Just 30 years ago, the now decidedly-vibrant Kennedy Town district was anything but a happening locale. In fact, it was a rather unattractive, largely residential area and home to way more than its fair share of factories and wholesale markets, as well as a less than convivial abattoir. Since then, however, this once undesirable locale has undergone a complete transformation, making it now – arguably – one of the city’s premium F&B destinations in town. Indeed, even the most cursory of visits here will highlight the wide-range of cuisines available within its precincts – including French, Mexican, Lebanese, Japanese and far more besides.
It’s small wonder, then, that it was the location of choice for the proprietors of Ensō, a brand-new yakitori – a uniquely Japanese take on skewered dishes – eatery, which has only recently welcome its first paying patron. Although officially still in its soft opening phase, the word-of-mouth with regard to the compact and bijou 28-seat restaurant is already very positive, a consequence of both its menu choices and its stunning views out across Victoria Harbour.
When it comes to making a first impression, its interior is reassuringly sleek and clean. Venturing a little further in, would-be diners are treated to the enticing sight of the restaurant’s signature skewers being openly prepared. Although comparatively uncapacious, larger groups can be accommodated among its booths, that is if they manage to navigate their way past its alluring display of wall-to-wall alcohol (although still awaiting its drink license, this remains an impressive statement of intent).
Such diversion aside, though, the true star here – and rightly so – is the food. Keen to acknowledging this, owner Renee says: “I wanted to create a neighbourhood restaurant that focuses on serving good food, with an emphasis on choosing great ingredients and delivering top-notch customer service. Above all, I want to ensure our diners will always want to come back for more.”
Eager to see if her words were borne out by the fare on offer, our first dish – a sumptuous serving of Wagyu Beef (A5) – couldn’t arrive too soon. Regarded by true gourmands as the undisputed epitome of all things bovine, this particular platterful saw the beautifully-marbled slices of beef cooked to a perfect medium-rare. Ably enhancing its inherent flavours yet further, meanwhile, were an array of condiments – pink salt, garlic chips, whole grain mustard and a soy sauce foam – that defiantly added an extra delightful dimension to every forkful.
Next to arrive tableside was the Mixed Chicken Platter. Rather than opting simply for the standard chicken cuts – legs, thighs, breasts – this decidedly bold dish actually treats the more daring diner to an epicurean exploration of the less-feted parts of the bird – to wit, the liver, gizzard, heart, skin, soft bone, neck, wing and tail. Thankfully, despite this unorthodoxy, there’s something on the platter to suit every taste. Fans of foie gras, for example, will enjoy the rich decadence of the liver, while the soft bone boasts an interestingly crunchy texture. The most unusual though, is undoubtedly the chicken tail skewer with its striking gelatinous and fatty texture.
In the case of the next course – the Minced Chicken Stick – its rather innocuous appearance definitely belied the flavourful punch packed into every bite. The meat proper is, apparently, hand-ground to a secret recipe, with the grill then imparting its own deliciously smoky legacy. The highlight, though, is the accompanying dipping Japanese egg yolk and soy sauce, which adds a luxuriant layer of creaminess.
For its part, the penultimate platter, Lamb Rack, comprised two Australian lamb chops accompanied by whole-grain mustard and a verdant mint sauce. Once again showcasing the chef’s skills, the meat came wholly unadorned save for a sprinkle of salt and pepper, ensuring its inherent flavours shone through, with the refreshing sweet mint sauce cutting through any lingering oiliness.
It’s with some reluctance we then moved onto the Hokkaido Butter Scallops, but only because we knew it was the concluding course. Undeniably a guilty pleasure, the buttery sauce enhanced (while simultaneously tempering) the oceanic accents of the mollusc, allowing its sweet tenderness to shine through. As with the day’s other dishes, it again showcased the chef’s deft understanding of the delicate interplay between each ingredient the notes imparted by grilling over an open fire – undoubtedly two of the many reasons why Ensō could well be K-Town’s next Big Thing.
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