Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Ootoya Japanese Restaurant and Panasonic - Indoor Grown Vegetables with Japanese Home Styled Cooking

Mention Panasonic and the first thing that comes to mind are consumer electronic products from this famous Japanese giant. Food is likely the last thing you will associate with them.

But today, Panasonic is making great strides in using their techno know how to cultivate vegetables in an indoor environment in a land scarce country like Singapore.

Their efforts in growing vegetables via a controlled soil-based environment and with LED lighting is a first in this country.

And to demonstrate the results of their efforts, Panasonic has collaborated with Ootoya Group to launch a series of new dishes in Ootoya's three outlets in Singapore to showcase their agricultural products.

Senior Executives from Ootoya and Panasonic

One of the main advantages in using this process is the shorter turnaround in the cultivation period, and that in turn will result in lower costs for the restaurants and outlets that purchase the vegetables.

The first varieties that have come out from Panasonic's indoor farm include mini red radish, red leafy lettuce and mizuna (potherb mustard). I was on hand at their media tasting to sample some of these.

Salad Roll with Bagna Dressing

Looking a bit like Vietnamese spring rolls, the various vegetables were wrapped in rice paper and served with a tartar like dip that was made from anchovies, cream, milk and garlic.

The vegetables looked and tasted largely the same, except for a slight crispier edge to it. As a dish, it was simple but refreshing and I enjoyed the creamy dip that had just enough of a sharpness and kick to bring that essential hit of flavors to the salad.

Homemade Tofu with Sesame Dressing

I liked this homemade tofu dish even better. Using the same vegetables throughout their salad dishes, the creamy and slightly grainy texture of the tofu really blended well with the crunchy textures of the lettuces and radishes.

The sesame dressing was also refreshing, light and sweet. I particularly enjoyed how the dish came together as a whole with the different levels of flavors and crunch.

Bonito Salad with Vegetable Dressing

The bonito flakes that garnished this salad was less successful, but still enjoyable nevertheless. The tangy dressing that had lemon, onion and bell pepper was less pronounced and needed just a bit more flavor to give it a bit more depth and dimension to the dish.

Grilled Mackerel Set

As this was my first outing at Ootoya, I had to sample some of their regular dishes. The grilled mackerel set looked pretty much value for money as it was served with the typical Japanese sides of chawamushi, pickled vegetables and miso soup.

What I liked was that homecooked feeling you get when you tuck into the dishes. Every component was simple abut elegant, and the mackerel was done just right. Meaty, moist and a hint of smokiness to take away some of the fish odor. A most hearty and fulfilling set meal.

Grilled Pork Belly Set

The pork belly set was even better. The side dishes vary from set to set, but some of the staples are the same. The chawanmushi was again, simple but flavorful and beautifully done.

The pork belly slices were well seasoned and grilled to a faultless tenderness. I also enjoyed the rice bowl as well. There is something about imported Japanese rice that makes every grain so shiny and delectable.

Most of the new salad dishes will be launched in the coming week and you should be able to find them in all 3 of Ootoya's outlets by the time you read this.

It seems like taking advantage of technology to grow cheaper and better vegetables is the way to go in the near future. As for how it tastes, it is certainly as good, if not, better than what we are getting from conventional methods today.

Hopefully, as Panasonic widens its range of products, it will mean that food costs in the longer term can be kept down and the cost savings can be passed back to the consumers and customers. It is time to arrest our increasing food prices and return to normalcy.

Ootoya Japanese Restaurant
#08-12 Orchard Central
181 Orchard Road

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