We scour the island’s restaurant scene to bring you the new and the noteworthy – it’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it! Heads up, fans of yakitori and sake: casual Japanese restaurant Birders has opened along Tras Street. Anthia Chng visits the buzzy spot and gives us the lowdown on what to order.
Located in the trendy Tanjong Pagar locale, this new kid on the block stands out with a simple yet eye-catching neon sign reading “Fine Birds & Sake”. The cosy 40-seater was empty when we arrived at 7pm on a Friday night, but it slowly filled up as the night went by, and was packed by 9pm. The use of wood and brick in the furniture and walls give the space a homely vibe, while the bright and lively décor adds a fun touch.
Bite on this:
Conceptualised by chef Makoto Deguchi, an alumni of one Michelin-starred Sola in Paris, the food menu is focused on yakitori and sharing plates. We started with liver mousse ($16) to share, which came highly recommended by founder Adam Chen, a local actor-turned-entrepreneur. Paired with freshly fried mantou buns and yuzu marmalade, this was an excellent interpretation of a traditional pâté starter. The buns were the perfect base for the bourbon-infused mousse – we just wished there were more to go around! If you can’t live without your carbs, another must-try is the potato salad ($8) with mayo, bacon and chives. The potato cubes are served piping hot, with a crispy skin and fluffy middle – a simple yet satisfying combination in what was undoubtedly the best potato salad I’ve had in a long while!
While traditional yakitori typically uses salty shio or sweet tare sauces as seasoning for the skewers, Chef Makoto prefers using different toppings for each cut of chicken meat. We decided to step into the unknown by trying the tail ($4) and heart ($4) varieties. Adam explained that the tail cut is not a common yakitori item due to its close proximity to the chicken’s backside (!); we were pleasantly surprised by the balance of tender meat and crispy fat. With a light kiss of garlic shoyu, this skewer is a delightful bite. The heart yakitori was dressed in a miso and ginger sauce to balance the strong taste, which could have been overwhelming otherwise. Other popular items include quail eggs ($5) that came with runny yolks, beef skirt ($6.5) and sasami ($4.5) – chicken breast with a tangy, addictive ume (plum) dressing.
Drinks and desserts:
You can’t go wrong with a highball ($10) – the version here features Kakubin whiskey and soda – but you should also try the sakes, which are imported from Japan. Not sure what to order? Sake “metre values” are helpfully listed on the first page of the menu, so you can choose based on how dry or sweet you like your drink. We also loved that you can order sakes by the cup (180ml), allowing you to try multiple labels instead of having to commit to a bottle.
While the dessert menu is pretty limited (three options), don’t leave without trying the matcha lava cake with red bean ice cream ($9). Rich, dense and full of matcha flavour, the hot-cold combination was utterly delicious – I’ll definitely return just for this!