped with a copious amount of gooey half set egg cooked with onions that give a very silky texture to the crispy tonkatsu and refreshingly light rice grains.
Address: 1 Maju Ave myVillage @ Serangoon Gardens #02-07/8/9 Singapore 556679
Opening Hours: 11:30am – 3pm, 6pm – 10pm (Mon-Fri), 11:30am – 3pm, 5pm – 10pm (Sat-Sun)