When the 70-year-old coffee shop – Hua Bee, closed its shutters for the last time, the residents of Tiong Bahru were outraged. It was another blow to their continuous conservation efforts to the rustic air of Tiong Bahru. Their outcries were heard, and new owner Loh Lik Peng compromised by presenting Bincho - a marriage of a yakitori restaurant with the district’s famous Mee Pok. It’s the Batman of Singapore restaurants; serving humble local noodles by day, and the Bincho transforms to a Yakitori and steamboat restaurant by night. Bincho is half housed in the coffee shop, and the other half in an elongated Yakitori bar reminiscent of many hole-in-the-wall restaurants in Japan.
The restaurant serves up 3 Omakase menus; 2 of which are Yakitori – Sakura ($50) or Bincho ($80), and the Miyabi ($50), which is the steamboat option that needs advance ordering. The meal starts off with the Assorted Chicken Appetizer, comprising of chicken liver, more chicken liver, and a cube of chicken. Not as luxuriant as a foie gras, the cubes of chicken liver were seemingly as enjoyable, and also less heart stopping in the fats department.
Next up was a small serving of Chicken Karaage. Lightly battered and fried to a crisp, the pieces of chicken retained its juiciness and tenderness. Nevertheless, the miserable serving of two left me hoping the rest of dinner would be more substantial.
Expectations sometimes lead to disappointments; and truth be told, there is only so much wonder a simple dish like steamboat can bring someone. Admittedly, the broth used was rich in flavours and choices of ingredients were fresh; but like all James Bond films in history, they are simply the same concept packaged differently.
Part of the repackaging includes a personal waiter to cook each course of the steamboat for you. To each his own, but I personally find joy in the communal activity of cooking the steamboat with friends. The steamboat started off with homemade fishballs, followed by pieces of chicken and vegetables before ending off with a serving of noodles.
In truth, I was a tad miffed when the dessert was served. Perhaps I have been so accustomed to undoing the top button of my pants after ever meal, but I was indeed feeling sorely unfulfilled, and I doubt the small sliver of cake would do any good to my hunger.
Bincho’s steamboat menu is nothing Oscar worthy, but I have heard that its Yakitori menu fared much better on the palate. Cravings for steamboat are better off settled along the streets of Bugis without burning a hole through your wallet. That being said, Bincho’s appeal lies in its unique atmosphere and excellent service – both of which, are rather foreign to me when it comes to steamboat.
Bincho 78 Moh Guan Terrace #01-19 Singapore 162078
Tel: +65 6438 4567
Opening Hours: Tue – Fri: 6pm – 12mn Sat – Sun: 12pm – 3pm (lunch), 6pm – 12mn