Japanese Buffet Entropy Theory: Shin Yuu

Shin Yuu special aburi salmon sushi

Growing up, Japanese food was expensive, usually a rare treat. Which is why I love the guilt-free (at least financially) abundance of the Japanese buffet. I remember my first, it was at the then Hotel New Otani. The highlight was the all you can eat sashimi. It was served on a large wooden boat. You had to be quick or all you would be left with was… well the wooden boat.

Soft shell crab spider roll

Over the years though, lots of budget Japanese restaurants have sprouted up in Singapore. Now the thought of all you can eat sashimi wouldn’t raise an eyebrow. My love for the Japanese buffet never diminished. Put the words “Japanese” and “buffet” and I’ll be drawn in like a mosquito to one of those ultraviolet light zappers. It will be the death of me one day.

Aburi salmon with crispy salmon skin

In all my eating, I’ve noticed that these Japanese buffet places usually start out great. They are generous and the quality of their ingredients is relatively good. But then one of two things happen. Either they do well and in order to capitalize on their popularity, they start to cut cost to maximize profit. Or they don’t do well and cut cost to minimize the hemorrhaging.

Raw salmon with crispy salmon skin. The aburi-ed one is better.

So my Japanese Buffet Entropy Theory states that the quality of a buffet place will only go down with time. My ex-favorite place used to have all the sashimi items I love, swordfish, mackerel and surf clam. Then slowly one by one the items would be pulled. It closed down a couple of months later.

Tuna belly with spring onion hand roll. Decent, but would have liked it to be more luscious.

Recently I found a new place. It might be my favorite yet. A poster said that the Japanese buffet came with a complimentary serving of toro (tuna belly) and fugu mirin boshi (puffer fish.) The pull grew stronger and I felt my belly gravitate towards the door. But they weren’t open for another 30 minutes. I had a packed schedule so with surprising self-control I didn’t indulge. I was back the next day with K-Dubs.

Otoro or chutoro? Just toro? Not the best I’ve had. But it’s free! Picture from my latest visit. Didn’t bring my camera the first time.

There was indeed the complimentary toro. It was a piece of aburi-ed sushi. We were instructed not to dip it in soy sauce; there was already sauce on it. I love gastro-dominatrix talk.

Yes Master I will not dip it in soy sauce!

Another picture of the aburi-ed salmon. I eat around four or five each time I’m here.

I was surprised to hear that at a $35++ buffet place. I was first introduced to that kind of banter at Tatsuya, not quite a year ago, where my meal was almost ten times that price. But that’s a story for another post. After the toro came another aburi-ed gem. Salmon sushi with a sweet cod roe cream sauce, and this time I could have as much as I wanted. It set the tone for the rest of my meals at Shin Yuu. Their food is slightly progressive and well executed. Progressive because you get items like the aburi-ed sushi, which is almost unheard of at mass market places. (Well actually the restaurant isn’t that big, but its cheap price is mass friendly.) Their special makimono, a unagi and avocado sushi roll is like the over-the-top rolls I used to get back in the States, very different than traditional rolls but just as good. It’s big on flavor and toppings. Julienned cucumbers and sweet unagi at the core rolled with rice and seaweed then topped with avocado and slathered in special sauce and a dollop of mayo. God it’s good. I could eat the whole roll by myself. And because this was a buffet I could. The only drawback here is that there are quite a few usual treats to check out too. I had to carefully ration out my stomach real estate.

Special Makimono. Unagi and avocado, amazing combination.

The menu is divided into nine sections; seven of them are headlined with a Shin Yuu special. Most of the specials are delicious. The only exception was the special Chawanmushi from the appetizer section. It was decent but there wasn’t anything special about it.

Special chawanmushi. Ehh, wasn’t impressed.

The salmon aburi was the special for the nigiri sushi and the Unagi and avocado for the makimono. I usually stay clear of spicy tuna sushi, it’s just too easy to merchandise off old tuna. But I’d make an exception for their special maguro karashi temaki. The hand roll was dressed in snappy-ly crisp seaweed with tuna in a sauce that was surprisingly complex, boldly spicy but balanced with just the right amount of mayonnaise for body.

Spicy tuna hand roll

The beef short ribs special in the yakimono / grilled section are very good, if a little thin. The special from the agemono / deep fried section is a dory fish fillet topped with cheese. Top anything fried with cheese and you have a recipe for a tasty-tasty dish.

Special gyu karubi. Grilled beef short ribs

Special Sakana Chiizu. Fried dory with cheese

I can’t seem to make up my mind about the pan-fried prawns with miso mayonnaise, the special for the teppan and nimono / pan-fried and braised section. It’s an intensely flavorful and rich dish, almost too rich though, it sat very heavily in my stomach.

Special Ebi Miso Mayayaki. Prawns with miso mayonnaise sauce.

The sashimi section doesn’t have specials and the variety is pretty limited: Tuna, Australian king fish / hiramasa, salmon and octopus. But they have my favorite, swordfish, so I’m not complaining. Wish they had mackerel, sweet shrimp, surf clam and squid. I’m not complaining, just stating.

