Behind The Counter With Akiba Shigeo, Head Chef Of NAMI Restaurant and Bar
The newly refurbished Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore marries the best of architecture and modern beauty.
After 8 months of intense renovation, the hotel’s iconic Tower Wing now boasts a renewed lobby, a new Horizon Club Lounge and suites, as well as brand new flavours catering to even the most finicky diner.
The NAMI Restaurant and Bar is one such space.
NAMI Restaurant and Bar / Image Credit: Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
The menu is a collective effort by its chefs, as they bring together decades of experience to create exquisite seafood dishes. Helming this team is Head Chef Akiba Shigeo.
Head Chef Akiba Shigeo
For someone with experience cooking for the Japanese royalty, sports celebrities and movie stars, Chef Akiba comes off as an unassuming man with no airs about him.
Behind the Sushi bar of NAMI Restaurant and Bar / Image Credit: Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
Chef Akiba’s face carries affable laugh lines and gentle creases, and he speaks in a mellowed tone that is both humbling and almost endearing.
The interview began promptly, as Chef Akiba shares how he grew up watching his mother cook.
“She was a home economics elementary teacher, lovingly cook traditional Japanese meals at home while I growing up in Yokohama. That got me interested in cooking.”
“She passed away when I was 7, and my fondest memories were of her cooking my favourite food – chicken macaroni gratin.”
Chef Akiba’s Omakase Set / Image Credit: Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore
Over the years, Chef Akiba discovered his preferences for preparing Takiawase dishes (simmered vegetables served with meat, fish or tofu) and Nitsuke dishes (fish poached in a broth of sweetened dashi, sometimes with miso).
Both types of dishes are featured on the menu at NAMI Restaurant and Bar.
Of Joyu And Wellness
Shigeo Akiba reveals that all his dishes are built to complement his signature sauces.
“I have 3 signature special sauces – Sashimi Joyu, Sushi Joyu and Tosa Joyu.”
“These are all homemade with using varying blends of shoyu, dashi, mirin and sake to best bring out the flavours of the food they are paired with. They all contain my special dashi stock for a much lighter and unique tasting sauce that is bursting with umami, while being less salty compared to pure shoyu.”
Pan-fried Tuna Head with Chef Akiba’s Sweet Soy Sauce / Image Credit: Salt Magazine
While the food is less salty and healthier, it certainly does not compromise on flavour. Natural ingredient flavours are highlighted without heavy sauces or seasoning.
All this is brought about through a minimalist cooking style, and the use of premium ingredients.
“Seafood is flown in 4 times a week, twice a week from Tokyo, once a week from Hokkaido and once a week from Kyushu,” he says, moving his hands animatedly as he spoke.
“This ensures we gather the best of regional ingredients.”
Their dashi stock is made from top quality katsuobushi (fermented and smoked skipjack tuna) and kombu (kelp).
Katsuobushi / Image Credit: Hiragana Times
With ingredients that also make an appearance at other 5-star luxury hotels and Michelin-starred restaurants, Chef Akiba is responsible for ensuring only the best make the cut.
“Out of every 10,000 pieces of katsuobushi, only one is selected to be fermented and aged two or more years,” he reveals.
“This fermentation and ageing process produces a more complex, sweeter flavour, intense fragrance and increased umami.”
Image Credit: DestinAsian
His mother brought him and his family beautiful memories of food as a child, he reiterates.
“Now I want to bring the same happiness and familial warmth to all my guests.”
“I hope to show guests the true taste of authentic Japanese cuisine by transporting the style and taste of Tokyo cuisine here.”
“Guests don’t need to fly to Japan to enjoy the beauty of Japanese service and quality.”