SINGAPORE — As a food writer, I have been asked many times for my recommendations of where to eat. Till today, I struggle with this perennial dilemma mostly because it’s easier to tell you where not to go for your next big meal, rather than to recommend the perfect place to patronise. The truth is, there is no such place. No one restaurant is that terrible, nor is there an establishment that is reliably faultless.
In fact, most places I visit are perfectly acceptable for lunch or dinner out, and that, in some ways, is admirable in itself. That’s not to say that they are by any means average. That would just be cruel. But I do believe that there’s a little nook between life-changing and average that a lot of restaurants in Singapore sit in, and as long as you can squeeze yourself in that tight space, your business would do just fine.
I preface this with a soliloquy of sorts because Kinki exemplifies a restaurant that is perfectly acceptable in standing, food quality, and service—though I would say that the service standards here are in fact close to laudable. Perched on the fringes of Singapore River at the broader area of Singapore’s CBD, Kinki commands an impressive view of the bay across which sits Marina Bay Sands and to the right, towering office buildings—the financial heartbeat of this nation.
The interior is bright, brash, colourful, and unapologetic with a music playlist that a boy sipping cocktails at Tantric bar at Neil Road would enjoy. There’s no effort at paring things down here to fit the minimal, indoor jungle aesthetic of 2020. Screw that. Here, there’s a large and boisterous artwork of graffiti on the wall closer to the entrance while further in, huge golden flowers wrap around a window with a breathtaking view of the CBD skyline at night. It’s all very immersively psychedelic.
The shtick here is popular comfort foods reimagined with culinary ingenuity. For the layman, it’s a dream menu of items with names one can pronounce and identify. But for this food writer, it can all feel a tad too, you know, predictable. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing for the regular diner—hardly. Take, for example, the Spicy Buffalo Katsu (S$28++), a moniker that is the epitome of familiarity. Here, it is reimagined using the superior Nagano pork, marinated with buffalo wings-inspired Worcestershire sauce that won’t leave you scratching your head in gastronomical perplexity.
A starter of Tuna Tartare Tortilla (S$34++), visually, looks like a pizza filled with tuna, avocado, mitsuba, micro herbs, and sriracha soy. In actuality, all this sits on a crispy tortilla and is addictively easy to munch on while waiting for mains to arrive. From the Rock & Roll section of the menu, the AC/DC Dynamite (S$22++) is a deep-fried mixed seafood roll topped with raw seafood that makes it abundantly clear that anything fried never disappoints.
The menu at Kinki prides itself on being unintimidating and boundlessly easy to order off. An Unagi Claypot (S$32++) is just as you would imagine a claypot rice to be, with succulent and tender chopped unagi frolicking in a bed of rice, imbued with an intoxicating smoked aroma from time on an open flame.
There’s also a Crusty Lamb Rack (S$45++), thus far the most praiseworthy item I’ve tried here. Australian lamb chops are wet-aged in a koji yeast brine which obliterates the fibres of the meat, leaving it tender and easily giving way to bite. It is served with sweet dehydrated ginger slices which significantly helps in balancing the savoury gaminess of the lamb. I only wish there’s more where that comes from.
The Karaage Chicken Bao (S$20++) might spark joy, too. It’s a textbook definition of balance in texture and flavours—the crisp of fried chicken against the soft Bao, the tang of momotaro tomato against bright pickled cucumbers.
Not everything works, though. The Pomegranate Miso Black Cod (S$34++) has flavour dreams bigger than it imagined but is sorely let down by an overzealous sweet pomegranate marinate which rendered the entire presentation a tad one-note. It needed something else for balance—perhaps a little more love and R&D would do this cod some good.
I usually end each review with a dessert yay or nay. But here, it’s a little difficult to recommend or not recommend a sweet ending to your meal. Not because it’s unimpressive, but because nothing really stands out for me as a food writer. But if I had to choose, I’d go for the Hokkaido Milk Crepe (S$10++) but only because I know Hokkaido Milk can do no wrong.
The menu is extensive, and perhaps, when it comes time to crafting dessert, it’s easier to just go with what is easy, approachable, and unchallenging. In fact, I know many people who aren’t food writers who would appreciate Kinki’s menu for all its familiar prowess. Perhaps, Kinki Restaurant being formidably acceptable is just the thing we need in a world of new normals.
Website | 70, #02-02 Collyer Quay, Customs House, S049323
Mon – Fri:
Lunch, 12pm (Last order at 2.15pm); Dinner, 6pm (Last order at 9.45pm)
Sat & PH:
Bottomless Brunch, 12pm (Last order at 2.15pm); Dinner, 6pm (Last order at 10pm)
Bottomless Brunch, 12pm (Last order at 2.15pm)
Balancing the New Normal: