When one thinks of omakase dining, an all-too-posh, forbidding atmosphere comes to mind. But they do it a little differently at Ren Lounge. Divided into different spaces for a range of dining experiences, the establishment’s got you seated at the counter if you’re there for omakase, in the lounge if you’re winding down with drinks, and even a private room should you seek more privacy. Better yet, hop from room to room as you go through the various concepts that Ren Lounge has to offer—the choice is completely yours.
Nestled on the first floor of South Beach right beside JW Marriott, Ren Lounge promises great drinks, even better company, and some of the best fare you could possibly end your Thursday evening with.
What I tried
All Dinner Menus at Ren Lounge start with seasonal appetisers, soup, and dessert, regardless of whether you opt for the Sushi Edomae (S$150), Icho Omakase (S$180), Hana Omakase (S$250), or Chef’s Special (S$350).
Today’s appetiser is a platter of sweet figs, the textural party-in-your-mouth that is herring roe, and heavily umami firefly squid, which owner, Sugi, explains, are nearing the end of their season, so we’ve caught the lucky tail-end of the batch in the nick of time.
What starts us off on the Chef’s Special are delicate slices of kampachi, or amberjack, as well as shima aji, or striped jack, which presents a soft, melt-in-your-mouth consistency and deserves to be savoured slowly and carefully.
To follow, there’s of course the perennial chutoro, which I would obviously know all about after researching plenty to put this listicle of tuna sashimi cuts together, and also the golden eye snapper with its warm, pink hue.
Interlacing our slew of sushi and sashimi dishes this afternoon is a warm, comforting abalone broth that’s made all the spicier (read: better) with a yuzu pepper paste that’s served on the side, and added to taste.
Heaven knows I’m not showing up to an omakase seating unless uni and ikura are both also on the menu, and thankfully they come by way of a compact uni, ikura, and caviar bowl that’s enough to have me squealing for days. For the sake of my friendships, it’s probably better that we’re only allowed to meet in limited groups these days because I probably just wouldn’t shut up about how each ikura pearl and sliver of uni just coats your palate with rich goodness, and how everyone should most definitely get a taste.
A serving of smoky grilled tuna cheek rises to greet us just before the onslaught of six nigiri sushis hit our plates. The grilled dish comes as a welcome switch from the previous sashimi dishes, adding a different mouthfeel and bite into the mix of the whole dinner course. The tuna cheek’s flakiness also makes it easy to appreciate, and even easier to relish in small, unhurried bites.
Flounder and ika, or squid, mark the firsts of our nigiri segment of the evening, each softer and more delicate than the last. The ika’s cloud-white, almost translucent appearance is testament to its freshness, and this is altogether confirmed when I pop it into my mouth, and its tenderness and sweetness immediately take over. Both protein choices are great to start with because of how subtle and mild the flounder and ika are, so you’re working your way carefully across the various fishes. And that’s how you sieve out the intentionality and thoughtfulness of an omakase course.
Two well-loved cuts of tuna—chutoro (medium fatty tuna) and shimofuri (a cut in between medium fatty and fatty tuna)—follow next, each slightly marbled and tender in its own right. Though tuna might not always be my first fish of choice, I know good toro when I taste it.
Wrapping up the six-piece nigiri sushi flight, kohada (gizzard shad) and aji (Japanese horse mackerel) are last to grace the table. The thing with omakase is that the less-than-familiar fishes are at risk of being dismissed as ‘exotic’ and end up under-appreciated for all their uniqueness. With every fish weaved into the menu with great intent and curation, it’s understandable why we’re ending off with the kohada, which presents a much firmer bite compared to the ones that came before it.
A pairing of salt and sweet sauce-coated anago (sea eel) trail quickly after, which many might be quick to confuse with unagi. Compared to unagi’s rich flavour, anago is used in lighter, more delicate situations such as these. A palate cleanser comes by way of a homemade (as most things are around here) miso soup that brims with the umami goodness which is what’s exactly needed to end off the meal.
After the party that was a very extensive omakase menu, truly wind up the meal with a platter of just about the juiciest fruits your palate will have the privilege of savouring. Between the Kyoho grapes, mango, and sweet, sweet melon, it’s hard to even begin picking my favourite one—and this is coming straight from someone who’s strictly not a fruit person. Usually, I’d be happy to skip over the post-dinner fruits, but if fruits at home meant incredibly succulent, candied, and just mouth-wateringly saccharine ones like what we’re served at Ren Lounge, sign me up for fruit hour, every day.
Aside from the glorious omakase spread which I’d jump at any opportunity to have again, Ren Lounge also offers an a la carte menu for those who might prefer having the meal curation in their own hands. For an experience that’s still packed with opulence, you might opt for the Sakura Set (S$88.80) which features a platter of assorted sushi, sashimi, and appetisers good for one or two persons.
Here’s where you’ll find some familiar faces like the chutoro, flounder, kohada, akami, amberjack, and ika served in a row of nigiri sushi—perfect for popping in between sips of sake and conversation.
The set also encapsulates freshly-shucked oysters with ponzu sauce, spicy radish, and spring onion, as well as a selection of smoked bonito, golden eye snapper sashimi, and yellow jack sashimi.
Finally, the Sakura Set concludes with my favourite part; a delightful ikura bowl that’s just as good an ending to an already-satisfying meal as any.
Vera’s ‘Chef Kiss Award’
With a meal as decadent as the one I just had, asking me to declare the evening’s best will be like picking a favourite child. Nonetheless, I will try.
While every slice of fish was delicately prepared and served with unparalleled thoughtfulness, it’s hard for the uni, ikura, and caviar bowl not to take centre stage after that burst of flavour. It goes without saying that I’ll be thinking about that combination for a long, long time coming.
What I personally love most about Ren Lounge is its flexibility and diversity when it comes to experiences—omakase for date night? Absolutely. Drinks and bar bites with friends? Right this way. Birthday celebration for the boss? Here, have a table for two. It’s here where you’ll really find such a range of concepts for just about any palate, and any occasion.
Book your table at Ren Lounge here.
Expected damage: S$24.80 – S$350 per pax
*This post was brought to you in partnership with Ren Lounge.
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