Keidi wanted a dinner partner, and I was bored to my bones at home so it was a no brainer. Besides, traveling during the evening rush hour had its perks – higher frequencies, near-empty buses, clear roads…
I thought life couldn’t crush me down any further, but when she suggested meeting at Ngee Ann City, I felt myself sink a little. After an emotional lull, I had regained my bravado, and had once again starting scouring the webs and firing off resumes and emails in every direction possible, but it wasn’t till earlier this week did I realize how horrible interviewers can be. One particular session was maliciously traumatic that I began questioning my self-worth – loosing my appetite, weight and dignity in the process. The idea that a stranger could hate mesooo much… Just the idea of it, is, to me, just, beyond comprehension. I’ve resigned to the fact that the old establishment, no matter how glorious the era was, had moved on, and for me to pursue such endeavors, while noble, just made me feel needy and desperate, and I just don’t know if they’re still the same people I once knew. So, meeting Keidi, was, in a sense, a return to something familiar albeit new, but at least it was a place I knew my presence would be appreciated somehow.
Our meal was consumed at Yonehachi, at Ngee Ann City’s basement food hall. Yonehachi, a Japanese chain with more than 150 outlets across Japan, is known for okawa rice, which is essentially glutinous rice with different toppings ranging from red bean, chestnut, sansai (vegetables), hikiji (chicken), and salmon. As expected with all things Japanese, the rice grain is sourced from Northern Honshu. Beautifully decorated, functional and compact, okawa rice is the perfect companion for excursions or long trips, which is why in Japan, it’s frequently available at the food halls of major station complexes and sold as an eki-bento set. In Singapore, we’ve no need for eki-bento, we don’t value takeaway boxes as collectibles, and we can’t eat in trains anyways (besides, train journeys don’t last more than an hour or so), so Yonehachi adopts a restaurant style concept instead as opposed to the ready-packed bentos counter stands in Japan.
On Keidi’s suggestion, we both chose the salmon okawa but in an effort to reduce wastage, and keep customers wanting more, the outlet serves a grand total of just 80kg of glutinous rice, so the salmon okawa was quickly not available. Instead, I had the sansai okawa in a Shokado set, which is essentially what you’ll get in Japan, except for the addition of miso soup, really – a small portion of the main. The second I had a bite, I felt like I was transported back to Japan. The glutinous rice was heavenly. The quality of the rice grain was very apparent, especially when you compare it to the local rice dumplings, which taste crude in comparison. It’s the star of the show, really, because you could eat it on its own, and it’d still be a wonderful meal. The sides don’t disappoint either, which I appreciated. My salmon, although small, was impeccable.