Double the selection, half the quality16 June, 2012 by Chad
We’ve been down to Jurong East’s new weaboo mall JCube a couple times now. The spacious shopping complex is home to quite a few Japanese themed restaurants and eateries. One of the establishments is a place called Itacho Sushi x Jika Udon. Bearing the name of what is now possibly Singapore’s most popular sushi joint, the heartlands might seem like an unusual place to put this hybrid sushi-udon restaurant.
Jika Udon is just one of the many franchise brands under Hong Kong’s Taste of Japan Group of companies. Udon as you know it, is not exactly a popular dish in Singapore. Most prefer the thicker, saltier ramen over the white noodles. Rather than opening a stand alone restaurant in Singapore, they’ve opened this new experimental restaurant which would cater to a larger audience.
As far as udon goes, the udon served at this restaurant under the Jika Udon name is of the no frills, budget variety. Servings are on the small side, but start at just $6 for a bowl of plain udon. There’s a small selection of slightly different dishes to choose from and udon with something on the side, like tempura or pork cutlet as well as curry udon go for a standard $10-$11 each.
Thanks to the low cost, there’s not much to complain about when ordering the udon here. Prices are comparable to other franchise chains like Sushi Tei or Waraku, without too much difference in quality. The convenience of having it in the heartlands is a definite plus.
Things would be nice if we ended it there. But we’ll have to take a look at the other half of the menu, when Itacho Sushi is the more prominent of the two names in the title.
Singaporeans will no doubt be familiar with the franchise. Since its opening two years ago, Itacho Sushi has continued to draw ridiculous crowds at its ION Orchard branch and a number of other outlets that have sprung up since. Yan detailed our experience there in this writeup two years ago.
Sadly, as you can see from the pictures above, the sushi served now look nothing like the ones back then. And this applies to not just this particular outlet or day. We’ve been making regular trips to Itacho Sushi all this while and the quality of food served has been in constant decline.
Sushi cuts are now half the size, all while prices continue to rise. I don’t really blame them though, considering that business still remains as prolific as ever. Just part of the Asian business culture.
We actually visited Itacho Sushi x Jika Udon twice, to see how things go. But the experience was particularly bad this day. Service was, in short, terrible. I usually not one to take issue with service, and have no qualms with a place like say Saizeriya, but when you’re actually paying that extra charge one would expect some basics. (There is no tipping culture in Singapore. Instead sit down restaurants usually employ a 10% service charge on top of the bill.)
This was mostly due to how understaffed the place was, with only 3 serving the entire restaurant. We weren’t given any water at all for the entire meal and had to specifically flag someone down to get some at the end.
Judging from the food, the kitchen probably didn’t fare any better. It seemed like all the sushi had been sitting around a while before they were served. The rice was clumpy, dry and hard. It is likely that they were pre-rolled up earlier and left there. Which sort of defeats paying a premium over the supermarket grade stuff.
We also ordered a couple of stuffed crabs, which used to be one of the restaurant’s highlights. While they used to be stuffed to the brim with shredded crab with a little bit of rice added on the side, now the crab shell was almost entirely filled with just rice and mushrooms. The mushrooms overpowered the taste of the entire dish. Oddly, the rice inside the shell was cold as well. Yan suggested that the dish had been cooked separately and the crab shells had been reused. It seems possible.
As much as I want to love Itacho Sushi like in the past, all of their corner-cutting makes it really difficult. Right now, the only thing that Itacho Sushi and its Jika Udon hybrid has over the competition would be in variety. But when it comes to good quality food, I guess we’d have to stick to Chikuwa Tei for that raw fish fix now.
Supermerlion's Webmaster and Editor-in-Chief. Singaporean Nikkeijin with over 12 years of experience in the media industry. Producer at a Japanese entertainment company. Former Web Developer, Graphic Designer, Multimedia Programmer, Manager and Consultant. Shoots with a Canon 5Dmk2.