We scour the bar scene to bring you the new and noteworthy. It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! We check out Chikin Bar, Singapore’s first Sichuan yakitori bar, housed in a heritage shophouse.
First impressions: If you’re a fan of creative tipples and innovative bar grub, you need to check out six-month-old Chikin Bar, housed in a heritage shophouse in the charming Bukit Pasoh enclave. It offers Japanese-inspired skewers and plates, alongside refreshing cocktails, in a hip three-storey joint decked out in fun and edgy art murals. We dined on the second floor, where the mood was quiet and relaxed – well-suited for a casual date or a cosy catch-up with friends.
The Chosen One: Headed by award-winning bartender Sam Wong, the extensive cocktail list at Chikin Bar features interesting concoctions with Japanese influences like sake, choya and sencha. We kicked things off with Shiso My Mojo ($19), a simple sundowner that features only three ingredients: sake, shiso leaf and yuzu. Light, refreshing and easy to drink, it was the perfect starter for our night out. For something more potent, try Kuru Strawberry ($19), cheekily curated as “the best break-up drink”, as there’s nothing sweet about it despite the inclusion of strawberries. Made with sake, gin, strawberries, orange bitters and berries, this heady cocktail is great if you prefer a stronger mix. Another noteworthy mention is Gin and Ginseng ($19), a unique combination of gin, suze (a French liqueur), Lillet Blanc (an aperitif wine) and ginseng, the latter ingredient imparting a strong aroma that isn’t for the faint-hearted! I wasn’t a huge fan of this one (blame it on the herbal ginseng drinks I was forced to drink when growing up), but it got two thumbs up from my partner who loves bold flavours.
The Cheapskate: All prices here are nett. Look out for happy hour promotions from 5pm to 8pm daily, where all cocktails go at $15 a pop and you can score yourself a glass of vino for only $10.
Bite on this: For someone who isn’t big on dishes featuring mala (a numbingly spicy Sichuan sauce), I was surprised by how much I enjoyed the yakitori served at Chikin Bar. Meat and vegetable skewers are first marinated in a Sichuan peppercorn sauce, then grilled over binchotan (white charcoal) flames. The result? Each mouthful is tender, flavourful and beautifully charred, with a hint of spice that isn’t overbearing. Out of all the yakitori we sampled, our favourites were the chicken tail ($3.50), mid joint wing ($4.50) and thigh ($3.50). If you’re visiting in a crowd, opt for the big platters – 20 pieces ($68) serve three to four people while the 30-piece set ($98) is perfect for four to six. Other must-tries include yuzu-wasabi devil’s tongue ($10) – a light palate cleanser made up of konjac jelly – and chikin karaage ($10) – the classic Japanese fried chicken dish, done right.
Last but not least: For those who can’t take too much heat, you can request for the skewers to be less spicy. – Anthia Chng
Images: Studiokel Photography by Kelly Fan
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