The main event at Aburiya, which recently opened another outlet downstream in Boat Quay from with its longtime flagship restaurant in Robertson Quay, is yakiniku, or Japanese grilled meat. More specifically, we’re talking top-grade kuroge wagyu beef ranked A4 (out of a possible 5) that require barely any chewing to eat. Even those poor souls without much teeth left, say a grandmother well past her best years, will probably enjoy this one.
The new Aburiya Japanese Wagyu Yakiniku was opened three months back right beside another specially curated concept: The Container Wagyu Tapas & Bar, which we’ll be reviewing in another piece down the road. And boy, do these two make for great additions to a stretch otherwise overwhelmingly packed with seafood restaurants. There are a couple of ramen joints and izakayas in the neighbourhood, but no Japanese concept quite like Aburiya.
The team members are firm proponents of the nose-to-tail philosophy. Under the direction of in-house beef specialist Shingo Nakamura, who frequently travels through the prefecture in Japan to seek out wagyu farmers, they import entire cows and butcher them nearby, employing all cuts of the beef to minimise wastage. What you get in return is top grade beef at surprisingly inexpensive rates.
The restaurant occupies a modest storefront, exquisitely decked out in sleek lines and bright brushed wood. There are cosy booths for up to six, open tables, private rooms, and if you want to feel like a samurai, a ’secret’ room that requires you to crawl through a hole in the wall. When you’re seated, make sure the Donabe Gohan ($12) is the first thing you order, if you want rice to go with your meat (and you should). It takes 20 minutes to prepare but it’s worth the wait – firm and chewy short grains that are slightly crispy at the bottom.
Aburiya is a beef lover’s heaven. You’ll find more than 30 wagyu parts on the menu, from tripe and common short rib to the premium oyster blade. They’re all cooked on a modern grill that uses binchōtan, a white charcoal that burns with a steady heat for a long time. There is also barely any smoke and zero odor, in case you were worried about smelling like barbecue. Choosing what exactly to order can be difficult, so we get the value-for-money family platter, Aburiya Kirotoshi Tokumori ($24 for 150g), which sees an assortment of cut-off ends from Japanese kuroge wagyu, and also Tokachi cows – a mixed breed of Japanese wagyu and Holstein cattle that is leaner and beefier.
Timing is everything when it comes to grilling yakiniku perfectly. Sear the meat slices (doing it yourself is the fun part) for less than 30 seconds so the juices won’t dry out. I’d say go for medium rare, but I don’t want to tell you how to eat your beef. What you get is a great smoky flavour and consistency that melts away lusciously on your tongue. There is also the Tokusen Wagyu Rosu ($26), or chuck roll, from near the ribs. This is a fine cut with distinct fat lines, very sweet and very tender. For something raw, try the Wagyu Negishio Yukke ($18), a staple at many authentic Japanese restaurants. The simple tartare is made with seasoned lean beef topped with a crown of spring onions, and it’s delicious.
For breaks between the juicy meat, put some veggies on the grill too. Remember having mediocre corn that is plain tasteless and sort of pasty? The Japanese Corn ($5.90) here is not like that. Dribbled with a savoury sauce and much sweeter than the regular corn you get in Singapore; and you can even eat it raw, as I prefer to do.
We finished with a honking big scoop of green ice cream sitting on a bed of pistachio crumble, surrounded by cubes of mango. It’s a deconstructed Matcha Parfait ($10.90) without whipped cream or sponge cake, so that was unexpected. For drinks, there is a basic sake list but if you’re looking a speciality of the house, try the Wagyu Whisky ($18). Mildly oily and deliciously smooth, every batch of whisky is fat washed with different parts of the cow, and thus, is unique.
If you like your beef fatty with lots of marbling, there are several joints in Singapore that offer exquisite Japanese beef, but none offers the same value as Aburiya. For once, a wagyu spot where the expense doesn’t hurt quite so bad.
Aburiya is located at 79 Boat Quay, Singapore 049867, p. +65 6532 0365. Open Sun-Mon Wed-Thu 6pm – 11pm, Fri-Sat 6pm – 11.30pm. Closed Tue.