It has been some time since I went to Bincho. Their Dempsey branch was renovating, so I had to go back to the one in Hua Bee.
The backdoor entrance had changed a bit, and they opened the front door as well during this Sunday lunch. I still had not have the chance to try this famous mee pok stall, and time is running out as the aunties are retiring.
The intimate space is refreshed by Hui Designs and exudes underground and sci-fi vibes with a vintage charm. As one enters the venue, one is transported to the narrow alleys of Japan, accentuated by the custom-made lime green signage, “floating” LED-flexible light tubes, distressed walls, exposed pipes and mosaic-tiled floors.
It’s not the same when you opened up the front door with the sunshine coming in. Now it felt just like a kopitiam. We ordered the Samurai set menu ($178 per pax) that came with seven courses, as well as some ala carte items.
- Samurai 侍
- A la Carte
The signature Samurai course offered a bit of everything that was on the menu. This menu was the brainchild of the new head chef Rishi Naleendra, who have taken over from Chef Masashi whom had left Singapore back to his native Japan.
3 Types Seasonal Appetizer Platter アペタイザー3種盛り
Three appetisers that included a mashed radish with ikura (salmon roe), minced pork stewed with soy sauce and ginger, and negi (leeks) with bonito flakes. Not very well thought through, when compared to Kemura.
Assorted Sashimi 3 Kinds 刺身3種盛り合わせ
After the disappointing appetisers, the assorted sashimi was a selection of salmon, scallops and sea bream. Again, nothing special.
Grilled Japanese Bamboo Shoot 焼き付の子
The first grilled item was an in-season Japanese bamboo shoot たけのこ/筍. Deliciously sweet and crunchy, the dip was made with shiso butter. However I felt it was a bit rushed – the bamboo shoot was not grilled for too long, so it did not come across as a grilled dish.
Yakitori Platter (Breast, Wing, Thigh, Neck) 焼鳥4種盛り合わせ（胸，手羽、もも、せせり)
Bincho’s yakitori is special because they are not served on sticks. So for those who are purists, refrain from coming because it will not resemble the yakitori you know. Many would argue if this is yakitori if there’s no skewers.
The chicken were grilled evenly, and the thigh and breast were juicy and had the binchotan smokiness. I didn’t like the way the seseri (neck) was done, too under-grilled and too wet.
Grilled Spanish Mackerel 焼き鰆
Spanish mackerel or sawara is very familiar to the people in Kagawa as the fish signaling the coming of spring because the fish comes to the Seto Inland Sea from the Pacific Ocean to lay eggs from April to May. Hence the Kanji of sawara 鰆 is made up etymologically of 魚 (fish) and 春 (spring).
Here, it was grilled ala Nobu style, but without the overpowering miso used in Nobu. It was not a good job, as there’s no crust formed on the fish skin.
Mini Tsukune Don ミニつくね丼
A bowl of steamed rice topped with their signature tsukune (meatball) and a raw egg yolk, this is comfort food at its best. Paired with a cup of chicken broth (I wished there was more broth) and pickled cucumber, this was a great end to the savoury part of the set menu.
Tare sauce dripping from the tsukune gave the rice a subtle sweetness, savouriness and smokiness. The egg yolk balanced the richness of the sauce with the natural satisfaction you get from egg yolks. A great eat in every angle.
Dessert of the Day 本日のデザート
And the dessert of that day was a grilled peach with vanilla ice cream. The peach did not gain any advantage from being grilled, it was a poorly selected fruit in the first place because it was not a Japanese version of the peach (more like Californian). The vanilla ice cream saved the dessert.
A la Carte
The set menu was not the entire repertoire of what Bincho can offer, we had to add a couple more items to round up the meal.
An innovative way presenting hatsu grilled with tare. It was consistent and just done correctly. This was a really difficult part to grill as it could overcooked easily and became really tough.
The sunagimo was grilled with salt and done competently. It was served along some shichimi torigashi and wasabi salt.
The bonjiri was grilled perfectly with salt and came with yuzukosho, wasabi and a strange looking ume yukari seasoning.
Cock’s Comb とさか
A rather wet plate of cock’s combs with was grilled and then drowned in a spicy ponzu sauce.
Chicken Skin Skewer w Uni Bottarga
Bottarga is usually made from mullet roe called 乌鱼子 in Taiwan. This uni bottarga tasted like salted egg and none of the sea urchin. And the kawa (chicken skin) was not the crispy version that we were used to in other yakitori places. This innovation was not good.
The nasu (eggplant) was almost totally uncooked. Came with a mysterious looking foam that tasted like the dengaku sauce that was traditionally used. Another case of innovating too hard which did not work.
Grilled Crispy Onigiri
The onigiri did not have the filling inside, but on top like a sushi. The grilled piece of salmon was topped with ikura and sprinkled with bonito flakes. It seemed like the chef was in a hurry to get everything to us as the rice ball was not properly grilled on the sides.
Hip, underground yakitori and cocktail gastrobar in Tiong Bahru, this is not a traditional Japanese Izakaya. This place has a lot of history. Hua Bee Restaurant (華美餐室) is famous before Eric Khoo made it even more famous. The 70+ year old has been serving Teochew-style fishball noodles at this location and it was also the film site for Eric Khoo’s ‘Mee Pok Man’ (1995).
Service staff was fantastic, but I would not say everything was delicious, especially the set menu was not worth the money. The place has lost its original mission of being an excellent yakitori first. Many of the items did not hit the spot. The ala carte menu would satisfy even the most demanding yakitori diners with some rare parts, but the techniques have failed these ingredients..
Bincho at Hua Bee
78 Moh Guan Terrace #01-19 Singapore 162078
Tel : +65 6438 4567
Visited May 2023
#binchoathuabee #bincho.sg @bincho.sg