Tiong Bahru might have lost its itinerant satay uncle, but gourmands can still count on another master of the grill who has been quietly honing his craft over the burning embers of binchotan charcoal. Step into Bincho, the Unlisted Collection's mod reinvention of the traditional yakitori-ya, and you'll find Chef Asai Masashi presiding over the small open kitchen.
Between checking on the grill and plating up dishes, Masashi finds the time to banter with diners, sometimes surprising them with an extra dish or two — as he did with a couple who discovered a complimentary serving of uni pudding just as they were about to leave. "Dessert!" Masashi declared. But uni for dessert? It rarely belongs to the domain of sweet endings, but he made the unorthodox showing work by combining the umami-rich ingredient with sweet lashings of maple syrup layered on a cold, tofu-soft pudding. Thin shavings of shiso added a bright, herbaceous lift to the dish. We never thought we'd enjoy our uni cold, but we did, and we'll be back for seconds.
Then there is unagi, masterfully grilled and served Nagoya-style. Known as hitsumabushi, the dish features grilled unagi presented on a bed of warm rice. The dish is to be savoured in parts: first with the unagi and rice, then with the accompanying grated wasabi and seaweed, and finally, by combining all the elements in the comforting depths of a savoury broth. It's a dish that builds on itself by degrees, ending with a finale that combines the slow heat from the wasabi with the sweet and smoky flesh of grilled unagi.
With a newly introduced happy hour (that's a 25 per cent discount on Japanese craft beers we're talking about) that runs from noon till 8pm, it's easy to enjoy Masashi's repertoire of delicious grills with a cold bottle of beer in hand.