Yakiniku is costly in Singapore but a Japanese recommended me Yakiniku-Oh Goen which has four outlets at Telok Ayer, Cuppage Plaza, 321 Clementi, and Tanjong Pagar. My Japanese friend mentioned that the yakiniku joint is affordable and serves good quality meats; Goen is one of her favourite Japanese restaurants.
If you find the name familiar, it is because they are affiliated with Udon Goen, which has food stalls all over food courts in Singapore, serving big portions of curry katsu don. We ordered a chicken curry katsu ($11.80) here too, just to have some carbs with the bbq meat; they ran out of pork. It is as good as I remember. Crispy cutlet, with a nice well-balanced curry.
The reason why their meats are more affordable here than other yakinikus is because they import the entire Wagyu cow from Iwate prefecture in Hokkaido, giving the restaurant access to rare cuts of beef. The cow is imported chilled, not frozen, and the meat is sliced only upon ordering, so it may take some time to arrive on your table.
A piece of beef fat to grease the pan
Besides the affordable and fantastic quality beef, another marvellous aspect is that they use a traditional square stove, known as sichirin, containing ash-white charcoal, and anyone who is an avid BBQ-eater knows that ash-white charcoal gives the best heat to grill meat. Take note, however, you have to pay $9 for a sichirin of charcoal. Not sure if it is psychological, but there is a palpable difference between meat cooked on a charcoal stove and an electric stove. The charcoal here really gives the beef a deep and sexy smokiness.
The very polite female server recommended to us the bucho set ($72), which feeds 3 to 4 people. In addition, we three ordered the curry rice (previously mentioned) and kimchi set ($12). And she was surprised we could eat so much. She was right: the bucho set comes with a lot of meat, about 400g or so.
Another difference between this restaurant and other yakinikus is that you cook your own meat here. Usually, because yakiniku costs so much, servers grill for customers. But I really prefer to do it on my own because I know my preference for doneness (medium-rare) and because I can take my time to grill (servers usually just grill all the meat at a go). Since the meats here are from Japan, I guess even if you under-grill your meat, you will be safe.
Talking about service, the service here is good. However, there were only three servers, and they could not cope with the demands of the customers. We were finished with our meal and wanted them to remove the stove because it was stifling and hot–people commit suicide by burning charcoal at home–and there was no or little air con; and because we intended to order more beer after the stove was cleared.
But we waited a long time because other customers, who asked for service after us, had more important demands. I understand prioritising; it’s more urgent to serve a customer a bowl of rice than to remove a stove for another customer even if I asked first. And then later, another customer asked for a beer, and she had to serve the beer first. Other customers’ demands piled up and she could not get back to us. So near yet so far. Always the bridesmaid, never the bride. What I am saying is there is not enough staff, but the service is good, swift, efficient, and polite.
Because we could not stand the heat of the stove, we decided to leave and go to another place for drinks. And when we were paying, we walked up to the counter instead of waiting for the bill at our table, for a faster payment. But then, we had to wait for some time too. They really need to employ more staff.
Back to the food. WOW. It is spectacular. The bucho set comes with great cuts of meats such as tomosankaku, kaburi, shinshin, clod, and kappa (spelling?). Some cuts are fat but never oleaginous or jerlat. Some cuts maintain the integrity of a nice beefy taste. This is umami, this is orgasmic. This place is much better than many expensive yakiniku restaurants I have tried before.
Please note that there is extra charge for credit cards, so it is best to pay by cash or NETS. We paid $145 for three persons. And all three of us agree that we will definitely return. Maybe better ventilation and more service staff next time?
Blk 1 Tanjong Pagar Plaza #01-36, Singapore 082001
tel: +65 6444 2488
Tue – Sun 5.30pm – 11.30pm, closed Mon
Price / value: 8/10
You may be interested in…
–Renga-Ya, CHIJMES: New Beef Don for Set Lunch (Limited to 15 Bowls Daily) and Ohmi Beef Yakiniku After CNY
–Niku Katsumata 肉勝又, Duxton Road: Healthy Kagoshima Wagyu Beef Yakiniku, Grilled on Crystal Plate
–Ito-Kacho Yakiniku Dining, Mandarin Gallery
–The Hitsuji Club, Boat Quay: Hokkaido BBQ and the Silence of the Lambs
Written by Dr. A. Nathanael Ho.