Kinki, Customs House – Making Quirk, The New Black

Kinki means three things – the region in Japan, the fish, and just plain ol’ Kinky. Hardly one would expect of a Japanese restaurant’s name, and with a year into the dining and night scene at Customs House along Colley Quay, the restro-bar boasts an exceptional view of the Marina Bay area (and the Marina Bay Sands Hotel) at both its rooftop bar and the 2nd floor indoor dining and chillin’ area.

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Not traditionally Japanese, yet with a play on popular Japanese cuisine mixed with inspirations the globe over, Kinki is set to create that rambunctious atmosphere for many guests in a cool, relaxed setting.

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And with all things that get Kinky, even the mural on the wall gets a startling impression with a heavily presented Japanese Manga Waitress. Of course, the staff are not dressed in the same outfits, its just the mural mind you. Ready for a Kinki night?

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I started off the cool Friday night with a private elevator to Kinki’s rooftop bar.

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And though it is not remarkably high (only 3 floors), the vista just surrounding it nothing short of spectacular.

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Shiny lights all about from the Marina Bay Sands Hotel and its Light and Water Performance – Wonder Full, glitters from the various towering skyscrapers of the Central Business District in the calm cozy night, and if you are lucky even more dots of light from the skies above, the rooftop bar makes one appreciate the silent beauty of the city dark.

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Dinner was started off with simple mixes from Kinki’s mixologist. At the rooftop bar, the order was for Spicy Hachimitsu ($16), Yuzu Caipirinha ($16) and the Geisha Sake-rita ($16). I particularly favoured the Spicy Hachimitshu as the cocktail is an flavourful creation of Vodka, Honey Umeshu, Wasabi gomme, Fresh Lemon and Japanese Cucumber – Crisp tart taste with that zesty spicy kick of wasabi in the aftertaste, refreshing cooling yet with a characteristic of its own.

The Geisha Sake-rita is also quirkily named from a concoction of Tequila, Yuzu Sake, Orange Liqueur, Fresh Passion Fruit Syrup and Orange Juice while the Yuzu Caipirinha is a mix of Rum, Yuzu Sake, Lime Juice, Fresh Orange, Raw Sugar. Interesting, but a drink with wasabi in it, is definitely exciting.

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Entering the restaurant, the first few images to greet any guest would be the giant Kinki fish inked on the floor by Chris Garver of Miami Ink and the outrageously kinky manga drawn waitress flashed on the wall.

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True to its spirit of a Japanese restaurant bar, Kinki has counter seats with rows of fresh sashimi. And on the Friday night I went, the ingredients were freshly flown in for the day.

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The Kinki Menu – Its part comic, part dish name with prices.

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Dinner was smoothly started off with a serving of Yamahai Junmai Ginjyo (warm 140ml $20, 250ml $35), a medium bodied rice wine. Warming the sake increases the effect of alcohol and as the body feels a bit more snug and warm from the drink, the rice wine appears to be slightly drier. Warm sake is said to accompany well with sashimi and sushi.

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Appetizers are started off with a dish from Kinki’s Customs. The Tai Carpaccio  ($30), thinly sliced snapper with shio konbu and Kinki’s truffle dressing, arrived on the table with an earthly aroma that hits strongly and decadently. The snapper carpaccio is so elegantly presented on a glass plate, expounding the thinness of the slice while giving a shimmery effect throughout.

Tastefully, the kelp sauce that is drizzled together with the truffle oil, creates a deep harmony between sea saltiness and grounded goodness. The flavours complement each other well and the fish adds a neutral slightly chilled crisp yet soft texture. A very simple dish with the proportion well created.

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Sashimi in Kinki is fresh. But what good Japanese restaurant is there without fresh sashimi. For the night, the table had Uni, Botan Ebi, Hotate, Kinmedai and Otoro.

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The uni is crisp, clear and sweet with a touch of salty brine from the ocean.

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The botan ebi was huge though not as sweet as I would have favoured.

