煙 Kemuri is such an appropriate name for a yakitori restaurant, but fret not – you will not smell like a chimney after eating here.
A new upmarket, intimate sanctuary from the bustle of Singapore, kemuri is meticulously curated to provide a convivial and indulgent yakitori experience with access that is reserved for members only. Occupying the space vacated by 椿 Tsubaki, this members-only eatery serves one of the best yakitori in town.
kemuri is spearheaded by Michio “Mitchy” Murakami, a Yakitori master that has gained a reputation as the Head Yakitori Chef at the sister restaurant of one of the most famous Yakitori restaurants in Tokyo that was awarded Michelin Bib Gourmand across 5 years.
There’s no ala carte menu, only one omakase course. And Chef Mitchy has double-confirmed when I booked the table that we must eat chicken. And here’s today’s menu.
- 本日の前菜盛り合わせ Today‘s Assorted Appetisers
- 串二種 2 kinds of skewers
- 大根おろし Grated Radish
- 串三種 3 kinds of skewers
- 茶碗蒸し Chawanmushi (Steamed Egg)
- 串三種 3 kinds of skewers
- 漬物盛り合わせ Tsukemono (Assorted Pickles)
- 串五種 5 kinds of skewers
- 鳥スープ Tori Soup (Chicken Soup)
- 串、各種 Additional Chicken or Vegetables
- そぼろ丼 Minced Chicken Bowl
- アイスクリーム Ice Cream (Uji Maccha)
本日の前菜盛り合わせ Today‘s Assorted Appetisers
First up, a quartet of appetisers that have been curated based on the seasonality and traditions of the time.
- 紅白なますと黒豆 Vinegared radish and carrot, sweet black soy-bean
Kuramame 黒豆 or Sweet black soy-bean is an important part of the symbolic Osechi Ryori meal of traditional Japanese New Year foods; this savoury and subtly sweet side dish symbolises a wish for good health in the New Year.
- 干し柿と味噌漬けチーズ Dried persimmon with miso marinated cheese
Hoshigaki 干し柿 or dried persimmon has a delicate sweet taste and smooth texture that spreads in the mouth like no other dried fruit; in recent years, it has become a favourite among fine dining chefs as an ingredient for desserts and appetisers, often paired with cream cheese.
- 筍ともろみ味噌 Bamboo shoot with Moromi miso
Moromi-miso もろみ味噌 refers to a soft, solid mass where the raw ingredients brewed to make soy-sauce or sake become fermented; this was paired with the spring bamboo shoots hot branded with their logo.
- 合鴨と牛蒡の鍬焼き Kuwayaki-style grilled marinated duck and burdock
Farmed duck grilled in the kuwayaki-style and paired with burdock, with the burdock tasting like sweet potato. Kuwayaki 鍬焼き is a method of grilling meat and vegetables using a yaki sauce on a frying pan or iron plate. It was said to have originated from wild birds caught by farmers and grilled on their hoes.
串二種 2 kinds of skewers
We started with two items that really test the skills of the yakitori master.
Tsukune is Japanese-style chicken meatballs. There are many variations to the same ideal, but they are generally the size, shape and fillers. Some like to make them like little dango balls, others do them like a chikuwa (竹輪) in oden. kemuri‘s tsukune was very flavourful with a good mix of crunchy bits and the breast meat, and it was not drenched in tare.
And the second item is hatsu or chicken hearts; the delicate part can turn rubbery if you apply too much heat and this is a matter of split seconds. The slithers of chicken hearts cook in less than 5 second, so the challenge is to get the Maillard reaction on these tiny morsels of muscle. And they got this perfectly done, one of the few in Singapore that can achieve the smokey goodness without hardening the heart.
大根おろし Grated Radish
The grated radish is traditionally served as a palate cleanser between skewers. In Japan we can get unlimited servings of this, but here there’s only one portion.
串三種 3 kinds of skewers
Right after was three more sticks of good eats – the classic yakitori in tare, grilled brussels sprouts and my favourite, bonjiri or bishop’s nose. Many would have mistaken the tare as teriyaki, but every yakitori chef has his own special mix that is used since the fire started and topped every day. I liked that not too much tare was used to add flavour and shine to the yakitori; I personally prefer shio flavoured ones but some ingredients do better with tare, for example liver.
茶碗蒸し Chawanmushi (Steamed Egg)
As an interlude to the yakitori omakase, a well-timed chawanmushi with minced chicken topping and ginger chicken glaze. Delicious.
串三種 3 kinds of skewers
The next trio, sunaigimo (chicken gizzards), tamanegi (sweet onions) and momo (chicken thigh). I love the crunchiness of gizzards, and like the chicken hearts, which is another ingredient very prone to overcooking.
漬物盛り合わせ Tsukemono (Assorted Pickles)
Next, a moriawase of tsukemono. Some of the items were pickled in-house, like the radish in wasabi. The special one is the red bottle gourd pickle that had the texture like java apple (which we call jambu locally); the red colour is artificial by the way.
串五種 5 kinds of skewers
At this point in time, the drinks were flowing and we had 8 wonderful skewers of different kinds. The last 5 were to balance out the rarer cuts of chicken and to make us drink some more.
First up, the kawa (chicken skin), crispy and coated liberally with tare. And then seseri (chicken neck) seasoned with shio, fatty and satisfying particularly after all those sweet sake. A couple of sweet cherry tomatoes later, the really indulgent reba (chicken liver), the foie gras equivalent but cuter, and the crowd favourite tebasaki (chicken mid-joint). I particularly liked the sequence and pace of tare-shio combinations, like one-two punch of a seasoned boxer.
鳥スープ Tori Soup (Chicken Soup)
The final item on the omakase menu was a small bowl of 鳥スープ chicken broth that obviously had been prepared with a ton of chicken bones, very rich and creamy.
串、各種 Additional Chicken or Vegetables
While the amount of food for the omakase was adequate, we could not resist to order a few more ala carte items. Seasonal vegetable skewers like white asparagus, shishito and negi were perfect to go with the drinks.
そぼろ丼 Minced Chicken Bowl
Amazing bowl of minced chicken on rice topped with a raw egg. You have to give it to the Japanese to be able to come up with raw eggs.
アイスクリーム Ice Cream (Uji Maccha)
And for a sweet ending (not part of the omakase), an ice cream made with uji matcha 宇治抹茶. Uji matcha powder is regarded as the highest grade of matcha in Japan, prepared using the youngest tea leaves.
Dining here was a very unique experience. Besides the good food and wonderful atmosphere of the cosy environment, the evening was made better with the excellent service from the Okami 女将（おかみ). She made sure we had our drinks and our requests fulfilled.
kemuri is for adults only. The address is undisclosed, and sworn to secrecy I will not be indicating where it is except that it is in a central location. Access is only allowed for members and their guests. Fingerprint authentication is required for entry.
There are some rules before you can dine at this restaurant.
- You must be a drinker, not the casual one-drink type, before you are allowed to dine here.
- You must eat chicken, and all parts of chicken.
- You cannot cancel the reservation unless you want to be blacklisted.
- You cannot be rowdy or intoxicated, or you will be asked to leave.
Highly recommended if you know a friend who is a member.
Visited Jan 2023
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