What comes to mind when you think of curry? Spicy, thick gravy with either turmeric or coconut milk?
Be prepared to have your expectations thrown out the window at Sama Curry & Café. Originating from Sapporo, Hokkaido, they are the first Japanese soup curry restaurant here in Singapore.
I have to admit, while the cafe was adorable with its grumpy bear silhouette on the walls and on the menu, I was initially a little underwhelmed by the selection on the menu. With only 8 menu items, 2 of which were simply variations of the other items, it felt strange being so quickly certain of what I wanted to eat.
I ordered the Oink2 Hamburg ($16.90), Japanese Base, at spiciness level 10. I expected a simple thick curry gravy poured over a bed of warm rice and steamed veggies–after all, that’s what Japanese curries typically look like right?
Our 2 DiscoverSG ambassadors, Nicholas and Vanessa, ordered the Hungry Bear ($18.90) with Pork Belly, with a Shrimp Base, spiciness level 10, and a Cheesy Bear ($16.90) with a Coconut Base, spiciness level 13 respectively. We also decided to get the Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese ($6.50/2 pieces) and Hokkaido Crab Cream Croquette ($6.50/2 pieces) as sides.
To say we were surprised was an understatement. Receiving our curries in a bowl of what seemed like soup left us speechless for a couple of seconds. Couple that with the amazing smells wafting up in roiling steam, we couldn’t wait to dig into the unusual dish.
My dish came with a thick hamburg patty, surrounded by a bed of vibrant, assorted vegetables and half an Ajitsuke Tamago (Japanese marinated soft boiled egg).
At level 10 (out of 30) of spiciness, I was greeted with a gentle, warming heat from the light curry. While I thoroughly enjoyed the juicy beef patty, what intrigued me most were the vegetables. After a quick chat with the chef, we found out that the vegetables (potatoes, green peppers, baby corn, carrot and broccoli) were first pre-fried for around 10 seconds, before being assembled in the dish.
The pre-frying was clear from the crispy potatoes which only required the slightest pressure to achieve a satisfying popping of its crunchy skin, revealing a melt-in-your-mouth tender potato.
As for the curry broth… I still can’t figure out the components of its complex herb and spice mix. It was a special, secret recipe, which was probably why the chef wasn’t too keen to share what the particular herb dancing on my palate was. My guess is basil, but I could be wrong.
Flavours of shellfish burst forth from this curry, making one suspect that tons of shellfish, ranging from shrimp to clams, have been boiling for hours in this shrimp base to infuse it with such intense seafood flavours. You may think pork belly is a weird topping for a shrimp base curry, but the two actually paired nicely. Definitely a dish you’ll have to try for yourself to understand.
We also got to try the coconut base curry, which was both unique and familiar in flavour at the same time. The milky coconut essence floods your mouth without overwhelming the flavours of sweet cabbage, carrots and fragrant, crispy chicken katsu. The cheese was a nice touch, accenting the dish without distracting from the other components of the dish.
Our attentive waiter recommended the house’s special side: the Hokkaido Crab Cream Croquette.
Covered in the classic Japanese tempura breading, the croquette was stuffed with the creamiest crab mash ever. When topped with the savoury, slightly acidic dipping sauce (my guess is it’s Yakitori): Heaven.
I saved the best appetiser for the last: the Hokkaido Imomochi Cheese.
A thin, crispy breading reminiscent of fried ice cream, your teeth will sink into a layer of chewy mochi before hitting the jackpot of melted, oozing cheese. Coupled with a sweet teriyaki dipping sauce that enhances the delicate, dripping cheese, it’s safe to say that Sama Curry & Café has perfected their dishes.
With every dish packing a punch of flavour, scoring 10/10 on presentation, and breaking our expectations by surprising our palates, Sama Curry & Café is THE place to go to for a comforting and delicious workday lunch.
Sama Curry & Café
Address: OUE Downtown 2 Gallery Level 2, 6a Shenton Way Singapore 068809
Operating Hours: Mon – Sat: 11am – 9pm
Contact no.: 6224 0590