“It’s fine, I’ll settle my meal alone”, that’s what I usually tell my friends whenever I get stood up for lunch or dinner appointments. “You sure you don’t mind eating alone?”, that’s the reply I normally get. Having stayed in Korea alone for two years, dining alone has become a norm in my daily life and I always wonder why so many people are terrified by the thought of solo dining.
With the growth of single-person households and hectic family schedules, long gone were the days when food is meant to be shared and meals should be communal. In fact, solo dining has evolved into a transformational experience that will teach one to slow down, appreciate food and embrace solitude.
Almost all dishes can be eaten when you are alone, however, it gets tricky when barbecue is involved, after all, this is the kind of food you eat with a group of friends on a Friday night with alcohol. However, if you are looking for a quick barbecue fix when you are alone, worry not, as Yakiniku Like’s first-ever outlet has just arrived in Singapore and they are offering yakiniku, fast-food style.
Hailing from Japan with over 260 restaurants worldwide, Yakiniku Like is located at the basement of Paya Lebar Quarter. The 42-seater restaurant exudes a cosy vibe with its concrete-like grey walls, timber-decked flooring and sturdy wooden tables lined in an orderly and neat manner.
Smack-centre of the restaurant is the ‘Island of Solitude’ that houses 16 individual electric smokers grills allowing customers to feel comfortable even when they are dining alone. By the sides are tables with shared grills for two made available for larger groups of diners.
In an attempt to enjoy my virgin yakiniku solo dining experience to the fullest, I opted to sit by the end of the centre aisle. What struck me the most when I stepped into the restaurant, was the fact that there was no smell of burnt meat and oil floating in the air despite it being a yakiniku place.
Later did I realise that the smokeless grill that Yakiniku Like used were imported from Taiwan, specially customised for this Singapore outlet. Smoke emitted is sucked in by the sides and down the grill as the meats are cooked and as such, diners will not leave the restaurant with that familiar post-barbecue stench clinging on to their hair and clothes after they are done with their meal.
With a quick dining concept in mind, Yakiniku Like aims to serve orders within a three-minute time frame. As such, they have adopted the use of QR code for ordering, freeing their manpower to aid in the fast turnover of customers. Impressed by their use of technology, I excitedly placed my orders to check out if they are as efficient as they mentioned.
Within a minute or two, my meal arrived; efficiency checked.
Aiming to be the main spot that gathers all yakiniku aficionados in Singapore, Yakiniku Like allows diners to tailor their grilling experience to their personal preference with their set menu and a la carte menu selections. Furthermore, they also have a variety of condiments to go alongside the grilled meats, allowing diners to customise the flavours according to their liking.
I have to admit that I was a little sceptical when I saw Yakiniku Like promoting themselves as ‘value for money’. I mean, how cheap can they price their beef? Boy, I was wrong when I saw the pricing on the menu. Prices start from S$7.80 for a set meal that contains your choice of meat, rice, seaweed soup, and a selection between kimchi or salad.
Not only that, despite being served, prices are nett—no additional service charge or GST. Affordability checked.
With the exception of the Australian Wagyu, the other cuts of beef served at Yakiniku Like are imported from the United States. Although not pre-marinated, the meats are all drizzled with their signature Like Original BBQ Sauce before serving, to enhance the meats with a slightly sweet-salty flavour.
As a fan of beef tongue, the Like Set (S$15.80 for 150g) immediately won me over with its selection of beef tongue, skirt steak and beef short plate. Cooked medium-rare and lightly seasoned with sea salt, the beef tongue was tender and not gamey as they were sliced super thinly.
Comparing to the karubi (beef short plate), I prefer the texture and the bite of the skirt steak as it was stronger in flavour. For this cut of meat, I highly recommend to dip it in some Garlic Soy Sauce. Its piquant and sharp flavours cut beautifully through the flavours of the beef, pairing perfectly with the juices from the skirt steak.
Non-beef eaters can enjoy Yakiniku Like’s Pork & Chicken Set (S$7.80 for 150g) which comprises of a duo of pork belly and chicken thigh. Unlike Korean pork belly, the pork belly served were thinner, with a higher lean meat-to-fat ratio. I personally prefer it this way, as it is less oily and jelak.
However, if you are one who enjoys biting into the thick fatty layer, be prepared to be slightly disappointed as this will not provide the mouthfeel which you might expect.
Yakiniku Like uses chicken thigh meat as it tends to be more succulent and juicy. Although it takes longer to cook, the chicken was soft and tender. With that being said, I felt that it was rather tasteless and thus, pairing it with the zesty and tantalising Spicy Miso Sauce made it more flavourful and palatable. For those of you who relish in the heat and fieriness from chillies, Garlic Chilli Sauce will be up your alley as its very Singaporean and very shiok.
My yakiniku experience was made better by my a la carte order of the Wagyu Steak (S$17.80 for 120g). The steak was impressive with its massive network of marbling and generous streaks of fats. I might have risen my expectations a little too high as I remember feeling slightly let down by the Wagyu Steak.
The beef was decent—luscious and juicy. However, it didn’t manage to blow my mind as it did not have the melt-in-the-mouth texture I expected. Nonetheless, with the price of S$17.80 for a Wagyu Steak, I felt that it was good enough and I wasn’t complaining at all.
If yakiniku alone is not enough for a hearty meal, try pairing your bowl of rice with a side order of Mini Curry (S$2.80). Trust me, Yakiniku Like knows exactly what they are doing when it comes to curry. Like most Japanese curry, our side order of the Mini Curry was thick and flavoursome.
Cooked with minced meat and onions, the curry was fragrant and went hand-in-hand with the bowl of rice. Too bad I was filled to the brim at this point of time if not, I would have been able to down an additional bowl of rice with just the curry alone!
As a person who enjoys some alone time and embraces the concept of solo dining, Yakiniku Like has definitely made it to my list of restaurants for eating out when I’m alone. With its unique concept and affordability, it certainly is a suitable dining spot for a fuss-free, convenient barbecue experience!
Expected Damage: S$7.80 – S$30 per pax
Our Rating: 4 / 5
10 Paya Lebar Road, Paya Lebar Quarter, #B1-28, Singapore 409057
10 Paya Lebar Road, Paya Lebar Quarter, #B1-28, Singapore 409057