When Hua Bee coffee shop rolled it’s shutter, a mini storm was stirred within the Tiong Bahru community. Many are saddened that the older establishments are slowly overtaken by the influx of newer lifestyle and F&B outlets, thus hastening the gentrification pace of the hood. It is heartening to see the new owner hotelier-restaurateur Loh Lik Peng’s breathing a breathe of fresh air into this 70 years old kopi-tiam under his Unlisted Collection with the opening of mod Yakitori joint Bincho (White Japanese charcoal).
In the day time, the mee pok auntie returns, serving her humble bowl of noodles to long-time die-hard fans. Coincidentally, Hua Bee was the film set of Eric Khoo’s indie film Mee Pok Man. The movie poster now hangs proudly on the wall next to the drinks stall. The front portion of the kopi tiam was spruced up with minor renovation to preserve the authentic feel of the place. Venture further in and the design scheme takes a futuristic turn with hues of copper and metal grilles finishing. Unwind at the cocktail bar serving over 30 labels of Japanese whiskies as well as some playful “Japertifs” sake and sochu based bespoke cocktails concocted by mixologist Stefan Ravalli of the secret bar THE LIBRARY.
Take a counter seat and watch the affable Chef Asai Masashi in action. Having worked at various Japanese restaurants in Singapore over the past 10 years, he is conversant in English and takes pride in explaining the ingredients and condiments used when serving the food which makes the dining experience more fun and educational. There is an ala carte menu. If you have trouble making up your mind, select from 3 omakase sets – Sakura ($50), Bincho ($80) and Miyabi (steamboat). The menu changes daily to feature fresh ingredients and to showcase an assortment of Chef Asai’s yakitori highlights such as appetisers, salads, soups, grilled meats and desserts.
We sampled the Sakura and Bincho sets which was just right for 2 person. Chicken meat is the key player here. Various parts ranging from breast, thigh to mince served with different condiments each has its own unique texture and taste, especially the miso paste that was cleverly infused with the citrusy fragrance and aromatic zest of Yuzu. The slightly tart and salty aftertaste compliments the grilled meat perfectly.
At the end of our fabulous meal, I went to dessert heaven with the amazing Amazake cheese cake (sake cheese cake) The different textures of the crusty biscuit base, soft and creamy cheese, topped with sake jelly worked harmoniously together. The subtle sake flavor also lingers after each bite.
Bincho is a secret hideout that won’t remain a secret for long.
Blk 78 Moh Guan Terrace
#01-19 Singapore 160278
Tel: 6438 4567
Daily, except Mondays
Tues to Fri – 6pm to midnight
Sat and Sun – 12pm to 3pm, 6pm to midnight