Chicken wings, bacon-wrapped scallops, shishamo and shiitake mushrooms – you can get 'em all at these best izakayas, Japanese restaurants and more
The Japanese food counterpart of kebabs or satay, kushiyaki is the catch-all category of barbecued, charcoal-grilled skewers that are perfect for a bar snack, entrée, or party cuisine fit for sharing. Japanese chefs have been sticking to this tradition for generations, serving meaty delicacies such as beef or chicken (the latter is commonly referred to as yakitori), seafood ranging from salmon to shrimp, and even vegetables like shiitake mushrooms, asparagus and sweet potatoes. Whatever your fancy, what we can guarantee is that it’s impossible to stop at just one. Here’s our guide that skews towards this Japanese dish; we hope you’re hungry!
Yakitori Lounge Hibiki
Just like how you have sushi and ramen masters hailing from Japan, it’s no surprise to find senseis proficient in the art of yakitori too. One such authority is Chef Bunji Hibiki, who runs a yakitori brand with over 65 years of experience. Lucky for us, we now have our own slice of the Hibiki tradition with this Bukit Timah establishment. The Hibiki brand is also renowned for its miso barbecue sauce that it exports all around the world with pride, so expect an extra umami kick when you tuck into skewers offering kurobuta pork belly, tsukune and yakitori.
Yakitori Lounge Hibiki, #01-06 Royalville, 833 Bukit Timah Road, Singapore 279887, p. 6519 6894.
You can’t go wrong with creative cocktails and Japanese bar bites, can you? This brand new yakitori joint on Bukit Pasoh lane serves up a bevy of chicken-centric yakitori skewers and other classic Japanese izakaya dishes like karaage (with a cool yuzu mayo dip). The classic chicken skewers (thigh, tail, and more) come served with a variety of dips, including a mild soy dip and a spicy mala one as well. The bar’s signature cocktails include novel infusions and fruity twists – but there’s always ice-cold Asahi on tap if you prefer.
CHIKIN, 6 Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore 089820.
We’ve done the counting, and there are over 50 varieties of kushiyaki skewers that you can feast on at this franchise; we usually order 10 sticks at a time, and order a different set of 10 after! Our faves include the flavour-bursting hotate maki (scallops wrapped with sliced pork), juicy nikuzume shiitake (mushrooms stuffed with minced chicken), and fatty ton toro (pork neck with mustard). And if you dare having some preggers fish, the shishamo stuffed with roe will test the adventurer in you.
Shin Kushiya, #02-120 Vivocity, 1 Harbourfront Walk, Singapore 098585, p. 6275 8766. Open Mon-Thu 11.30am-10pm, Fri-Sat 11.30am-11pm, Sun 11.30am-10.30pm.
Izakayas are definitely one of our fave kind of food haunts – rowdy, epicurean hubs often filled with drunk Japanese salarymen that serve beer, sake and Japanese tapas. And when it comes to that last category, Shunjuu Izakaya grills the competition, pun intended, with their sumiyaki (charcoal grill) specialties. Often, you can find these delicacies served on skewers; don’t hesitate to try signature dishes like foie gras, kaki buta maki (oysters rolled with pork), and crispy tebasaki (chicken wing).
Shunjuu Izakaya, #01-15 Riverside View, 30 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238251, p. 6887 3577. Open Sun-Wed 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm, and Thu-Sat 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-11pm.
When it comes to secret restuarants, Bincho dropped quite the bombshell when it was revealed to be holed up in the vicinity of a mee pok stall in Tiong Bahru. By night, the hawker façade dissipates and out come the Japanese skewers. Glazed chicken-skewed yakitori are Bincho’s specialty, but you can also find other kushiyaki items like tsukune with egg yolk and chicken hearts – yum.
Bincho, 78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19, Singapore 162078, p. 6438 4567. Open Tue-Fri 6pm-12am, Sat-Sun 12-3pm and 6pm-12am.
Think that yakitori and sake are a match made in heaven? Then you’ll want to pay a visit to Tras Street’s Birders – a modern take on traditional Japanese soul food featuring a curated selection of sakes imported directly from Japan. Take a seat and tuck into yakitori dishes with unconventional toppings, like negima (chicken thigh skewer with spring leek topped with negi puree and black sesame, sasami (chicken breast) topped with nori vegemite, and the must-try bonjiri (chicken tail) with a garlic shoyu sauce.
Birders, 55 Tras Street, Singapore 078994. p. 8748 4585. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-12am, Fri- Sat 6pm-1am. Closed on Sun.
Mikawa Yakitori Bar
Probably the closest thing you’re gonna get to an izakaya in Siglap, Mikawa takes pride in its kushiyaki skewers – offering almost 50 assorted items like tori seseri (chicken neck) and hatsu (chicken heart), buta bara (pork belly with onion) and hotate bacon maki (scallop wrapped in bacon), and also gindara (cod fish) and Japanese sweet potatoes.
