Fun, cheeky updates at Tanuki Raw
Tanuki Raw is Japanese food, through American eyes.
Those eyes belong to reality TV star-turned-restaurateur Howard Lo, who built his love for Japanese food into an empire.
The first outlet opened in 2012 at Orchard Central, and the crowd went wild for its truffle yakiniku donburi.
They have not left. Even on a weeknight, make sure you have a reservation.
Outlets at the National Design Centre and Jewel Changi Airport opened in 2016 and this April respectively, with each offering outlet exclusives.
Keeping it fresh is important to a restaurant, and the Orchard Central branch has updated its menu.
The changes are not radical. Instead, there are enhancements and delicious additions.
One of my favourite new items started as a simple idea: Freshly shucked oysters topped with ingredients, and it turned out to be addictive.
I was especially hooked on the combination of mentaiko mayo with oyster ($6 each).
There is something about the double umami impact of both components that draws you in.
There are three other toppings - ikura (good), truffle (better) and green chinmi chilli sauce (best) - but none came close to the mentai.
BAOS HERE AND EVERYWHERE
Also new on the menu are the baos. Increasingly, baos are appearing on menus of trendy eateries, and they made their way into the one at Tanuki Raw.
The version here comes with a choice of fillings such as snowcrab ($13.90), lobster ($15.90) and braised beef ($14.90).
I like the snowcrab version because the sweetness of the meat and the buttery fried buns go well together.
It is a fun, easy dish, and perfect for sharing.
Spam Wham! ($14.90) is not new and is a take on Tanuki Raw's classic Wham!, but it is a must-order.
The thick-cut, deep-fried spam fries are the main draw, but the accompanying dip of cheese, black garlic brown butter gravy, guacamole, onion and sour cream made it even better.
I polished off two servings in one sitting, so you know self-control will be required.
Those wanting to eat less meat have the option of the Impossible Toban Chilli Twister Fries ($14.90).
The bean paste is more salty than spicy, which I preferred. Perhaps the next incarnation of this ought to be mala fries.
One of the biggest additions is the range of baked rice with Okinawan black sugar miso. You can get it with unagi ($22.90), braised pork ($20.90) or braised beef ($23.90).
But regardless of protein, it did not appeal to me.
A lot of the dishes are fun and slightly cheeky, but even though they taste good, it just seems too traditional.
The value is excellent, but I prefer fun over the expected.
04-01, Orchard Central
Opens 11.30am to 10.30pm