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The otoro or fatty blue fin tuna is a melt in the mouth marvel, though the served piece itself was little firm initially. Its my first time trying the Golden Eye Snapper (Kinmedai) and I particularly enjoyed its rather clear neutral savoury tasting meat with streaks of fat. Plain but simple. And for the scallops, its almost cotton soft with that firm bite throughout. And they serve real wasabi here, though the flavours were not as piquant I expected.

  • Uni (Sea Urchin) – $24 Sushi (2pcs), $56 Sashimi (5pcs)
  • Botan Ebi (Spot Prawn) – $26 Sushi (2pcs), $56 Sashimi (5pcs)
  • Hotate (Scallop) – $10 Sushi (2pcs), $24 Sashimi (5pcs)
  • Kinmedai (Golden eye snapper) – $10 Sushi (2pcs), $28 Sashimi (5pcs)
  • Otoro (Fatty Blue Fin Tuna) – $32 Sushi (2pcs), $80 Sashimi (5pcs)

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A sushi star sometimes comes in the most unimaginable designs. There is simply nothing to shout about the otherwise zen like and minimalist presentation of the Foie Gras & Scallop Sushi ($22 2pcs). Its simple nature is deceptive but pop the petite sushi into the mouth, and it simply melts. IMG_1516

First the pan seared foie gras, with it being slightly warm, has rough edges of a nice crisp texture giving off an attractive buttery nutty flavour. Sinking through, the crisp fleshy Hokkaido scallop, a little briny, makes a perfect marriage. Finish it with the thumb of Japanese rice for a break of textures. And there we have it, a creation of memorable flavours.

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Special mention will have to go to the Wagyu Aburi Sushi ($35 2pcs). The wagyu is quickly seared over with a flame before serve leaving a copious medley of fats within that leaves the meat to melt. Simple terriyaki sauce goes exceptionally well in bringing out the meaty flavours with the touch of sweetness of caramel and saltiness within.

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Buta Sushi ($18 2pcs) is one of Kinki’s latest creations. The kurobuta pork belly is braised with spicy miso before forming into a simple nigiri. The meat was tender but I thought the underlying flavours were a little too strong, masking quite a bit of the pork’s natural flavours.

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As a break between the foods, this time round, the table had the Manotsuru Sasanigori Junmai ($30 140ml, $140 620ml). Served chilled, the sake was smooth, with a well rounded feel from the alcohol.

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Next up, the Anago sushi ($12 2pcs) was served. The serving of salt water eel was a little sliced up for my liking. Firm and yet could be softer, this eel carried a sweet taste which was helped a tinge by the glaze of sauce drizzled over.

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The Momotaro Tomato ($16) is reputed as an excellent choice is dishes for its balanced bright sweetness throughout with the crisp tartness and a tinge of acidity. I envision this to be enjoyed especially on hot days, and the ginger dressing adds slight salty touch to the tomatoes, deepening its flavours even further and crafting out the umami taste within to the forefront.

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For the Snow Crab & Century Egg Tofu ($8), this is probably another quick mix creation that I would personally love to try and recreate at home. But even with the easiness of the dish, there is a certain alluring factor in its presentation. I’m not sure if its the golden brown century egg bits reflecting the light off its surface, or the pureed yolk itself draped in its deep grey over the tofu, but there is something about this dish that says comfort food. Savoury, with the natural deep tastes of the century egg, the snow crab adds a light salty sweet touch to it. The tofu acts as a main ingredient in balancing the wholesomeness with a light neutral tasting jellied solid.

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Seductively speaking, I am now a personal fan of the Grilled Fugu ($18) served up at Kinki. The meaty salty tasting marinated fugu is toasted and served with a side of sesame togarashi aioli which packs a powerful punch when dipped into. Its fiery heartiness is not to be missed and it can go well with that can of ice cold asashi beer. I was hot, but I went back for more.

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For a little something that is warm to the tummy, there is the Roasted Baby Sweet Potato ($12). Served with crispy bacon beef, chives and sweet miso creme fraiche, each baby piece is a starchy portion itself and made sinful with the miso creme fraiche just flowing over. IMG_1551

To tone the palate down from the dishes up till now (and especially from the Grilled Fugu and its sesame togarashi aioli), I ordered for a serving of Shokult ($35 400ml). With a choice of original flavour, grape, orange or apple, this shochu, Yakult and raw sugar mix is a sweet gentle dessert drink with a light twist from the shochu. Refreshing, and easy on the palate, this servings could go on forever.

