Nanbantei is the oldest Kushiyaki restaurant in Singapore. Opened in the 80s in Far East Plaza along Scotts Road, it has not changed its decor since the opening. In recent years, they opened a branch in Chinatown Point, but this place still brought back the nostalgia.
Not as polished as Kazu, it was Kushiyaki on a budget. However, budget did not mean a compromise in the quality. Nanbantei maintained a good standard by limiting the items on the menu and offered non-exotica (local meat, Australia beef vs Kobe, etc) so that there’s not bill scare at the end of the meal.
Aji happened to be in season when we visited the place at Far East Plaza. It took a plane from Japan so it was the most expensive item on the menu. The knife work was not from an accomplished sushi chef. The freshness of the fish did not compensate this fact as it turned the sashimi chewy and too thick for Aji.
The starter we ordered was a sweet miso past eggplant stew with shishito chili. The mild heat from the shishito reduced the sweetness from the miso, so it became a delicate balance. Loved this cold dish.
Next starter, cold okra salad with Mentaiko (spicy cod roe). Sticky and crunchy blanched okra met with salty mentaiko with a splash of mirin. Very yummy. So far the starters have been outstanding which is a good sign of a good Izakaya or Kushiyaki joint.
和牛焼 Wagyu – this is Australian A5, so it would not burn a hole in your wallet. Not as oily or melt in your mouth as their Japanese cousins, this Aussie variety still packed enough juiciness and flavour. Spiced with the standard salt and pepper, Nanbantei added a Japanese seasoning salt called 七味粉 from Kyoto. Not my favourite spice.
つくね Tsukune – chicken meat balls with teriyaki sauce. The standard fare and yardstick to compare the different Yakitori joints. The sauce was runny and the chicken was tasted like the frozen variety.
アスパラガス巻 Asparagus with Pork Belly roll – I preferred the bacon variety, because this was a bit bland given that the asparagus did not have the sweetness.
手羽先 Chicken wing – crispy, but forgot to ask them to skip the seasoning.
はまち – Because they served sashimi, they usually had the occasional fish check or belly that we can grill. The yellowtail was tasty and really reasonably priced. The picture did not do justice to the portion.
ラム焼 – my favourite for the night, lamb chops, with its fats charred yet the meat tender. But again that seasoning.
ししとう – Sweet Jalapeño grilled with salt.
しいたけ Shiitake, おくら Okura – two more greens, Mama said we have to eat more greens. Shiitake mushroom grilled and with that seasoning? Sigh.
The service was very prompt and attentive, although we sat at the worst possible position in the restaurant (exit of the back kitchen). Nobody bother us while we ate, but magically appeared when we needed something, not easy for a space that can only allow so few people to walk around.
The building it was housed in was old and dilapidated. Far East Plaza was notorious for being a hang-out for delinquents in the 80s, and subsequently for rogue shopkeepers that fleeced off tourists. Hence the place was in its twilights. The delinquents have grown up (read: my generation) and the place now catered to working girls sprucing up for their night activities. Quite ecclectic and bazaar.
Nanbantei reminds me of those back alley Yakitori shops in Tokyo – small, packed, everyone there for a quick meal and catch-up, in-and-out within an hour. Then as the evening wears on, the mood changes to a laid-back kimochi, cold beer at hand and the conversation gets cosy and intimate.
Simply loved this little gems. Hopefully it sticks around.
14 Scotts Road #05-132,
Far East Plaza, Singapore 228213
Tel: +65 6733 5666/ +65 6738 7470
Date visited : Jan 2018