Today we’re covering a fantastic little yakitori joint called Bincho, that’s tucked away in the back streets of trendy Tiong Bahru.
There are few, what we consider, truly healthy restaurants in Singapore. And when we say healthy we mean maximum nutrition and minimal toxins. What most people consider as healthy, for example salads and vegetarian food can be in fact rather problematic. Salads that are predominantly lettuce based contain virtually no nutrients and just set you up for food cravings and overcompensatory eating later in the day. Vegetarian restaurants and vegetarian dishes using cheap non-organic vegetables imported into Singapore from China and Malaysia and grains from the US are also rather nutrient sparse and come laced with chemical fertilisers, pesticides, fungicides, rodenticides, insecticides or herbicides (what we refer to at Levitise as RIFFPHs that you can read about here).
So, how do we determine what constitutes a healthy restaurant like Bincho Yakitori for our 12 Spoons Singapore Restaurant Reviews?
12 Spoons restaurant review criteria
We have three criteria for choosing a restaurant for our reviews.
1. Organic or locally sourced and chemical free
First up, we look for restaurants that are predominantly serving organic food (both meat/fish and veggies). For example, Mahota Pantry and Real Food Cafe Orchard. Or if not, then those that are selecting local produce that are chemical and pesticide free but not necessarily certified organic such as Open Door Policy, also in Tiong Bahru.
2. Serve organ meats
Organ meats are the kings of nutrition. Liver and kidney, in particular, are power houses of essential vitamins, minerals, amino acids and fatty acids. The reason they are called, “essential” is because our body cannot manufacture them internally and they must be consumed from the diet1. It is often hard to find organ meats on menus in Singapore and it is even harder to find good quality sources of organ meats. However, Bincho yakitori is one of those restaurants serving excellent quality chicken organs from Toh Thye San Farm in Johor Bahru.
Did you know?
In China, many organ meats are used for Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and the organs of pigs are regularly consumed in popular Chinese dishes such as, pigs organ soup. In Japan, Yakitori is the celebration of eating all types of chicken offal including heart, gizzard, liver, cartilage, intestines and not just the minced chicken balls and chicken wings. In Indonesia and Malaysia, goat and cow organs are popular in many dishes that can still be found in Singapore such as sop buntut (oxtail), gulai otak (brain), hati goreng (liver) and paru goreng (lung). In India, goat’s organs are particularly popular in dishes such as Kata-Kat which can include brains, liver, kidneys and other organs. Traditional cultures that consumed these foods on a regular basis were well nourished and showed no incidents of modern diseases like cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative disease and cancers. Without doing any further research and applying a little common sense we should honestly ask ourselves this, “What’s healthier, chicken liver from an organic fed and pastured chicken or a bowl of Kellogg's cornflakes?”.
3. Doing something different
The last type of restaurant that we look at are those that offer traditionally prepared fermented foods or other foods that are prepared lovingly over time to increase their flavour profile and health benefits. Increasingly lacto-fermentation in particular is becoming more and more popular in Singapore (there are almost 6,000 lacto-fermenation ninjas on the Singapore Facebook group)2. We are particularly interested in reviewing cafes and restaurants that specialise in homemade lacto-fermented vegetables, lacto-fermented beverages like beet kvaas and kombucha along with superfoods like slow cooked bone broths and genuine sourdough breads.
The meat of the article
Ok so after that long winded, but I hope illuminating, introduction let's see how Bincho's yakitori stacked up. We picked Bincho because (a) it naturally falls into category 2 above and (b) because Singaporean's consume half their bodyweight in chicken per year we thought it was important to find a yakitori joint with a superior and healthy product. This would prove to be a rather enlightening review as I am a big fan of organ meats but my colleagues are not, despite their knowledge of the health benefits. So, how did they get on?
We went at lunchtime and the entrance to Bincho at this time of day is located in the back of a car park with a very nondescript doorway. The interior is cosy and initially reminded us of the inside of an incredibly comfortable 1960s style US Winnebago or combi-van. This long entrance way leads into a slightly larger eating area cum kitchen which really feels very authentically like rural Japan. It was very charming. This area opens to a traditional hawker selling Mee pok in the daytime and Bincho in the evening.
We decided to experience Bincho the traditional way by working our way through a succession of chicken yakitori items, starting off with the milder and least seasoned parts of the chicken first, like chicken cartlilege or nonkatsu, and then moving up to the stronger ones, like the liver, at the end and then finishing up with a donburi. First, we were presented with a medley of Japanese pickled vegetables that included cucumber and carrots pickled in rice bran, daikon pickled with rice vinegar, sugar and yuzu skin and cabbage pickled in salt, vinegar and soy sauce. All were great and a very appropriate and appetising starter.
Next up was the nankotsu (chicken breast bone cartilage) which was initially crunchy but quickly yielded to a softer finish that was quite delightful. The nankotsu was accompanied by a green tea salt and curry powder which was an unusual but appropriate condiment that worked well. 3 thumbs up for this one.
We had the hatsu (heart) next. This was really good. It was soft and tender in a beautiful Japanese citrus sauce. Even my non-organ liking colleagues loved this one. What’s interesting about Bincho is that they don’t serve their meats on a skewer but as individually grilled pieces. The chef told us that this is because they can use larger chunks that maintain their juiciness and are of a more appropriate size for chopsticks eating. Well there were certainly no complaints from us. 3 thumbs up for the hatsu.
