Nanbantei was the first yakitori specialty shop in Singapore when they setup shop inFar East Plaza back in 1983. It’s almost 40 years, and they are still going strong.
Nanbantei first started in Tokyo and subsequently expanded to Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, China. The decor of the Far East shop carefully recreated the Honten in Tokyo, with its half-octagonal bar counter with a binchotan grill in the middle that provided all the actions.
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.
Every time I was here and when their Aji Sashimi あじ刺身 Horse Mackerel was available, I would order one as it was one of the best value in Singapore for fresh aji from Japan. You can have half of it sashimi and the other half grilled to enjoy two flavours.
Kawaebi Karaage 川えび唐揚 Fried River Shrimps is an excellent appetiser for beer. Deep fried to a crisp, you can eat the whole shrimp with its shell intact. The salty snack would make you down beer before you can say “Oishii”.
Ei Hire えいひれ Grilled Dried Stingray Fins is another favourite in a yakitori or izakaya. Like our local dried cuttlefish, the stingray fins are sweet and chewy.
After the snacks and a round of cold beer, we started with a couple of must-have in a yakitori. Hatsu はつ Chicken Heart would test the skills of the chefs as it is a part that can easily get wrong. Many say that Tsukune つくね Chicken Meatballs is the ultimate test for a yakitori as it requires the right mix for the meat ball and the right sauce to bind it together. Nanbantei hit the spot for both items.
Tebasaki 手羽先 Chicken Mid-Joints with salt was crispy on the outside, tender and juicy on the inside. Easy eats by splitting the wings.
Sunagimo 砂肝 Chicken Gizzard was crunchy and properly salted, but a bit too dry. But it was not hardened from cooking. So here’s the verdict – hatsu, sunaigimo, tsukune, all good. Too bad the liba sold out for the day.
The bacon wrapped items were burnt on the outside though, but Bonjiri ぼんじり Chicken Buttocks was beautifully grilled, crispy and juicy.
Ginnan ぎんなん Gingko Nuts used are the local variety and very small in size, and they were slightly bitter. Nasu なすEggplant was ok, could do with some miso.
Lamb Yaki ラム焼 Grilled Lamb Chop was my favourite from Nanbantei; reminded me of those ジンギスカン Jingisukan that I enjoyed so much in Tokyo. The lamb was from Australia, had none of the muskiness that could come this particular type of meat. Just seasoned with salt and pepper.
Osaka-style Hako sushi featured the squarish sushi that you see in the picture. This is because they are pressed and formed in a box, and are cut into size before serving. Grilled vinegar mackerel hako sushi retained the fatty taste of the mackerel with an added fragrance of grilled fish.
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 (read: my generation) have grown up and the place now catered to working girls sprucing up for their night activities. Quite ecclectic and bazaar.
Nanbantei has been here since 1983, introducing to Singapore yakitori cuisine. Nothing has been changed since then, even though many other yakitori restaurants have come up over the years. The yakitori is still one of the best in Singapore. Reservations recommended.
Date visited : Feb 2022