Most would have caught wind of the hype around this covert yakitori in the vicinity of old Tiong Bahru Estate. With so much talk giving away its quiet operations and secret entrance, took half the fun out of finding it. But as we stepped up against the dingy old metal door with just a single spotlight on a barely visible wired sign, a little thrill checked in… Stepping inside, a long narrow dimly lit corridor, aka the bar, greets you.. the setup a fusion of old, new, rustic and funky …. Nice! Since our table wasn’t quite ready, we sat down to a flask of hot sake to start the evening.Bincho offers 3 different set dinner menus ranging from $68-$100 as well as ala carte. We decided on the latter. We were eager to order the Grilled Angus Rib after witnessing the dish on a couple of other tables…followed by few of their popular yakitori items. We eyed the Chicken Skin skewer but changed our minds when told these were fried, not grilled.Took on the Chicken Skin Salad ($7) instead. This was a bed of torn lettuce, sliced cucumbers, shredded carrots in a light zingy dressing topped with deep fried chicken skin. As expected, the skin was deliciously crunchy which I love but I did wish the salad leaves were a little more sophisticated. Lettuce, cucumber and carrots? Kinda like a salad you’d expect from a coffee shop western food stall…Next, the grilled Chicken Soft Bone ($10). Simply grilled and served with flavored salts (curry and matcha). There was barely any seasoning on these cartilages, nor flavor from the hot grill. Save for the salts, this was merely a bunch of crunchy soft bones.The Grilled Neck in Tare Ponzu ($17), on the other hand was yummy. They were well seasoned and grilled to perfectly retain tenderness and juiciness. The chive ponzu sauce drizzled over it really complemented the salty neck meat. A cheap cut that we always throw out was quite the winner here !
The one we’ve been looking forward to, the Grilled Angus Rib with Kumamoto Tomatoes ($52), a deboned long rib, visibly marbled, grilled, sliced and served with some lovely Japanese cherry tomatoes and salt flakes. It was beautifully presented and looked delicious. This is gonna melt in my mouth, I thought as I popped one in! But alas, the meat was chewy, sinewy and almost impossible to tear apart. I chewed for a few minutes and swallowed. Perhaps the next slice would be different. It wasn’t.. And neither was the next, and the one after 😞! I told the manager about the agonizing experience with the steak and he replied it’s usually not like that and I must have gotten a bad cut…and offered no remedy🙄! “So it’s not supposed to be so tough, right?”, I asked again, and this time, seeming unsure himself, he decided conveyed my query to the chef. As it turns out, the answer was yes, that’s how the meat is! Er… Ok…😶 I decided not to pursue as it obviously wasn’t going to get me anywhere except 52 bucks down the drain 😒! So on to the next dish…!Tsukune and Egg Yolk ($18) was a tender chicken patty served with a raw egg. Beat the egg and pour over the well season, juicy patty. They went very well together, the slippery, gooey, sweet juicy ensemble was rather delightful.Gyoza Wings ($16) as I’d guessed, was a deboned wing stuffed with gyoza filling. These were really small wings (baby chickens?) but they did a great job stuffing the little fellas! The now chubby babies are then grilled to a nice crisp. Bite into it with caution as the filling is pack with hot savory juices!Deep Fried Pig Ears ($20) … always had these braised and adore the crunchy texture. Deep frying them brought the ears to another level! These were awesome… a little sweet, a little peppery, a little savory and a little zingy from the twist of lime! What a great snack! It takes a bit of chewing, these ears, but unlike the Angus rib, these can be chewed through!The final bill was an exorbitant $214. Quite hefty for small plates of skins and bones. Would I have enjoyed the set meal more? Perhaps, but first I gotta get over that rib.
I can’t say I’ve enjoyed Bincho but it has its charms. It’s definitely fun to bring unsuspecting guests to this hidden enclave, have some chicken necks over a cocktail, then take a quiet stroll in one of the oldest conservation estates in Singapore. It’d surely score you some cool guide brownie points! But for me, I’d be back, yes, for the Mee Pok Noodles that’s sold in the day while Bincho sleeps;-)
Bincho @ #01-19, 78 Moh Guan Terrace, Singapore 162078