Sunagimo (chicken gizzards), like the heart, were also super tender and juicy. Normally gizzards have the texture of a cross between a pencil eraser and grit so this was really a pleasant surprise. The gizzards didn’t have quite as much flavour as the heart but they came with a nice selection of accompaniments including yuzu pepper, mountain wasabi and mushroom salt. Again my non-organ loving colleagues also lapped this dish up so another 3 thumbs up here.
OK a weird one coming up; Kanmuri or cocks comb! I’ll leave it up to you to guess what this is from the picture but suffice to say it was an interesting one. Much softer than the nankotsu, lightly salted with a mild taste and a kinda slimy texture. It was accompanied with some stronger condiments including Japanese yellow mustard (similar to a hot yellow English mustard) and some great Japanese paprika. This one, whilst beautifully prepared, was not so popular with my colleagues so only 2 thumbs up here.
We had one of their specialities next, tsukune, which was a chicken pate with a raw egg yolk on the top. This was a nice, relatively easy going dish and perfect for those who don’t fancy the more funky parts of a chicken. 3 out of 3 thumbs up for this one.
Next up was my favourite, reba or chicken liver. Now I’ve been eating chicken livers and chicken liver patty since I was a kid so this is not a big deal for me and they are certainly not as strong as lamb or ox livers which have a seriously manly punch. Bincho’s chicken liver was simple amazing sauted in seven spices and accompanied by Japanese mustard, wholegrain mustard and yakitori sauce. The liver was perfectly lightly cooked which is important because if you overcook it becomes dry, chewy and generally unpalatable. Ideally it should be slightly pink in the middle. It was also a very mild flavour as well (for liver) so you know that the chickens that Bincho serves from Ton Thye San farm are fed a healthy diet. You can read more about their chickens in our guide on healthy chickens in Singapore. The liver was so good that we even managed to convert one of my colleagues from a liver hater to a liver lover so 2 out of 3 thumbs up here.
And now something that really surprised and delighted us. We noticed that they had soup on the menu so asked if they could serve us the broth only which they could. It was amazing. One of the most wholesome, tasty, flavourful and velvety creamy chicken broths we’ve ever had, served with rice crackers and kombu. In addition, they stew chicken feet and chicken bones over the course of a whole day in order to maximise the nutritional density and flavour of the soup. This really puts other pretenders to shame who might understand the benefits of bone broths but serve a vastly inferior product.
Finally, even though we were pretty stuffed, we wrapped up with the traditional donburi, an oyakodon, consisting of rice with a chicken and egg topping simmered in a soy sauce and stock. It was not quite as spectacular as the other dishes and could have done with a bit more salt to bring out the flavour of the chicken. However, the portion was generous and very nourishing.
Almost forgot but we did manage to squeeze in a small Tiramsu topped with smoked caviar at the end of our meal. We’ll allow the chef this break from yakitori tradition due to the extreme plaudits he had earned so far from us and actually it was really rather good. Just like a quality Tiramisu that you’d find in a fine dining Italian restaurant and the caviar topping added a slight, but not overpowering briny tang to it. Good stuff.
This is the first restaurant we’ve been to that specialises in organ meats from a good quality source, Toh Thye San. Indeed when we researched Toh Thye San's chicken in our healthy chicken guide we discovered that they also supply Joel Roubuchon's restaurants, Restaurant Andre, Iggy's and Imperial Treasure which have 9 Michelin stars between them3. It is also the first restaurant we’ve been to that highlights the benefits of nose-to-tail dining by using every single part of the chicken and throwing nothing away. It is also the first restaurant we’ve been to that serves not just a decent tasting, but very high quality bone broth. That alone should be enough to get you on the phone now and making a reservation but if it isn’t then we can also throw in the fact that the food was fantastically tasty (and I would be shocked if its not the best yakitori in Singapore). The staff were exceptionally pleasant and the service was attentive and prompt with the waitresses skilfully explaining each dish in detail. The price was incredibly reasonable as well, just a little over 100 dollars for 3 of us and all stuffed! I can safely sum up this review by saying that Bincho is far more deserving of Michelin stars than many of the current holders in Singapore and if it is overlooked again in 2018 it will be a travesty of justice. However if Michelin continues to feel that restaurants serving Frankenstein chicken laced with growth hormones and antibiotics, grains from Monsanto and vegetables covered in pesticides, fungicides and chemical fertilisers are more deserving of their awards then Bincho then we hope that we can offer some consolation with our glowing review and some humble Spoons. Great work Bincho, keep it up!
✓ From scratch
Serves mostly (i.e., more than half of the menu) fresh food, prepared from scratch.
Offers at least some locally sourced and/or organically produced food and/or wild-caught seafood.
Offers at least some pastured animal foods.
Offers some dishes made with organ meats.
✓ Cooking Fats
Cooks (sautés) in natural fats.
✓ Bone Broth
Makes own bone broths/stocks for use in soups, stews, gravies, and sauces.
Makes own seasoning mixes.
✓ Salad Oils
Makes own salad dressings using olive oil or cold-pressed sesame oil.
Offers genuine sourdough bread.
Offers lacto-fermented beverages.
Offers lacto-fermented foods.
Offers desserts made in house with natural sweeteners.
Total no. of spoons achieved: 9 out 12
- Serving the best chickens in Singapore
- Specialising in high quality organ meats
- True nose-to-tail dining
- A high quality, tasty and healing bone broth
- Super cosy venue
- Friendly staff and good service
- Priced to move
- We cannot think of any!
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Bincho Yakitori contact details
Address and opening hours
78 Moh Guan Terrace, #01-19, Singapore 162078
+65 6438 4567
Tuesday to Sunday (12pm – 3.00pm, 6pm till late)