Southpaw Bar & Sushi: Premium Japanese Lunch Bowls Below $23, with Sashimi Flown in Fresh Daily From Japan
March 20, 2018
The protagonists behind Southpaw Bar & Sushi’s sublime, fully-booked-out omakases have introduced an afternoon dining experience with four finely tuned Japanese lunch bowls that ooze extravagance for an affordable sum only priced between $18.90 and $22.80.
Due to popular demand, Southpaw Bar & Sushi which once only exclusively opened in the evenings, will now be welcoming in the lunchtime crowd. If a $98/pax 13-course omakase isn’t your thing or is too princely a figure to get a taste of Japan’s premium culinary offerings, the lunch bowls are a great way of kindling a love affair with Southpaw.
The 12-seater Californian styled bar emanates a cozy homeliness despite its limited space. Diners dine right at the bar where they can watch their food being prepared fresh from scratch right infront of their very eyes and interact with Southpaw's warm and friendly team about anything under the sun – from food topics to matters of everyday life.
Lunch is available Monday to Friday, from 12noon to 2pm. Each lunch bowl is served with a piping hot bowl of miso soup. The same fastidious and passionate approach is taken in assembling the lunch bowls as it is for the full-blown omakase experience.
Southpaw’s strict culinary principles demand only the best and freshest seasonal produce they can obtain, which is why the sashimi is imported from Japan and other ingredients are airflown in from all corners of the globe, directly to Southpaw’s front door everyday. Nothing is kept to be reused the next day. The shipment transported in daily is obtained fresh from the various prefectures of Japan and other countries that carry its own local specialties, ensuring a diverse range of prime produce from far-flung regions.
Each don is carefully constructed with an underlying pile of fluffy sushi rice that has a slight al-dente bite. I am mostly carnivorous, and dislike eating non-meat ingredients especially rice and noodles (I find them too bland and tasteless to warrant the additional calories), but with my hand on my heart, I can attest for the profoundly delicious sushi rice that Southpaw uses for the lunch bowls.
In fact, I love the rice so much that I can eat it all on its own. The secret recipe behind the addictive rice is the implementation of nori and furikake. Dehydrated seaweed flakes and furikake (which is a dry Japanese seasoning consisting of dried fish, sesame seeds, chopped seaweed, sugar, salt and more) are incorporated into the rice which basically revolutionize its taste. The seasoning mixture enlivens the plain rice and gives it an umami, savory, fragrant and salty flavor combination.
Chirashi Don, $18.90 Mixed sashimi on rice served with miso soup
The assorted sashimi in Southpaw’s Chirashi Don differs from day to day depending on the freshest seasonal seafood that the restaurant can obtain. This kaleidoscopic melange on the day of my visit consisted of ikura, aburi mekajiki, aburi salmon, octopus sashimi, cooked prawn, scallop wing sashimi, tuna sashimi, hirame sashimi, salmon sashimi and saba sashimi, and three slices of grilled tamagoyaki.
The ikura popped with a salty deluge of rich juices, the aburi mekajiki had a supple yet fatty and tender bite, the aburi salmon was creamy and melted in the mouth with a smoky finish, the octopus sashimi was juicy and springy, the cooked prawn was mildly sweet with a supple texture, the scallop wing sashimi was soft and chewy with a delicate taste, the tuna sashimi was smooth and velvety with a mild succulent sweetness, the hirame sashimi was rich and buttery, the salmon sashimi was fatty, creamy and tender, the saba sashimi carried a bold fishy flavor and a slick oily texture, and the grilled tamagoyaki was eggy, sweet, and beautifully caramelized on the surface.
Shake Don, $17.90 Salmon sashimi on rice served with miso soup
The salmon don is a simple affair that is a big hit among fans of Japanese cuisine, as salmon is one of the most popular sashimi out there for its mild taste and pleasurable mouthfeel. In Southpaw's version, the flavorful rice is draped with many slices of luscious, fatty and creamy salmon sashimi and crowned with the savory omega-3 goodness of the bursting ikura spheres.
Every bite of salmon can be likened to a fish made out of snow gently melting away on the tongue. The thick, pure-white streaks that course through the salmon's flesh are indicative of a superior grade fish, the abundant channels of fat in Southpaw's specially sourced salmon sashimi amplifies and brings the salmon's melt-in-the-mouth creamy decadence to a whole other level. The mild sweetness and richness of the raw salmon is further complemented by little nuggets of savory juices released by the salmon caviar.
Wagyu Beef Don, $18.90 Aburi wagyu beef on rice served with miso soup
A generous serving of Australian Wagyu rump steak is aburi-ed on its exterior while the interior of the beef remains medium-rare so that the intramuscular fat that forms the beautiful marbling you see on raw beef stays intact and melts just ever so slightly. The melted fat keeps the meat tender, moist and juicy while infusing the beef with a great deal of flavor, while the unmelted fat, that still runs through the beef in fine lines, sets off a huge burst of juices and slowly dissolves in the mouth to a rich, creamy and succulent consistency. An onsen egg festoons the beautifully plated beef spiral to add that extra boost of thick, gooey creaminess from the yolk and a silkiness from the egg white to this meat-lovers' dish.
Sashimi Unajyu, $22.80 Mixed sashimi platter and unagi on rice served with miso soup
This lunch set is an underwater treasure trove of colorful culinary gems offering the best of both worlds. A smorgasbord of sashimi is served alongside an ample slab of grilled eel perched on a bed of rice. The sashimi served varies everyday, but each slice is picked for how they wildly contrast against their counterparts. The diverse flavors and textures of the sashimi platter keeps each bite fresh and exciting. For our lunch, we devoured the fatty and creamy salmon sashimi, the sweet and viscous botan ebi, the springy and succulent octopus sashimi, the robust and oily saba sashimi and the rich and velvety tuna sashimi.
The grilled eel alternates between unagi (freshwater eel) and anago (seawater eel) based on the whims of the restaurant's “catch of the day” from Japan. None triumphs over the other, and the both are equally delicious in their own unique ways. The freshwater eel has a bolder and richer taste with a firmer bite and flakier flesh where as the seawater eel is more of a delicate option with an incredibly soft texture and a natural sweetness.
The eel we consumed (pictured above) is the anago. Right off the bat, as soon as we placed a morsel of the seawater eel in our mouths, the texture of the dulcified eel radically evolved on the tongue and immediately melted down, the abundance of fats in the meat rapidly dissipating and giving the palate a divine wash of viscous and buttery fattiness. It was incredibly sweet and sticky, which beautifully correlated with the smoky and slightly chargrilled bits derived from the grill.