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Happen to be around [email protected] and craving some Japanese dons, but not willing to blow your cash on expensive Japanese joints? Well, I’ve got an alternative that’s just as tasty and less than half the price. Pork lovers, me(a)t Buta Kabayaki, a restaurant selling quality pork jowl and char siew dons for under S$9!
Located in Food Republic on Level 5, Buta Kabayaki occupies a small restaurant space, with a dining capacity of about 30 people. This eatery is brought to us by Gochi-So Shokudo, a supplier of premium Iberico pork from Spain that has recently ventured into the F&B industry in a farm-to-table concept.
They have since opened five stalls, four of its namesake across the island, with Buta Kabayaki specialising in pork dons. Since they are both supplier and restaurant, their dishes can be priced at much lower rates, while still maintaining high-quality ingredients.
We visited the [email protected] outlet earlier this year, before the “Circuit Breakers” were implemented. For now, if you’d like a taste of the dons, do #tapauplease!
There are a total of 10 dishes available on the menu here at Buta Kabayaki, with the most expensive one coming to S$8.90. I almost couldn’t believe it, but considering that this restaurant is in partnership with Food Republic, it seemed like the prices were tailored to lunch crowds that frequent the food court. You’re also allowed to bring in food and drinks from other stalls into their space.
The first dish I tried was the Jumbo Loin Katsu Curry Rice (S$8.90), which came in a serving size that rivalled Monster Curry. With generous pieces of pork chop fried to a crispy golden brown and fragrant, steaming curry, it was definitely value-for-money and I eagerly dug in.
The curry was more of your typical Japanese-style curry, with a very mild spiciness and bits of potato and pork slices scattered within. True to its name, the pork katsu was huge and so tender to the point where I almost mistook it for chicken. Paired with the sticky Japanese rice, each mouthful was crunchy and savoury, with that distinct pork taste. Having had my share of lean and dry pork katsu, this one was a yummy exception.
I also had the Iberico Pork Karaage Curry Rice (S$8.90), which uses the same curry. The pork karaage was indeed reminiscent of chicken karaage, with a stronger and more salty flavour profile. Again, the pork was cooked to perfection despite being deep-fried, and the mild curry helped to offset the savoury meat counterparts.
Both of these dishes were part of their Tonkatsu Curry Rice selection, and they also offer other dishes like Chicken Katsu Curry Rice (S$8.90) and Tori Karaage Curry Rice (S$7.90) for those who aren’t the biggest fans of pork. My one qualm is that I wished they had included a scrambled egg for added creaminess.
Moving on to their signature Charcoal Grill dishes, I started with the Iberico Pork Char Siew Don (S$7.90), featuring slabs of chargrilled char siew, onsen egg, spring onions and ginger atop piping hot Japanese rice. The onsen egg was perfect, oozing out fluorescent yellow yolk as I mixed it into the rice, giving it that extra creaminess.
Again, the pork didn’t disappoint—tender and drizzled with copious amounts of char siew sauce, lending it that satisfying charred flavour. It was like the upgraded version of char siew, thinner yet soft and still as savoury, and without the excessive fats.
Redolent and enticing, the Garlic Pork Loin Don (S$7.00) consisted of grilled pork loin topped with a garlic sauce which called out to me. The piquant and aromatic garlic flavour was present, not to the point where it overpowered the pork.
Although the pork loin was slightly tougher to bite into, I relished the charred taste that helped to highlight the sharp garlic flavours and marry the dish together.
Lastly, we had the Teriyaki Pork Jowl Don (S$7.50), which was probably my favourite. Pork jowl is taken from the chin area, which means it has more fat. With each bite, the pork was crispy and charred on the edges, yet melted in my mouth, leaving the lingering taste of teriyaki in my mouth.
The pork weirdly reminded me of bak kwa, but in a good way that made it impossible not to finish the whole bowl.
For an additional S$4.50, you can DIY your own salad from the salad & fruits bar, enjoy a miso soup and a chawanmushi along with your main dish. If not, you can top up S$3 for either a salad and miso soup or miso soup and chawanmushi. They also have monthly promotions on certain dishes, like pork dons for only S$4.90, so be sure to check their Facebook page for regular updates.
I really enjoyed the different cuts of pork they offered, especially the pork jowl. Pork is not an easy meat to cook, and I can safely say I’ve never had pork this tender. Hopefully, they continue to diversify and expand their menu, to cater to larger groups of people.
For the quality of pork and ingredients they provide, you’d be hard-pressed to find these kinds of prices anywhere else, especially in the CBD. Once we’re able to go out again, I’ll definitely be bringing my friends to eat here anytime we’re in town. For now, remember to #tapauplease! Do note that all of their dishes contain pork, even the miso soup and chawanmushi, so it’s not halal-friendly.
Expected Damage: S$5.50 – S$13.40 per pax