Mimigar at the Gallery Hotel is an izakaya; a Japanese pub serving small plates of food and alcohol, much like a Spanish tapas bar. And a worthy one at that.
It’s a cosy space – from the bar counter, chefs can be seen preparing items from the menu of salty eats. The food is Okinawan, hence dominated by pork, a sign of Chinese influence.
The menu is detailed and exotic, as demonstrated by our 15-plus chosen dishes: we started off with a passable okonomiyaki ($14), a Japanese pancake with toppings of cabbage, octopus, cheese and salmon. The flat dish is piled on with bonito flakes and drizzled with mayonnaise and a fruit sauce not unlike Worcestershire sauce. Sadly, the dish was only passable despite the numerous ingredients; perhaps the batter needed more seasoning.
This, and crab croquettes ($9) with a soft potato and cream center helped line our stomachs for the izakaya ritual of alternate drinks and food that followed.
We could not resist the pork belly, an Okinawan speciality done two ways: one, cooked until fork-tender in a sweet soya sauce, and another cured in salt then grilled.
Vegetable lovers would take to the bittergourd and ladies fingers ($7 each). Both stir-fried with beaten egg and pork, these chanpuru (‘mixed’)-styled dishes are reminiscent of Chinese home-cooked fare that hit home with us.
Noodles on the menu came bathed in a rich and tasty thick black squid ink sauce ($17), easily beating any Italian restaurant’s version. The seasonal tempura sweet potato sticks ($15) are sweet and nutty, while the deep fried seaweed dumplings (aosa tempura, $9) are redolent of the ocean.
Unfortunately the Mimigar Ponzu (pig’s ear in a tart citrus-based sauce, $8) was a let-down. It came thinly slivered and meagrely tossed with bean sprouts in a sour ponzu sauce. The shreds were so fine they were hard to find among the sprouts.
We washed it down with the comforting barely-set yushi tofu soup (fluffy tofu soup, $10) and zenzai ($8), a Japanese version of the ice kachang studded with soft chewy rice cakes.
In all, an experience like this is not cheap – costing about $50 a head, excluding drinks.