To give yakitori its own unique spin, Chikin (the colloquial Japanese term for chicken, according to the PR rep) spikes its sticks with mala (a mix of Sichuan peppercorns and spices), and offers two levels of heat: less spicy and er, spicy. To add heft to your meal are small dishes such as unagi garlic fried rice and chilled Japanese sea snails marinated in Sichuan spices.
Run by Coterie Dining Concepts, the folks behind popular Cantonese tapas bar Sum Yi Tai, Chikin also purveys an impressive list of Japanese-inflected cocktails created by bartender Sam Wong (he of the now-defunct Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall bar).
THE LOOK: This 3,000 sq ft space is spread over three floors of a shophouse and tricked out with wall-to-ceiling Japanese-inspired pop art murals accented by coloured neon lights. The narrow ground level (above pic) features a bar and the open kitchen, while the dining room on the second floor (main pic) is decorated with simple wooden furniture, a couple of plush armchairs and an even funkier mural. An attic on the third level is reserved for private events. The music is equally loud and clubby the night we visited.
THE BIRDS: The Sakura chickens from Malaysia are cooked over quality binchotan charcoal, which don’t produce much smoke. So unless you sit by the open kitchen, you can pretty much leave the joint without your hair and clothes smelling like the grill.
Tsukune, $4.50 (8 DAYS PICK!)
We like the less spicy version of these delightfully tender meatballs. Flecked with bits of chicken cartilage and spring onions, the well-seasoned orbs feature loosely packed, finely minced chicken and have the distinct yet gentle hit of numbing Sichuan peppercorn.
Chigimo (chicken liver), $3
Our chicken liver skewers are deftly grilled — creamy within, exteriors charred to a light crisp. The less spicy version is a tad salty, while the Sichuan pepper in the spicier one helps to cut through the brininess.
Bonjiri (tail), $3
These delicate morsels of meat are inherently fatty, which means they release more oil on the grill, resulting in juicy bites with a smoky char. We like their intense chicken-y flavour.
Crispy Baby Squid in Spicy Yuzu, $9
Almost like your neighbourhood zi char stall version, except this one is brightened by the elegant addition of yuzu (Japanese citrus). The squid is crisp and mildly sweet, with the texture of fried fish skin.
Sake Sangria, $19 (8 DAYS PICK!)
Diced pineapple, honeydew, watermelon, black grapes and lemon swim in a mix of sake and gin that has fantastic kick. The restaurant calls this its “delicious answer to the classic white sangria” — and aptly so. It has refreshingly bright, tropical fruity flavours that are a great way to start the meal with.
BOTTOM LINE: We like the lightly refreshing cocktails (which go for $15 a pop during Happy Hour) and buzzy vibe here. However, the food quality is inconsistent. It was good during our hosted tasting, but hit-or-miss when we visited on another occasion. $$
6 Bukit Pasoh Rd. S089820. Tel: 6221-3670. Open daily except Sun. Mon-Fri 5pm-1am; Sat 6pm-1am. Last orders 10pm. www.chikinbar.com