Butahage has famous butadon and tempura in Suntec City
If you’re a huge Japanese food stan, you might have heard of Butahage, a famous restaurant from Hokkaido that’s officially opening its doors at Suntec City tomorrow, 1 August 2023. After all, it’s not the first time the butadon expert is setting up shop here in Singapore—they launched in Liang Court back in 2015 before closing after three years.
Butahage is helmed by third-generation Chef Hitoshi Yano, whose son is taking charge of the operations of the Singapore outpost.
Food at Butahage
For the uninitiated, butadon is a popular Japanese rice dish that originated in Hokkaido. The simple yet hearty pork donburi comprises three main components: short-grain rice, grilled pork loin slices, and a sweet-savoury tare sauce.
You won’t break the bank at Butahage, with the priciest item of the lot being their signature Obihiro Meibutsu Japanese Pork Loin Don—$24.80++ for a large bowl and $19.90++ for the regular.
What makes Butahage’s version special is an 80-year-old tare sauce. This secret glaze is slow-cooked in an old-fashioned cauldron for a long period of time, resulting in a flavourful balance of sweet, smoky, savoury, and umami. The tare was not too sweet nor overly salty, pairing excellently with the delicious Hokkaido Nanatsuboshi rice. NGL, I was happy enough with the plump and fluffy rice drenched in the umami-packed sauce, sans protein.
$24.80++ isn’t cheap by any means, but you do get six hefty slices of pork loin, which were properly meaty and juicy. For the Singapore branch, the pork is sourced from Kyushu instead of Hokkaido.
I don’t usually gravitate towards fatty pork cuts as they can get rather jelak, so I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed the fat cap layer. Each piece was flavour-packed without any off-putting porky taste. Cooked over a traditional net grill known as amiyaki, the meat boasted a light char and visible grill marks that added visual appeal, thanks to the Maillard effect achieved from the family’s secret grilling technique.
My only gripe, if any, was that some of the pork slices could have been a tad more tender.
If you’re on a tight budget, there’s the more wallet-friendly Obihiro Meibutsu Pork Loin Don that uses Canadian pork instead. This is priced at $11.80++ for a regular bowl and $14.80++ for the large version.
Otherwise, I highly recommend the Tendon ($9.50++) AKA tempura donburi. We were utterly impressed by the portion of tempura in this bowl; you get two prawns, a crab stick, Japanese mountain yam, pumpkin, and long bean, topped with the same premium short-grain rice.
The tempura was delightfully light and crisp, without any greasy aftertaste. The coating on each piece wasn’t too thick either, so you get to enjoy the natural flavour of the ingredients. Fun fact: the Yano family also owns a tempura shop!
Alternatively, the Hokkaido Special & Noodle Set ($19.80++) will fill you up nicely with an elevated assortment of tempura-battered items, including black tiger prawns, scallops, and salmon.
I particularly enjoyed the hot udon. Despite being softer than what I’d typically like, these noodles were pleasantly smooth and slippery, so I found myself unknowingly reaching for seconds and thirds. This udon is slightly flatter, unlike the thick and chewy kind you’d find at most run-of-the-mill chains.
I think I would have enjoyed the noodles more if they were a smidgen undercooked, but that’s just a personal preference. Also, I preferred the tempura items featured in the Tendon, which seemed to have a more even and consistent coating throughout.
Those who love a good bowl of chirashi don can consider the Salmon Mentai Avocado Don ($17.80++), a Singapore-exclusive item on the menu. Featuring a heaping layer of creamy mentaiko sauce blanketing generous slices of salmon sashimi and seaweed rice, this was my dining companion’s favourite.
At this point, if you’re still peckish, you can fill up on some sides and light bites. There’s a cute Butahage Bun ($4.60++), a riff on the classic kong bak bao but with Canadian pork belly glazed with the same signature tare. Otherwise, go for the Agedashi Imo Tempura ($3.80++) AKA tempura-ed sweet potato chunks.
There are only two desserts to round up the savoury experience, namely the Hokkaido Strawberry Milk Cheesecake ($5.80++) and Maple Glazed Sweet Potato ($4.80++). Though the cheesecake leaned sweet, its ice cream-like texture made it hard to stop as just one bite—we devoured it in no time.
Ambience at Butahage
The casual diner sits on the ground floor of Suntec City, located next to Promenade MRT Station on the Circle Line. There are 61 seats in total, including counter options for solo diners. If you can, opt for a table all the way inside for a more intimate and comfortable dining experience. It’s further away from the kitchen, which can get rather busy during peak hours.
Decor-wise, Butahage sports bright red seats offset by wooden tables—somewhat reminiscent of the compact, hole-in-the-wall eateries you’ll along the streets of Japan. It’s not a place to stay and chit-chat, but perfect for a midday or post-work meal to reward yourself with on a dreary weekday.
I was not expecting to enjoy Butahage as much as I did. While not everything was perfect, there were a few noteworthy dishes that, to me, warrant a second visit. I foresee long queues even beyond their grand opening day, so it might be wise to wait a while for the hype to die down instead of squeezing in with the throngs.
For more delicious eats in Suntec City, read our Chopstix & Rice review. The famous eatery sells delicious nasi padang paired with a fiery sambal. Otherwise, check out our Honbo review if you’re up for hearty burgers by a HK-famous chain in CHIJMES!
Address: 3 Temasek Boulevard, #01-625/626 (Tower 3) Suntec City, Singapore 038983
Opening hours: Daily 11am to 10pm
Butahage is not a halal-certified eatery.
Photos taken by Casandra Nicholas and edited by Aldrich Tan.
This was a media tasting at Butahage.