In opening Birders at Tras Street, actor Adam Chen has enlisted the help of Japanese consultant chef Makoto Deguchi, who was the former sous chef at Sola awarded a Michelin star in Paris. (By the way, Adam Chen is a big foodie and knows all the best and newest restaurants to eat in Singapore and worldwide.)
The selling point of the yakitori here is that it is made accessible to customers. For example, some people may dislike the funky smell of scallion in the classic negima yakitori (chicken skewer with scallion) so the restaurant purees the scallion and puts it in top of the thigh skewer ($3.50).
Another example of making yakitori accessible: people don’t normally eat shiso leaf because some may not know that it can be eaten. So they make shiso leaf into a pesto and spread it on sasami skewer ($4.50), which is a lean cut of chicken breast.
The innovative skewers are ok but could be seasoned heavier. We prefer the more traditional skewers such as the tail ($4) simply marinated with garlic shoyu; homemade tsukune chicken balls ($4.50) that have a nice texture because of the crunchy cartilage; and oyster ($4.50, above), a prized choice cut of the chicken between the thigh and tail that is simply seasoned with salt.
Although Birders is a yakitori restaurant, we thought that they are better for their sake and sharing dishes. I’ll talk about their sake first.
They source and import their own sake mostly from small independent breweries in Japan. In the spirit of making things accessible to customers, there is an easy chart in their menu detailing the flavor. Cup sake these days are gaining similar reputation as craft beers and Birders has a collection of interesting, edgy cup sake (180ml, starting from $15). Cup sake is something uncommon in other Japanese restaurants, but it’s a good idea because you don’t have to commit to a big bottle of sake. If you don’t like it, pass it to your friends, and order another one.
The second area that we thought is good is their cooked dishes. So much work goes into their katsu sando (pork cutlet sandwich, above). They put cheese in between layers of pork collar and deep-fried it. As a result, it’s crispy and extremely tender. I also like the twist that they use mantou, instead of white bread.
The best dish for us is an interpretation of oden (above). Oden is basically Japanese yong tou fu. Here, the foie gras, cooked to a perfect buttery texture, sits on a daikon in a very tasty and thick dashi stock.
The icing on the cake is the cool decor with a poster of Darth Vader captioned “limpei” and Princess Leia “chiobu.” There is a wall of skateboards. It’s a place I’d come with friends. Expect to pay $30-$40 (without drinking).
55 Tras Street Singapore 078994
Tel: +65 8748 4585
M-Th 6pm-12am, F & Sat 6pm-1am, closed Sun
Written by A. Nathanael Ho.