Last Updated: May 11, 2015
Nanbantei is possibly the oldest Japanese Yakitori Restaurant in Singapore, tucked away in a top corner of Far East Plaza. Entering the simple wood furnished outlet, you can see that seats are limited in this small and comfy restaurant. Simplicity is the core of Japanese cuisine. I’m very glad that they accept seat reservations if not I’d probably be eating Tori-Q instead. The ventilation system is also strong, sucking away any of the smoke from the grill; an absolute must for a Yakitori restaurant.
We were seated at the counter, right before the grill. Counter seats are possibly the best seats in any open restaurant because a) you get to scrutinize how the chefs prepare your food b) you don’t need to scream across the table to your date. Assuming you brought a date. We were stuck at the corner though, near the kitchen entrance which was not so ideal.
I love seeing the 2 chefs working at the grill with such synchronization. It takes a lot of teamwork and experience to be able to settle the entire restaurant’s orders with just TWO working chefs. Fresh meat is taken out, seasoned with salt and pepper, then goes directly onto the grill. Perfect simplicity.
Opting for the ala-carte menu because my dinner date tonight doesn’t take Sashimi, we somehow ended up ordering as much items as the Dinner sets anyway. You should get the dinner set if you can though because it looks more value for money.
The Pitan Egg Tofu ($7), which is a cold egg custard topped with century egg and Tobiko (flying fish roe), worried me for a minute because I absolutely hate Tofu with a vengeance. This was made with egg custard though like Chawamushi which delights me on the other spectrum. It has a very sweet and smooth texture and compliments the slightly bitter century egg so not too much is happening in your mouth.
I’m not too sure bitter is the right word to describe Century egg, but some ang mohs might call it rancid even. It’s an acquired taste like Durian. We also had the Garlic Rice ($5) in case we weren’t full. No, we were full in the end, rice definitely wasn’t needed.
Tokuse Tsukunei ($7.70) Special Chicken Meat balls, turns out wasn’t a ball at all. And wasn’t made completely with chicken either; there was pork mixed in. It came with a little raw quail egg at the side and no instructions. Hmm. Well, I just poured it over the meat and assumed that was the way it should be eaten.
On hindsight, I should have checked about the quail egg, but I didn’t like how the raw egg liquid and the cooked meat mingled in my mouth. Well if anyone else thinks the egg should be downed as a shot instead, let me know. The minced meat by itself was pretty nicely mixed and grilled though.
Clockwise from centre: Negima ($5.60) Chicken with Leek, Nanban Yaki ($9.50) Beef with bean paste sauce, Uzuru Tamago ($4.70) quail’s egg, Sweet corn ($7.10).
I detest leek, so I only ate the chicken which was simply flavoured from the grill with just salt and pepper. The Nanban Yaki wasn’t as good as Gyu Yaki I had previously (beef with salt and pepper) as the Nanban Yaki uses a lousier cut compared to the simple Gyu Yaki, and the bean sauce was pretty bland anyway. Quail’s egg well, just tasted like quail’s egg. Can’t really go wrong here short of burning it.
Now what still puzzles me till this day, is why anyone would pay $7.10 for HALF a cob of grilled corn. Granted it’s Hokkaido corn and the sweetest corn I’ve held my lips to, but it’s still ridiculous. For those who need a frame of reference, you can probably buy a 10 WHOLE cobs of normal corn in the supermarket for the same $7. Well my friend insists it’s worth every cent, but I’ll leave it up to you guys to decide.
You thought that was all didn’t you. WRONG. There’s still the Ika Maruyaki ($15.50) grilled cuttlefish. Freshly grilled, I don’t know why the dish cools really fast and is at room temperature within 10 minutes. Based on the warm taste at the start, the cuttlefish has close to no seafood oceanic taste and fresh like all the other dishes in Nanbantei but just lost it’s heat too fast. Maybe it’s the aircon…?
Nanbantei Japanese restaurant is a authentic casual place to visit, using simple salt and pepper seasoning to flavour their Yakitori dishes. Recommended to try, but it’s a bit pricey and you don’t feel it from all the small skewers ordered until the bill comes to skewer your wallet.