A yakitori joint hidden behind a Chinese restaurant sounds strange, but if you’ve known about Bincho since its early days at Tiong Bahru, it makes sense. Now, instead of a mildly famous mee pok stall, the new 40-seater Bincho at Dempsey Hill is the ‘alter ego’ of Goodwood Park Hotel’s third Min Jiang branch.
Its discrete entrance is hidden behind amidst quiet greenery – a dark black door with frosted glass panels like a Japanese speakeasy. We walk in to find a contemporary industrial-chic hideaway: copper-hued interiors, vaulted roof, and a Japanese folk playlist you might find at a teahouse in Kyoto, only there are no gentile oba-sans here. Like its flagship venue, the menu is displayed on a large wooden board on top, though we had to squint to make out the mass of black squiggly lines. But no matter, because the staff were ready to recommend the week’s offerings.
The name “Bincho” refers to the famed Japanese white charcoal bincho-tan, and as such, we get a selection of yakitori that’s cooked over an open fire at the back. No protein is left out, of course. Chicken thigh, breast, and wing apart, you also get lean neck meat, tail cartilage, gizzards, and cockscomb — the crunchy crest of the bird — with their Yakitori Platter. The price varies according to what the chef picks, but you can expect to pay between S$30 to S$40 for a hefty plate.
Are meat-wrapped vegetables a thing? Apparently so. “Yasai Maki”, a type of meat roll that encases vegetables before being skewered and grilled, is a new feature on Bincho’s grilled menu. Japanese Long Yam (S$12) is wrapped in a strip of pork loin and presented with spicy mayo. There’s also a Beef Spinach Cheese (S$12) combo with butter teriyaki sauce and Beef Gobo (S$8, burdock) with deliciously aromatic sansho pepper. The textures are astounding.
If you want to indulge, order the Uni Shabu Shabu (S$68), because it’s the most extravagant thing here. Chef Asai makes a cloudy orange broth with fresh urchin, and the aroma alone intoxicates our senses in seconds. He tells us the dish first originated in Osaka where guests would enjoy fresh seafood shabu shabu-style, and here, we get oyster, crab, prawn, and abalone served in a personal hot pot. At the end, the server cooks down the remaining broth with Yumepirika rice, kizami nori, and sevens-spiced powder to create an umami-rich porridge. How many ways are there to say “dreamy”?
The experience is hardly complete without drinks. General Manager Joe Chan, who also heads the bar, has created crowd-favourites like the Yuzu Shiso Martini (S$23), a citrusy golden-hued mainstay from Bincho at Hua Bee prepared with sake, gin, yuzu, and infused shiso leaf. Banks of Bincho (S$23), a rather sweet whisky concoction, pairs well with the smokier dishes. Seasonal sakes are available all-year round, and Chef Asai’s connections means you’ll find rare Japanese whisky labels: Karuizawa 12s, Ichiro’s Malt, and vintage Yamazaki editions from the 80s.
Sounds about right about an authentic yakitori experience.
Bincho at Min Jiang is located at 7A &, 7B Dempsey Rd, Singapore 249684, p. +54 6972 7328. Open Tue-Sun 6pm – 12am, Sat-Sun 12pm – 3pm. Closed Mon.