Millennia Walk is a mall that’s built for two groups of people: the people who can get to it because they work nearby, and the people who can get to it because they have a car, and would much rather be in a place where not too bothered by ease of public access, thank you very much.
Sure, now Promenade MRT is right next to the premises, but the shops and restaurants in Millennia Walk still reflect this audience. But Teppei Syokudo fits in this picture lengthwise, rather. What the successful Teppei restaurant (and by successful I mean there’s a post on their Facebook feed that might as well read ‘abandon hope all ye who want to have our omakase over the next few months’) has done is to open a cheap and cheery looking little joint, catering for… who, exactly? Well, whoever it is, they’re not supposed to have the time or inclination to eat away from a computer screen. Man lives on rice, but the market doesn’t really care about man.
I opt to eat in, but the dine-in arrangements look like an afterthought – ‘yes, we could put some stools and tables here I suppose, if those office people really have nowhere to go’. The tables are assemblies of widely spaced wooden slats; the walls bear the insignia of the Teppei group, like banners on a remote outpost of a very tasty kingdom. And when the food comes, it’s all in paper plates or plastic bowls, little troughs holding disposable cutlery.
It all ends up evoking mono no aware – that sadness one feels for the impermanence of all things, including lunch hours. And since lunch hours are fleeting like the sakura petals in the eastern breeze, one ought to spend them eating the right things – like kaisendon.
Chirashizushi has been around a long time, a deconstruction of the usual sushi arrangement – the name means ‘scattered sushi’ – where you arrange all the rice and all the fish in a bowl without bothering to press them together (Nigirizushi, naturally, is ‘hand-pressed sushi’). In Teppei’s rendition, the dish is further deconstructed into its components – cubes of salmon, tuna, whelk, scallops and swordfish are marinated in soy sauce, then piled on top of sushi rice with ikura.
The marinade brings out the subtle sweetness of the seafood without making a salty mess of everything, but I suspect it also helps to firm up the fish slightly. And that’s great, because it’s the textures that really make this dish – fine strands of scallop, the crunch of whelks, the springy softness of the salmon and the firmness of swordfish. The ikura burst at the slightest pressure, like little umami bombs. In turn, a scattering of ground sesame seeds, along with the sushi vinegar, adds a lifting note to the heavy umami of the soy marinade, so every bite is a range of mouthfeels and flavours. Bite, bite, bite… and before you know it your chopsticks are scrabbling on cold, black plastic. Mono no aware, I’m telling you.
I’ve been to Teppei Syokudo a few times now, always meaning to try something else; they switch things up quite frequently, offering curry and teriyaki and even ramen. But the kaisendon draws me in like a big oil lamp to a moth every single time. The stomach wants what it wants. The only occasion when I managed to fight that temptation and get a fried fish fillet, displayed so prominently at the counter, it was disappointing – good fish in poor batter, grease pooling and gleaming on the paper plate.
So the moral of the story, I suppose, is: stick to what you know is really good. Also, find a job in one of them offices near Millennia Walk, or near Takashimaya, where they’ve gone all out with a takeaway-only option in the basement food market – no accommodation for the idle, not this time. Always striving for perfection, that’s Japanese culture for you.
9 Raffles Boulevard
#01-105 Millenia Walk
391 Orchard Road
#B2 Takashimaya Food Hall, Ngee Ann City