Mikawa Yakitori Bar, 53 Upper East Coast Road, Singapore 455214, p. 6444 8484. Open Tue-Thu 6pm-10.30pm, Fri 6pm-12am, Sat-Sun 12pm-2.30pm and 6pm-12am, closed Mon.
Listed as one of our best restaurants in Singapore, this multi-concept space rolls together a craft workshop, a bespoke cocktail bar, and a yakitori restaurant into one quirky building near Jalan Besar. Japanese-inspired skewers to pick include the tsukune, mid-joint wings, and wagyu rib-eye, but for something more out-of-the-ordinary, opt for the ‘bak kwa’ and asparagus or ‘shiok bak’ (pork belly with Japanese mustard). If it’s ‘shiok’, it can’t be wrong.
The Refinery, 115 King George’s Avenue, Singapore 208561, p. 9111 1210. Open Tue-Thu & Sun 6pm-12am, Fri-Sat 6pm-1am. Closed Mon.
JiBiru Craft Beer Bar
As its name implies with gusto, JiBiru is a post-work heaven for those craving a bespoke tipple; beer brands you can only find in the heart of Japan. But aside from these rare brews, JiBiru also feeds the parched with grilled kushiyaki inspired by the Saitama region near Tokyo. Sakura chicken and high-quality Japanese pork are just some snacks you can’t resist here, marinated and glazed in special sauces directly imported from the Hibiki yakitori restaurants of Higashi-Matsuyama. Authentic!
Ishinomaki Grill & Sake
One of the more affordable robatayaki restaurants around – where chefs slow-grill barbecue items over charcoal – Ishinomaki offers a generous bonanza of skewer dishes that will leave you spoilt for choice. How about trying some Japanese pumpkin? Or a Mangalica pork belly? Or perhaps more outlandish choices like potato bacon rolls and the Japanese yam jelly with yuzu miso? Too peculiar for your tastes? Tsukune and tebasaki are served here too.
Ishinomaki Grill & Sake, #B1-02/02A/03 Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Road, Singapore 238871, p. 6737 1065. Open daily 11:30am-3pm, 6pm-10pm.
Far East Plaza might be the slightly-shady mall along Orchard Road that sells cheap street clothes, but it’s also the homeground of what’s arguably the one of the pioneering yakitori restaurants in Singapore. You can either order a yakitori course of 12 sticks (it’s just $38) where you can sample asparagus maki, okura maki (lady’s finger wrapped with pork), ebi (shrimp), tsukune, nanbanyaki (beef with bean paste sauce) and more; or order a la carte to try specialties like chicken hearts, livers, and even the buttocks if you’re game.
Nanbantei, #05-132 Far East Plaza, 14 Scotts Road, Singapore 228213, p. 6733 5666. Open daily 12pm-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm.
Sumire Yakitori House
Another Japanese franchise that’s spread its wings to Singapore, Sumire’s philosophy is one etched in happiness – hence, its name that roughly resembles the Japanese pronunciation of “smile”. And you’d be grinning from ear to ear too once you catch a glimpse of its vast yakitori menu – chicken thigh, chicken and spring onion, tsukune; essentials of yakitori fare. Sumire’s also stacked with other kushiyaki options like tomato bacon, corn ninniku butter, and hotate shiotare (scallops).
Sumire Yakitori House, #01-88/89, 80 Middie Road, Singapore 188966, p. 6338 9963. Open Sun-Thu 11.30am-10.30pm, Fri-Sat 11.30am-11.30pm.
A handful of Japanese restaurants line the Robertson Quay terrain, with many Japanese expats flocking here for a sentimental taste of home. Shirokane Tori-Tama is one such restaurant that skews towards these palates, with yakitori comfort food like the livers, hearts and backs carved from smoky, grilled chicken. Absolutely perfect with a Sapporo or Suntory.
Shirokane Tori-Tama, #01-02 Robertson Walk, 11 Unity Street, Singapore 237995, p. 6836 5680. Open Mon-Wed 7pm-12am, Thu-Sat 7pm-1.30am.
Known for its signature omakase and sister outlet, Hana-Hana, that dishes out some of the best barachirashi in town, Teppei’s branch in the trendy Timbre+ gastropark – consisting of a cluster of cargo containers – has yakitori as its forte. Dipped in Chef Teppei Yamashita’s own charcoal-infused sauce, the yakitori sticks here run the gamut from chicken meatball and pork belly, salmom belly and quail eggs.
Teppei Daidokoro, #01-21 Timbre+, JTC Launchpad @ one-north, 73A Ayer Rajah Crescent, Singapore 139957.
The Burning Oak
Yakitori takes centrestage at The Burning Oak, one of the numerous ‘hipster-hawker’ stalls you’ll find at Bedok Marketplace that resides above iconic supper spot, Simpang Bedok. Try quail egg, pork shoulder, chicken thigh and shiitake mushroom skewers for the price of $2 (and below) per stick. Craving the premium stuff? Go for the beef short rib skewers or the slow-cooked pork cheek instead.
The Burning Oak, #02-16 Bedok Marketplace, 348 Bedok Road, Singapore 469560.