The buzz: If the people behind uber cool The Great Escape is doing something new, we’re definitely keeping an eye on it. Yakitori bar Birders is what they’re working on right now, after gastrobar Park@Holland Village and izakaya Ikki. And if those concepts are anything to go by, we are sure this latest venture won’t be your run-off-the-mill establishment.
The vibe: Approaching Birders along Tras Street—it’s located near Jekyll & Hide and a new patisserie they’re working together with for an item on their menu called the Surprise Ending—what’ll catch your attention first is the bright neon sign that reads: “Fine Birds & Sake.” Once inside, you won’t get any notion that the place is actually a yakitori bar in Singapore. No faux greetings of “irasshaimase!” or aunties dressed in traditional Japanese garments here. Instead, expect casual yet polite wait staff, pop art decor and an open grill where you can watch them work on sticks of meat.
The food: We’re just going to put it out there. The stars of Birders may be the myriad of grilled skewered meats, but we were more impressed with the sharing plates. Don’t misunderstand, the sticks of protein from various animal parts are done well and different from the usual. For instance, the ubiquitous chicken thigh ($3.50) is often served skewered with large pieces of leek. At Birders, the leek is minced together with the thigh meat. Chicken meatball, or tsukene ($4.50), comes with a whole onsen egg and tare sauce served on a side plate for dipping. The tail ($4) portion of the chicken (aka the backside) is served with simple garlic shoyu and has a melt-in-your-mouth quality, while the highly recommended chicken hearts ($4), served with negi and ginger, will appeal even to those who don’t usually stomach offal. Other recommended sticks include the mountain yam with mentai ($8) as well as the oyster ($4.50; the part on a chicken's backbone, not the molluscs), which is arguably the best part of the chicken and served simply with salt and lemon.
Save space for the sharing plates because they are awesome. Start with the liver mousse ($16) that will have you spreading goose liver pate and yuzu marmalade on a fried flat mantou. Then get the coleslaw ($8). Trust us, this isn’t the ramshackled pile of veges a certain fast food chain popularised. Rather, cabbage slices mixed with lemon cream vinaigrette, ham and parmesan make for a highly addictive appetizer/bar grub. And if you think you know your Japanese curry croquettes, the restaurant’s curry crouquetas ($10) will make you think again. Biting into this fried ball is an explosion of umami and piquant curry fragrance that had me craving for more.
The drinks: Birders is attempting to push boundaries on the sake front as well. First of all, in an attempt to make sake more accessible, its liquor menu comes with a simple diagram that explains the different flavor profiles of sake. And unlike most yakitori joints, cup sake is proselytized here. Director of Birders Adam Chen (of Tanglin fame) tells us that while cup sake used to have a bad rep as cheap booze, it is now gaining craft status in Japan and he hopes it will catch on here too. We can definitely see that happening, especially as cup sakes are better portioned and often come with more interesting designs than the usual glass bottles.
Why you’ll be back: This is a casual place located on convenient Tras Street serving up grilled meats and alcohol with a reasonable price point. But the real reason to head here, besides the unpretentious vibes, is to try all of their differently garnished yakitori sticks that you simply can’t do in one seating, all while having dependable comfort foods at the same time.
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