Fifteen consecutive courses of breaded, deep-fried nibbles on skewers might scare off some eaters. So might the set price of $100 per person, before drinks. But the Japanese tradition of Kushikatsu is nothing short of art, and a meal at Si Bon on Singapore's Sentosa Island is worth every cent.
The restaurant opened with the Amara Sanctuary Resort on the site of former British military barracks. Si Bon sits inside an old chapel, a space that was not so much restored as stripped, leaving the peaked ceiling beams, raw brick walls and a new three-sided wooden bar overlooking the prep area—the best place to watch chefs prepare each bite-sized course.
I couldn't have imagined a better beginning than the savory chilled pumpkin soup served in a cordial glass. And I couldn't have imagined a better follow-up than the scallop tartare with truffle oil, a dish that melted on the tongue.
Each skewer came with instructions from the chef: Dip in black sauce, red sauce, mustard, lime, salt or nothing at all. First came a huge leg of Hokkaido snow crab (salt and lime), which tasted fabulous but proved unwieldy on the skewer. Every course thereafter was breaded, and deep-fried, but so lightly and beautifully that nothing tasted greasy or dense. There was a perfectly cooked scallop; cheese with sea bream and Japanese lemon leaf; and minced chicken topped with tonburi, the marvelous seeds of the summer cypress. Cuttlefish came with a creamy layer of sea urchin; crunchy lotus root was coupled with minced meat; rich, succulent duck contrasted with piquant spring onion.
Side salads came between courses: fragrant cabbage, sesame, seaweed and bell peppers. Cool green tea soba noodles. Delectable wine-soaked Japanese grapes.
And then dessert: grapefruit sorbet, pure refreshment in a bowl, intensely flavored without any sweetness. I ended the meal feeling full but not stuffed, and strolled home pondering every detail of this well-crafted meal.