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I revisited the Sushi section and this time round I had the Salmon Belly Aburi ($12 2pc). Nicely aburied, but not a show stopper.

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Then there was the Botan Ebi & Uni Aburi Sushi ($32 2pcs). Maybe its me, but though the ingredients sound like a fascinating pair, the creamy flavours that I tasted were a little too well gelled together. The crisp uni was masked by a certain creaminess and the botan ebi was more meaty than crunchy and sweet. Maybe its really me when I’m starting to get full, but that’s that.

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For the meat lovers, one can also choose the serving of U.S. Prime Beef Teriyaki ($24). Nicely grilled beef with the edges charred and a little dried out, the meat also had its top glazed with the teriyaki sauce for that shiny impression and topped with garlic chips. I enjoyed the meaty tender textures and really the teriyaki sauce is a wonderful complement to meaty dishes in bringing out the sweet clear flavours from within.

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A stronger filler while dining at Kinki is the Kinki Style Okonomiyaki ($24). Aptly named as such, this Japanese inspired pizza of Hokkaido scallops, prawns, apple wood smoked bacon, sweet onions and mozzarella is a good mix. Topped with a portion of Katsuobushi shavings, the uninitiated might think that its alive.

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The main dishes of the meal ended with a serving of Kinki’s popular Pomegranate Miso Black Cod ($24). Two slabs of grilled black cod marinated in Kinki pomegranate-honey miso and served with braised gobo and scallions, the oily fish presented flavours of sweetness and saltiness in tender delicate fashion. The cod is meaty and thick in its own right, though not entirely cotton soft to the texture perfect ideality.

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Desserts at Kinki are few and select. If not for the day’s special of Wildberry Creme Brulee, I would only have ordered the ice cream of Green tea, black sesame and yuzu sorbet ($6 single scoop, $8 double scoop). The Creme Brulee looks berry fantastic but a little too sogged up within. It can be an acquired taste for texture, and its tartness tones down the sweetness. Fruit for thought, I enjoyed it in its own right and finished it to the last scoop.

The Black Sesame ice cream is particularly addictive, partly due to its homely flavours and natural creamy textures from the sesame oil. The yuzu sorbet on the other hand is a very good palate cleanser and its cherry tart sweetness ends the entire dinner experience on a light note.

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Mocktails of Green Frog ($10) and Chocolate Delite ($10) was the chosen way to really end of the full meal. Creepy swampy green frog is made from a combination of mango juice, macadamia syrup, blue curacao and fresh cream. Its really a lesson on mixing primary colours in elementary school as the final product shows. Very sweet, I nearly thought I was on a sugary high. The chocolate delite is almost enough to land the diner into a food blackout, but only because of its luscious texture, sweet slightly bitter flavour and chilling effect. Sinful delight in a cup.

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The view from my seat

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Kinki’s food is not strictly Japanese, yet still far east enough to be an apt introduction to all while retaining some of the premier qualities in Japanese cuisine – freshness and harmony of flavours. While there are areas in the cuisine which I feel could be fine tuned to a better scale, there are gems which make the restro-bar stand out. Pair the food with a wide repertoire of drinks, a slightly zany environment (provided you get caught up in an equally rambunctious crowd), plus the added rooftop bar to chill while enjoying the picturesque scenic bay, and it will quickly seem that time for the night passes by fairly quickly. The immersive experience catches on, and for this urban Japanese Restro-bar with an attitude, Kinki has possibly carved a niche in its own area.

Many thanks to Shasha from Foodnews for the invitation

Kinki Restaurant + Bar

70 Collyer Quay #02-02, Customs House, 049323, SINGAPORE

Tel: (65) 6533 3471  Fax: (65) 6533 3473  Email: enquiry@kinki.com.sg

www.kinki.com.sg