Saturday night picks - Chikin for feisty Szechuan yakitori and Asian inspired tipples

Spice devils! Step right up! Chikin, a new fusion joint to join the throngs of half-blood variants in the precinct offers something a little different. Western influences find no place here as the kitchen combines the founders' love for Japanese yakitori and Szechuan Shao Kao (BBQ meats). An extremely underrated marriage resulting from the co-founder's  Ms Tay Eu-Ten frequent visits to Chengdu.

Much to my amusement, there is no overt restaurant plagiarism here, the kooky result making me feel   at home instantly. Red and purple hues wash the surfaces of the shop-length bar counter. Barely a few steps in and I swiftly relegated myself to bar-fly status -  plopping myself down and perusing the cocktails list with enthusiasm.

Drinks walk the tight rope between classics and the inevitable 'Asian invasion' incorporated mostly via spirits infusion. Esteemed bartender Sam Wong (previously from Ah Sam Cold Drink Stall) does the maligned category justice, his innovative cocktails grounded by a deep set knowledge of cocktail truths and formula. I started off the night with Gin and Ginseng ($19 nett) - a ginseng infused version of the white negroni which whets the appetite with its succinct bitterness. After all, Gentian and Ginseng = BFFs and there's no debating this round-up. Also good is the Sumoki Raisin (geddit? $19 nett as well) which combines sherry and whisky in perfect marriage, though I feel that the hefty brew could use a drier sherry, the additional theatrics of smoking apple wood chips does rhapsodise the sweet affair with added body.

Where drinks are concerned, Chikin's extensive list of everything from draft beer, sakes, Japanese whisky and hallucination inducing cocktails will satiate drinkers from all walks of life. But who am I kidding? Half the reason to go to Chikin is for their Chicken. Come with an open-mind and you'll be blessed with a showing of weird odds and ends. Chicken neck skin, gizzard, cartilage and even windpipe? It's clairvoyant, ingenious and makes you wonder why hasn't anyone done it sooner. Throw in a good measure of Szechuan spices and a commit to memory the cardinal rule 'not to eat with your mouth open' (mainly to avoid mortifying choking experiences which might just occur when spices go down the unconventional route). Study the Momo (chicken thigh; $3 per stick), Torikawa (Chicken Skin; $3), Soriresu (Chicken Oyster; $4) and Tsukune (Meatballs; $4.50), these would perform swift vanishing acts off the table. Then proceed to demolish a few other side dishes.

Familiar but unexpected, the Tako Wasabi or raw octopus in wasabi and marinated egg yolk ($10) triggers the usual pleasure senses while coating the demirched taste buds with a soothing coat of yolk.  On paper, the Chilled Japanese Sea Snails in Szechuan spice  ($16) sounds like a misstep. But by golly, its texture and fundamental addition of numbing spice and garlic (oooo garlic) is intoxicating and best washed down with whisky, on the rocks.

I will not stop you from ordering the Chikin Karaage ($12) nor the superfluous Plentiful Ikura Garlic Rice ($28). The former has too many reviews raved about it to pass and it deals with the expectations most gracefully. Crispy, fried, juicy - it's a slippery slope for your diet plans from here. As for the attention grabbing ikura rice, it will have you shaking your head in disbelief. The folks weren't kidding when they mentioned 'plentiful'. A fistful of ikura is loaded onto wok-fried garlic rice still carrying sweet remembrances of Japanese sushi rice but tinted with just a slight hint of char for a flavour profile a little closer home. It's dear on the wallet but a couple of drinks later and we all make foolish decisions.


Chikin dishes out a dinner set that's easy on the pockets and less mind-boggling. $58 gets you 3 staters, 5 yakitori sticks, 3 kushiyaki, rice and soup. Revellers, adjourn upstairs (with drinks still in tow) to their third level attic where an open karaoke room lies awaiting your melodic belting out of tones. By reservation only.

Chikin - Yakitori and Cocktails
6 Bukit Pasoh Road
t: 6910 2742

Operating Hours:
Mon - Fri: 5pm - 1am
Sat: 6pm - 1am

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