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Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo

Tsukada Nojo Singapore

Tsukada Nojo (塚田農場) is a Japanese restaurant serving “bijin nabe” (美人鍋; translates as beauty hot pot) as its specialty dish. Even though I know that “bijin nabe” (bijin means a beautiful girl, while nabe means hot pot in Japanese) sounded super gimmicky, I think they got their marketing right, because I do feel compelled by the key words “hot pot”, “collagen” and “beauty” to want to try it out. This review is for my visit to the Chinatown Point outlet on a Saturday evening. Even though the restaurant was closed between 3-5pm, we often see people queuing as early as 430pm waiting for the first dinner seating at 5 pm! Due to the constant queue, the diners were limited to 1 and half hours per seating. We reached at 6 plus and waited roughly half an hour for our table.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
They charge the beauty collagen hot pot at S$25 per head with minimum of two persons to order. So we can’t order one pot to share while trying out the other ala carte dishes. The reason why they call it a beauty pot was due to these pudding cubes of chicken stock, the star of the hot pot. They are imported from Hokkaido daily. According to the menu, these cubes were made from stewing organic free-range chicken for 8 hours until the bones were fully dissolved (:O), and then allowed to cool to room temperature. As a cook, I wondered how they make the chicken cube so smooth. Supposedly the soup cube only contain three ingredients – chicken bones (they call their chickens Jidori), salt and water.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
The pot containing the solidified collagen chicken stock was put on the electric induction stove top where they started melting almost immediately.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
Soon after, they melt completely to form a rich chicken stock. The waitress will let you sample the soup in an ochoko (sake cup) before you cook the ingredients, so that you know what it originally taste like, before you start cooking. Yes, the soup was definitely rich tasting.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
This was the platter for the hot pot. This serving size was for two. You get four prawns (on skewers), one tori tsukune, one of each veg (lady finger, bean curd puff, baby corn, yellow zucchini, water melon radish) and some vegetables (black fungus, sunflower sprouts, lettuce, baby sweet potato leaves). I think they took a lot of care to plan this platter so that there is one of each colour.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
The chicken broth also came with four cuts of boiled chicken (two for each person). A pretty Japanese waitress fished them out from the pot, to two bowls for us before she started cooking.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
Once the soup bubbles, the waitress cooked the hot pot for us, starting from this Tori Kusune (chicken meatball) which she pushed out using a wooden spatula.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
Then she added all the rest of the ingredients with the exception of the baby sweet potato leaves and prawns as they overcook easily. If I come back again, I will request to cook the hot pot by ourselves, as I think they added the ingredients too quickly all at once, while we prefer to cook at our leisure and dine more casually. You can ask for one complimentary refill of soup during the meal.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
These are the condiments on the table.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
Negi ginger oil, a spicy chilli paste and I am not sure what’s the one on the left.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
We only liked the negi ginger oil, and requested a top up :)

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
Almost three quarters through our dinner, the cute Japanese waitress came back and said she had a present for us – her heart (so cute haha). It’s actually seaweed paste, which you can eat on its own or add to the soup. I don’t really like it added to soup.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
The hot pot also came with 3 types of noodles (ramen) to choose from – and we ordered the most popular thin egg noodles. The other two choices were thick mochi mochi noodles and rice noodles. I wish they come with all three (in smaller portions) so we can try one of each. I have a feeling I will still order egg noodles the next time as they looked the most appealing.

Bijin Nabe at Tsukada Nojo
When we are finished with our meal, the waitress gifted us our final present – dessert served with a customized cute cartoon drawing on a plate. So cute! I hope the reason why my face was bigger was because she drew me first, and ran out of space… haha … :P

Tsukada Nojo Singapore
And a final final present before we leave – we now officially join their company as assistant managers with a name card haha. We had to write our names on the spot on the name card. You will be promoted based on the number of times you visit and be rewarded accordingly. The easiest promotion is the second visit (because I think statistically, it will be most difficult to make a customer return a second time, haha) where I *think* you will get a free plate of food. We were told that the name cards are valid even in Japan.

Tsukada Nojo Singapore

This was the company structure as of 28 June 2014 (the date of our visit).

My Verdict

At S$25 per person, I thought the hot pot was not cheap but at least the ingredients were fresh and the soup was rich and tasty. Do they put MSG in their soup? I do feel a bit thirsty after dinner. But I don’t really mind MSG anyway. I think a large part of their success is due to very clever marketing (naming it a beauty hot pot), good presentation, chic interior and attentive service. If you take away the frills (no fancy names, no personalized service of one waitress waiting on each table, no name cards etc) the food might be cheaper, but the restaurant might not be so successful, so I guess everything fits in. I will be back but not too soon (maybe once a year?), as I think it is more fun & novel the first time round. It’s a great fun place for a date or with a group of friends definitely ^^

Tsukada Nojo Singapore

Tsukada Nojo 塚田農場

Speciality Dish: Bijin Nabe (美人鍋)

Links: Facebook page and website (in Japanese)

Tip: I read that not every outlet serves bijin nabe on weekends (not verified), so if you want to call the outlet to enquire beforehand.

Chinatown Point Outlet (the one we visited for this review)
Address 133 New Bridge Road #02-37 Chinatown Point (Chinatown MRT)
Tel  64448840
Opening Hours 11:30-15:00(Lunch); 17:00-22:00(Dinner)

Plaza Singapura Outlet
Address 68 Orchard Road Plaza Singapura #03-81 (Dhoby Ghaut MRT)
Tel 63365003
Opening Hours 11:30-15:00(Lunch); 17:00-22:00(Dinner)

Westgate Outlet
Address 3 Gateway Drive #03-04 Westgate (Jurong East MRT)
Tel 64659356
Opening Hours 11:30-15:00(Lunch); 17:00-22:00(Dinner)

   

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