A new restaurant opens practically every day here, but fickle customers, newer entries and rising rents mean slim chances of survival. So it’s a big deal that four-year-old Fat Cow lives on, despite being tucked away in Camden Medical Centre, at the edge of the Orchard Road shopping belt. Helmed by chef Fukashi Adachi (below), the contemporary Japanese joint is best known for its signature charcoal-grilled wagyu beef, sashimi offerings and Japanese-inspired cocktails.
The grilled wagyu steak ($89-$148 for a half cut) is a must-try. Choose from three grades of wagyu – A3, A4 and A5 (the higher the number, the more marbling) – and specify the doneness level. (FYI: Adachi says the Japanese Imperial family prefers the A4.) My A3 steak is perfection – charred outside, tender inside, delicious, and just the right portion (fills me up but leaves room for dessert). The roasted ginger sauce that accompanies it is tasty, but completely unnecessary – really good beef should make anyone forgo the sauce.
The key lies in the right charcoal: Adachi shares that Fat Cow uses a binchotan, a high-grade white charcoal, for grilling. “It’s essential for a Japanese grill as it ensures consistency in grilling,” he says. “While it takes more time to start, binchotan burns hot and steady for a longer period of time.” Which essentially means anything you put on a binchotan-fuelled grill cooks a high, consistent temperature – exactly what the best steaks are made of.
Don’t fancy beef? Get the fried zucchini blossom stuffed with steamed crab, scallop and yuzu mayo (below, $30). Best freaking piece of tempura that’s ever had the grace to land on my plate. I don’t even like zucchini, but the flower is different – lighter, less cucumber-like – and tastes great fried.
I never thought I’d ever say this, but: The salads are amazing. The Momotaro “Sashimi” Salad ($16), made with juicy momotaro tomatoes flown in fresh twice a week from Japan, is a game changer – it will upturn your entire understanding of how tomatoes taste. Adachi says that’s the whole point: “It’s so simple, but really good. I try not to do too much to it – I want people to taste the tomato.”
Another fuss-free but tasty dish: the onsen egg (below, $16), cooked for 20 minutes at a constant temperature of 63 deg C (the temperature of the water of hot springs – also called onsens – in Japan). Served with a chunk of fried beef bone marrow that melts in the mouth.
Seafood freaks, try the raw sea bream sashimi (below, $38). It’s fresh and delicate, with slivers of black truffle – an unusual but really well-balanced combination of flavours. The fish is sliced really, really thinly – something only possible with a good knife, says Adachi. The one he uses at Fat Cow is from a knife-maker in famed Tokyo fish market Tsukiji – it cost about $300.
The food at Fat Cow is so good, but it may never have happened. Adachi tells me that he didn’t set out to be a chef – he fell into cooking through part-time stints at restaurants in Tokyo while pursuing his degree in international relations. “My family is supportive, but it took a lot of convincing,” he says with a laugh, adding that he expects his son to announce a desire for an unconventional career at some point – “It’s karma!”
So let’s drink to the fact that Adachi did end up a chef – with a glass of Fat Cow’s signature Fat Sour ($16, a classic reimagined with sake instead of whisky).
For an indulgent lunch in August, try Fat Cow’s SG50 Shokado Bento set ($50++ each), featuring a selection of traditional Japanese fare such as kinpirago (sautéed burdock and carrots) as well as a Fat Cow favourite, its Wagyu Hamburg Steak, and a selection of sashimi.
Fat Cow is at #01-01/02 Camden Medical Centre (tel: 6735-0308). Seats fill up really fast, so do make a reservation or risk being terribly, terribly disappointed.
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