Bincho restaurant at Tiong Bahru is situated at the back of the 70 year-old Hua Bee Coffeeshop. The front is a kopitiam, selling bak chor mee. Through the frosted panels at the back of the coffeeshop, you can get to Bincho; it’s like a speakeasy. Or you can go around the back alley to enter Bincho.
Bincho-tan is dense coal made from oak, and Bincho restaurant focuses on yakitori, or Japanese charcoal-grilled skewers. The restaurant is helmed by Chef Asai Masashi, a graduate of Abeno Tsuji Culinary Institute, who later spent 13 years honing his craft in Japan, before coming to Singapore in 2002. He set up Bincho in 2013, making the restaurant 3 years old now.
There are three dinner sets, changing frequently, starting from $68++. But the lunch menu, which I went for, is much more worth the value, starting from $25++.
As I entered through the alley, the narrow space is almost like the inside of a crashed airplane body, which leads to a rundown kopitiam enclave with cement floor, chipped mosaic tiles, and peeling parsley paint. It’s magical, it’s eclectic, as if I walked into the Blade Runner movie set.
Since they are famous for yakitori, I ordered the yakitori don set ($25), which is fortunately also the cheapest lunch set. Each lunch set includes appetizer, soup, salad, chicken and dessert. The fried chicken I got is coated with a sweet sauce, very delicious.
But the star is truly the yakitori. It’s tender and soft with a smokey aroma. The lunch set is outstanding… but the service needs some improvement. When the waitress asked me what dessert I wanted, the mochi or the ice cream, I asked in return, “For the mochi, is it warabi mochi or mochi ice cream?”
She said impatiently, “NO. It’s either mochi OR ice cream.” She didn’t even bother to understand my question. And throughout my interaction with her, I thought that she wasn’t enjoying her job at all.
It was warabi mochi, but it is too hard and stiff.
Since I intended to write a review, I thought I should order an a la carte, Conger eel tempura and yam ($38). I ordered it, and the same waitress informed me, “It comes with yam, ok?”
There was nothing wrong with the statement, of course. Yam tempura is rather famous in a 2 michelin-starred restaurant in Tokyo, so I thought it is yam tempura. The menu, as well as the waitress’s question, is misleading. But no, it is not yam tempura. The conger eel tempura is soaked in yam puree.
I ordered tempura because I wanted the crispiness. This dish is quite terrible and should be taken off the menu; there is no crispiness, and the saltiness of the sauce has completely engulfed the taste of the eel.
But in any case, the waitress should have said, “tempura in yam sauce on a hotplate,” not that the eel comes with yam. I won’t have ordered it if I knew the exact dish. Communication is important between wait staff and patrons.
The miscommunication of the waitress, and her impatience had ruined an otherwise good meal. Because of the miscommunication, the price of my affordable lunch set had ballooned to $75. With that price, I should have come for the dinner set.
Bincho Restaurant Singapore
78 Moh Guan Terrace #01-19 Singapore 162078
T: +65 6438 4567
T-Sun 12pm-3pm, 6pm-late
Food: 7/10 (brought down by the tempura)
Price: 5/10 (a la carte is really expensive)
Overall rating: 3/5
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.