It’s always really hard to stand out among all the fancy bars and restaurants in Tanjong Pagar, but I’ve managed to find one that went right up my alley.
Say hello to Birders (鳥人) , a no-frills place for good contemporary yakitori (Japanese skewers), bar grubs and sake.
Situated along Tras Street, this brightly lit modern izakaya restaurant is unlike many dingy joints.
The team behind Birders is Singaporean actor Adam Chen and chef Makoto Deguchi, an alumnus of the one Michelin starred restaurant Sola in Paris.
Deviating from the traditional methods of seasoning yakitori with either shio (salt) or tare (sweet sauce), the skewers at Birders are seasoned with a contemporary touch.
We tried the Nagaimo Mentai ($8, left) topped with seaweed and a generous heap of spicy pollock roe mayonnaise, significantly disguising the distinctive taste of the yam.
One of my favourites would be the Sasami ($4.5, left), succulent pieces of chicken topped with shiso leaves pesto and ume (Japanese plum) sauce. This unique seasoning gave the yakitori a minty kick with some acidity from the plum.
Thigh ($3.50, right) was very aromatic. Marinated with Negi (spring onions) and topped with black sesame seeds, it gave an interesting crunch.
If you’re feeling adventurous, go for Liver ($4, left), Heart ($4, middle) and Tsukune ($4.5, right).
The Liver and Heart skewers were marinated and topped with spring onions, ginger and miso. Such condiments are great for balancing out the strong taste of offals that might be a put off to some customers.
The Tsukune or chicken meatballs are dipped in a sauce of onsen egg and tare, which enhanced the sweetness of the crunchy diced chicken cartilage within the juicy meatball.
The egg added a smooth coating to the Tsukune, which enhanced the tare flavour as a whole.
Perfect for sharing, we love the bourbon Liver Mousse ($16) topped with salted konbu (seaweed) that came with pieces of crispy golden mantou and yuzu marmalade.
The slight bitterness of the zesty marmalade complemented the rich and creamy texture of the chicken liver mousse. Eaten with the deep fried mantou, the salted seaweed added an additional oomph of umami to the bite.
Served in a very generous portion for its price, the Birders Wings ($10) tasted similar to tang cu rou, a Chinese style sweet and sour meat dish.
Although the crispy wings are mixed with black vinegar and sake, they were not overly sour and were easy on the palate.
The Oden ($16) from Birders had a really unorthodox touch to it; a pan seared foie gras was added. Along with the salted konbu, the entire dish was a really creative take on the traditional Japanese oden.
The richness from the liver managed to balance the bland and simple taste of the daikon (steamed radish), along with a savoury dashi broth, which I simply can’t get enough.
Although Birders is famous for its 180ml cup sakes, they’ve run out of those when I was there and had to settle for the bottled versions.
But who was I to complain as I had the opportunity to try the Jokigen ($85 per bottle), a dry Junmai Ginjyo from Yamagata, which intensified the flavours of all the grilled yakitori.
This sake has no distilled alcohol added, you can be sure that it’s of premium quality.
If you prefer something sweeter, try the Hakurakusei ($80, left), a Miyagi variant of Junmai Ginjyo that was more suited for the sweet tooth.
Birders’ concept of pairing contemporary yakitori and sharing plates with an equally great selection of sakes is a sure win combination for me.
Since I am inclined to the Sasami, Liver Mousse and The Oden, I would strongly urge you guys to try those on your visit here.
Expected Damage: $30 – $45 per pax