Sashimi. I always order it without the tuna, which I’ve never liked here. The rest is good.

Most of the other dishes on the menu are solid and well executed. In all my visits I’ve only had one dish that I didn’t like, an aburi-ed cheese and smoked pork sushi roll. It sounded good on paper, but blow torching ham and cheese just didn’t work out. Still it’s quite an impressive batting average with only one strike. There were quite a few home runs on the menu too.

Above average tempura

Competently grilled mackerel with salt

Grilled pork loin with miso sauce. Once it was really dry, another time it was good.

Sawara misoyaki. Grilled Spanish mackerel with miso sauce

I forgot which one this was… Shishamo / Japanese Capelin? So much to eat that I didn’t have time to take all the notes I wanted.

There’s a jellyfish appetizer that is for me, addictive. I love the textural crunch and its sweet and slightly spicy flavor. I order multiple helpings on each visit.

Jellyfish. Addictive.

Almost equally delicious baby octopus.

The grilled scallops topped with the same cod roe sauce from the aburi-ed salmon are also a winner.

Hotate Mentaiyaki. Grilled scallops with cod roe sauce.

Even though the teppan and nimono part of the menu had that questionable special, it’s actually one of the restaurant’s strongest sections. There is a delectably tender wafu steak and flavorful masu ni, a quick fried and braised grouper. The pork belly looked dry but was actually quite succulent.

Wafu tenderloin steak. It’s tender.

Masu Ni. You can have a whole grouper! Fantastic deal!

Buta Bara Koshio yaki. Pork belly. It looks dry but it’s actually quite succulent.

There isn’t any dessert on the buffet menu, but I was given a yuzu sorbet once and it was a great way to end a heavy meal. It was well made and you can’t really go wrong with yuzu.

Yuzu sorbet

Fried squid tentacles

Fried croquettes

So how does Shin Yuu tie into my entropy theory? Well the first time I was there, we had the complimentary toro as promised by the poster at the door, but no fugu. On my second visit there wasn’t any toro, in its stead were fried squid tentacles and croquettes. My third trip came up empty on any complimentary dishes. Yet the poster was still out there. I had a creeping fear that the restaurant which opened in August was starting its inevitable decent. However on my fourth lunch at Shin Yuu last Sunday, when it was almost deserted from what I guess was a Christmas weekend exodus, the restaurant came out with guns blazing. A row of those aburi-ed toro sushi bites, the perfect amuse, were laid out even before we had finished ordering. Followed in quick secession with raw salmon in a plum-like sauce, fried squid and tiny shrimp, plus two beautifully grilled hamachi collars. Both mine and my brother’s favorite.

Salmon with a plum-like sauce. Very nice.

Fried squid

Tiny shrimp, thats why they’re called shrimp

Grilled hamachi collar. One of my favorites.

Asked them to aburi some swordfish sushi. Next time I’m going to order a bunch of sushi and ask them to aburi everything.

I hope my Japanese buffet entropy theory is wrong because Shin Yuu, considering its usual offerings, almost pitch perfect performance and relatively cheap price tag, is a real gem.


Shin Yuu

16 Greenwood Avenue

Hillcrest Park

Singapore 289209

Tel: 6763-4939

Their Facebook page


Open daily for lunch from noon to 2:30 p.m. last order. For dinner from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. last order.

Recommended dishes

Seasonal jelly fish; special unagi and avocado sushi roll; special aburi salmon sushi; wafu steak; masu ni grouper; special grilled beef short ribs; grilled scallop with cod roe sauce; special fried dory with cheese.

Price Range

A la carte buffet lunch for an adult, $35++; child, $20++. Dinner, $48++; child $28++.

4 responses to “Japanese Buffet Entropy Theory: Shin Yuu

  1. I am on the way over – I must have that buffet!! How much would a flight from DC to Singapore be??? This is food porn. I am going to save this page on my blog reader so I can stare at it daily. I love your blog and the amazing pictures you take of food. I have to stop writing and stare again…

  2. Hi Sarah

    Thanks for dropping by again. I actually used to live in DC, well Bethesda, but close enough.

    It’s always encouraging to read comments like yours.


  3. I work in Rockville so I will have to get some advice on places to try in the area. Yes, I paused from staring long enough to read your comment. AND I read every time you post, I follow you via RSS feed. You are making me want to take a trip to Singapore next even though I was considering Paris. Keep up the great posts – I look forward to them.

  4. Sarah

    I was 13 when I lived there and it’s been 15 years since I’ve been back. I can’t even remember where I ate in Rockville. I think there was a great thai place…

    Singapore is an amazing gastronomic destination. You have a range of food that I’ve never seen anywhere else. Great fine dining to amazing, diverse street food. You can’t not have a bad meal here.

    There are so many things I want to post, I’ve got over two years of backlogged restaurants that I haven’t blogged about. My hard drive is almost full because of all my pictures.

    Hopefully with the new year I’ll be able to post regularly instead of once or twice a month like what I’ve been doing.

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