Kinki Restaurant & Bar, Customs House

(Also see Part I of the review on the Rooftop Bar.)


Having had a fantastic experience at the bar, we jetted down to the restaurant.

The decor is very splendid, with the full-paned french windows from ceiling to floor, allowing a great view of Marina Bay Sands. A wall of graffiti is used to partition small groups from large groups. There are also seats at the sushi bar. The acoustic is great because although the restaurant was about 70% full, we felt like we were in a world of our own. We couldn’t really eavesdrop other people’s conversations (14K’s favorite hobby). I really treasure such privacy.

Step out of the lift, a wait staff greets you. On the floor, a mural of the Kinki fish, designed by Chris Graver, one of the world’s best tattoo artists. Now you know Kinki isn’t the Japanese word for “kinky,” you SM monsters. (Well, ok, tattooing is kinda kinky.) Look to your left is another mural of Kinki’s mascot.

The photo of the bar counter… well, I wanted to take a photo of the cute bartender! He looks like an Angmoh-Indian mix. Deep smoky eyes and nice smile. Sarong Party Girls, and Sari Party Girls, go for him! (Sari Party Girls are girls who go for Indian men – I copyrighted it, thanks.)

Another thing I love about the ambience is the darkness of it. Good restaurants should be dim and sexy. But because it’s dark, the photos turned out grainy, so I “stole” a few photo from Kinki. I’m crediting those nice photos to Kinki. I went to search for photos because I thought my grainy photos didn’t do the food justice; they were very delicious. But–no offense here–even the great photos of the food didn’t bring out the WOW-ness of the food.

From the ambience, you can tell, there is a mix of hip and funkiness thrown in with class and sophistication. I didn’t think it would work well, but Kinki has pulled it off. And this philosophy of coolness is reflected in the food. There is a range of food from the traditional to the experimental. I’ll start with the traditional for purists, ending with a bang.

Assorted Sashimi Platter

US Prime Beef Teriyaki

Assorted Tempura

The assorted tempura ($18) is a last minute order when we were already very full. 14K said that we should order it because everything at Kinki is so fantabulous and if the tempura here beats Yoyogi (similar price range as Kinki), it will really be a death blow to Yoyogi. Yes, the tempura here is better, the batter is better, lighter, crisper and the sauce is more delectable. But it isn’t mindblowing; but can tempura ever be mindblowing? While I think sashimi isn’t “real” Japanese food (a Japanese sushi chef once told me), 14K adored it, which is flown in 3 to 4 times a week from Japan. We were lucky; every Tuesday is import day. 14K, who had tasted seafood swimming in the tank, taken out and sliced in front of him, commented that the sashimi is as fresh as that swimming seafood. Seafood literally becomes see food. The presentation was decidedly better than Yoyogi, better arranged and more thoughtful with crushed ice to keep the sashimi chill and fresh. We both didn’t fancy the prime beef teriyaki ($24) because the texture was rubbery.

I strongly suggest you live a little and give these traditional dishes a miss and go for the more innovative dishes:

King Salmon Maki

Pomegranate Miso Black Cod

Tai Carpaccio; Foie Gras & Scallop Sushi

Kinki Style Okonomiyaki

From here on, everything we ate ranges from good to brilliant! Starting from good: Okonomiyaki is Japanese pizza/pancake with shredded cabbage, egg, flour, etc, topped with paper-thin onion skin and mayonnaise. You can find it at the basement of Takashimaya – or at pasar malam. But for Kinki Okonomiyaki ($24), the base is changed to a crispy baguette with Hokkaido scallop, prawns, apple-wood-smoked bacon and mozzarella on top. I can appreciate this dish very well: the mixture of sweetness from the ocean (scallop and prawns) with the saltiness of the land (bacon and mozzarella) and the varying texture, gentle at the top, crispy at the bottom, make the dish very appealing. For all the winning points, however, I thought the dish is too complicated and messy and too much like a canape. Another reason why I think such well-crafted dish is only good–not fantastic–is because of the carbs. Sorry, gay man here! No carbs please. However, because the dishes are not exactly budget, this dish, with carbs, may help fill the stomach.

An outstanding dish is the pan-seared foie gras & raw scallop sushi (2 pieces for $22), another dish combining the ocean and the mountains, a running theme through the food. Unexpected burst of the juice from foie gras in the mouth, but I thought it overpowers the scallop. Wasted but still delicious.

The next two dishes are magnificent. Tai Carpaccio ($30) is a thinly sliced snapper with shio konbu (seaweed soaked in soy sauce) and truffle dressing. AMAZING. The fishy taste is completely eradicated, giving a very, in 14K’s words, “robust” taste. Truffle oil on raw-fish: WIN. The other dish, inside the rice roll King Salmon Maki ($22) are king salmon, ricotta cheese, avocado and cucumber and on the outside, crispy tempura flakes. You’d think it’s too rich with salmon and cheese and avocado but it’s not because it’s balanced out with the freshness of the cucumber. Such a brilliant mix of ingredients especially with the tempura flakes making the texture very stimulating.

But I really think the show-stopper is Pomegranate Miso Black Cod ($24). When I was young, my mother cooked cod fish everyday till I puked at the sight of it. But when I put this in my mouth, I was transported to another plane. You know those Taiwan food shows where the celebrities try the food and pretend that the food tastes so good until they see stars circling their heads? YES, this was the feeling I got. The pomegranate-honey miso not only adds a tangy sweetness to the dish but enhances the buttery, creamy nature of cod fish. Eat it while it’s hot. This cod was truly orgasmic. I’d give up chocolate for the cod.

At first, I thought the dishes are pegged a price too expensive but given the location, and freshness of food, and the qualifications of Chef Wing Lam who worked at Gordon Ramsey, I’d say the price is reasonable.

To those purists and detractors who say that this is not pure Japanese cuisine, let me say that there is no such thing as “pure” cuisine. The food ingredients change (how you grow vegetables and rear animals); taste of society and culture changes with time – so food should change with the times. Here, the food at Kinki is original and cheeky and fun, which is how food should be. I think the character of the restaurant is very much like my character, quirky and fun and classy. 14K goes for ambience, I go for quality of food and it’s very seldom we both like the same place this much. We tried to go back on Friday for the 2nd time but they were fully booked. Make reservations for a few days in advance for Friday and weekends. You won’t be able to get a seat otherwise.

Kinki Restaurant & Bar
70 Collyer Quay #02-02
Customs House
SIngapore 049323
T: 6533 3471

Rating:  4.167/5 stars

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