Yen Yakiniku is a Japanese grill restaurant located at Ann Siang Road where many pubs and bars thrive at night. Boasting a classy exterior, one might think this is yet another fanciful fine dining restaurant. Hold your thoughts, decide after having a meal inside.
Opened around June 2015, Yen Yakiniku is an idea inspired from the successful Da Wan Yakiniku in Taiwan. The concept of it is that the experienced chefs will be grilling your meats a la minute upon order, live in front of the restaurant’s guests.
Yes, say goodbye to improperly DIY cooked meat and the pungent BBQ smell from the aftermath. And oh, the meat in its raw form is also shown to diners prior to being grilled to reassure you of its quality. Upon query, the chef will introduce the dish to you and guide you on the eating procedures.
Warm lights and counter seats upfront where the action is; it’s almost like getting a drink at a bar. Comfortable service about 10-12 guests, but total seats available are from 20-25.
Why so? This is due to the fact that there are only 3 trained chefs who cook for 3-4 pax each service. This is to ensure very attentive, personal service and that each diners are well taken care of, not to forget the specialised grilling of your meat.
Therefore, I put great emphasis on making reservations at Yen Yakiniku prior to your visit.
We started off our meal with Yen’s Special Salad ($14). Usually salad isn’t my thing, this however opened up my appetite. Consisting of the traditional cabbage and Mizuna (a Japanese vegetable), drizzled with sesame dressing which was prepared specially for the dish. Topped with pieces of fried tofu, peanut bits were also added to give you that crunch.
The dressing was sour but packed with a sesame flavour. Definitely preps you for the meat feast coming your way.
First up on our plate is the Ox Tongue -Thick Cut ($25), as mentioned, each dish were presented to us before it’s cooked. So we as consumers can visually see what we ordered, know and be assured that we are served the correct dish. The ox tongue was from an Australian bred ox.
A whole tongue typically can provide 3-4 single servings, as shown in the picture above. The back end of the tongue contains the most marbling and it is very springy in texture. Note, put the entire piece into your mouth at one go, to fully enjoy the flavour and texture.
Next we had the Wagyu Oyster Blade ($36) served. The oyster blade comes from the shoulder part of the carcass. Best eaten medium rare to fully enjoy. You can see that the marbling is pretty intense in the meat with all the white flecks, which proved to be very flavourful with a strong beefy taste- the meat was also tender and thinly sliced. Marinated chopped onions which have had its choking nature expelled are also added to bring the flavours together with its sweet fragrance.
Then we had the Japanese Wagyu Ox Tongue ($25). This is a weekly special and not normally found on the menu. We had the privilege to try this awesome dish out, which is a different breed of cow from the previous ox tongue.
Why’s it awesome? The taste, of course. This is a thin cut version, which suits heavily marbled wagyu beef better without being overly heavy. It is topped with marinated onion and spring onions as well. This gives off a slight tingling sensation on your tastebuds but it complimented extremely well with the buttery beef.
According to the chef, the marinated onion and spring onion were grill together with the beef to help retain the juiciness flavour of the meat, which might be lost during the grilling process.
Next is a little something different, Pork Jowl ($13). The jowl comes from the neck of the pork, very delicate and unique. As the chef cooks the meat, he purposefully grills it to the extent that the edges of the meat are charred and crispy, adding another dimension. It’s a small, bite-sized piece, yet packed with flavour. There is also a slight greasy surface that enhanced the texture of the meat.
Back to beef, of course, is the Wagyu Rib Eye ($130 per 260g). This, is the highlight. Okay, a full blood, BMS 9+ (or 10 as the chef claims, but the standard marbling score only goes up to 9 so this is a grade beyond that) Australian Wagyu, it is considered as the cream of the crop in its category.
Did you know? A piece of ribeye can be separated into two parts namely the Ribeye Cap and Strip Loin, then grilled and eaten separately with different flavour profiles?
The Ribeye Cap portion of the meat, is to be eaten first. The meat here is tender, melts-in-your mouth and has higher evenly distributed marbling. Wasabi is added on top to combat that jelat feeling one might get due to more fat content.
Then the Strip Loin is eaten after that. This one here however is more chewy, for me it was a good jaw exercise. Garlic added is added in this to spice up the flavour of the meat, pretty refreshing to the taste buds I would say.
Getting away from all-things meat, is the King Oyster Mushroom ($10). Usually when mushrooms like these are being grilled, more than often the end product is dry and hard. Not in this instance, where the mushrooms are grilled so precisely while its moisture is still retained, then the grilling process stops immediately at this point. Probably one of the best grilled mushroom I ever had.
One of my all time favourite seafood is none other than scallops. Therefore, this plate of Hokkaido Scallop ($15/piece) blew me away. Sashimi grade, this is probably the freshest and sweetest tasting scallop you can ever have. Of course you can also choose to have it raw, but since you are in a grilling restaurant, do as the Romans do.
Having said that, sashimi grade scallops also mean that it is safe enough to be grilled to medium rare due to lack of bacteria. And so, we had them medium rare. One bite of it gave me the best of both worlds; crispy, slightly charred on the outside, and juiciness oozing from the inside.
The last dish we had was Chicken Thigh ($12). Specially and uniquely infused with homemade garlic sauce, you will definitely have to order this if you want more balance in your meal.
The chicken was cut in bite sizes and proved very easy to eat. The highlight of this dish wasn’t not the meat to me, but the butter sauce that was customised by the chef in accordance to the compliment of the meat.
Meet the man behind the kitchen scene (and your mouth-watering dishes), Chef Jones Chen.
Chef Jones is the Taiwanese Head Chef of Yen Yakiniku. Armed with a decade of culinary experience and having spent the last eight years at Taipei’s famed Da Wan Yakiniku as a Yakiniku Chef. He is more than qualified and experienced to handle all your Yakiniku cravings.
Yen Yakiniku is a highly recommended place to check out. Great food and sake to pair with, and in our opinion, the one Yakiniku restaurant in Singapore that places great emphasis on dedicated service and quality food. Yes, it’s going to get pricey, but you get what you pay for.