The last time I was at yakitori specialist Kazu was when I was a broke-ass student living off the charity of my older and very generous already-working friends. That was more than a decade ago. Since then, Kazu has grown, from a tiny, cramped, and smoky little joint, to a spiffier, slightly less cramped, and much less smoky premises. Being the purportedly best sumiyaki restaurant in Singapore, it's still wildly popular, and so reservations are absolutely necessary.
The menu, an extensive variety of grilled foods, mostly skewered, also offers a smattering of sashimi/sushi plates and rice/noodle options. I say, you can't go wrong sticking to the grilled stuff, it's what Kazu's famous for anyway. Budget about $100 per person if not filling up on carbs and without alcohol, as the skewers are modest in size and quickly add up to a lot.
Service was a mixed bag of 3 distinct cliques: the Filipinos, who were friendly as heck; the pretty, heavily made-up Japanese front-of-house, hospitable and smiley, and obviously positioned to make the Japanese expats feel at home; and then there's the Chinese locals, surly sourpusses who incoherently muttered the names of the dishes as they plopped them down on our table. If there ever was a reason why foreign labour is sometimes more sought after over our locals, this was it. That said, the kitchen was incredibly efficient: dishes arrived in well-timed succession, and it was barely 5 minutes after our orders were taken that the first dish arrived.
A signature for good reason, the Okonomiyaki ($3 per pc), 'Kazu Pancake Ball', a chunkily textured blend of vegetables and minced pork, was dripping with juiciness.
A staple, the Ji Momo ($4 per pc) 'chicken thigh' was succulent and well-marinated.
I love love LOVE bacon, and Kazu swaddles just about every food in bacon, so I ordered just about every item on that section of the menu. Like the Issebi Bacon ($6 per pc) 'lobster bacon roll' with leek.
Another seafood roll, the Hotate Ebi Bacon ($6 per pc), bacon-wrapped scallop and prawn with leek was perfectly cooked.
The Avocado Buta Maki ($2.50) bacon wrapped avocado roll was a fine example of how some foods pair beautifully together. The buttery nuttiness of mashed avocado and salty smokiness of the bacon was just lovely.
Another superb pairing, the Minced Chicken and Cheese Zucchini Roll ($3 per pc)
A classic, the Aspara Buta Maki ($5 per pc) 'asparagus pork belly roll'.
The artery-clogging Kawa ($3 per pc) 'chicken skin', simply seasoned with salt, was grilled to a tantalizing crunch. A consolation to any ensuing guilt: it wasn't dripping in oil at all.
The Hubs loves lady's finger and the Okura Buta Maki ($3.50 per pc) 'lady's finger bacon roll' was doubly awesome.
A must-try staple, the Tsukune ($3 per pc) 'minced chicken ball' was wonderfully textured and juicy.
I love shishito, and the mild kick of the Japanese pepper in the Shishito Buta Maki ($3.50 per pc) 'green pepper bacon roll' was nicely contrasted against the salty bacon.
LOVE the Uzura ($2 per pc) 'quails' eggs' which were subtly marinated and perfectly cooked.
The Mini Wagyu Hambug Burger ($8 per pc) was just melt-in-your mouth. Soooooo good!!
A fail-safe option, the Enoki ($3.50 per pc) 'bacon enoki mushroom roll' was fantastic as well.
An excellent must-try, the Buta Ringo ($4.50 per pc) 'pork belly and apple skewer' was a brilliant combo. Like peas and carrots, pork and apple just match so well together.
We scored the last stick of Gyu Cheese ($5 per pc) 'beef and cheese roll', ozzy and glorious and meltingly good.
The Wagyu Enoki ($5 per pc) 'wagyu beef and enoki mushroom roll' was yummy too.
Although touted as a signature, I didn't think much of the Gura ($8 per pc) 'foie gras'. It may be value-for-money, at such price point, but on its own, I've had way better foie gras. This was meatier, stodgier, and tasted too much like pork liver that I'd like.
Smoky and juicy, the Tenkeiko Shitake ($18) 'shitake mushrooms' was grilled simply, and served with pink salt and spiced ponzu for flavour.
Kazu Sumi-Yaki Restaurant
No. 5 Koek Road
Cuppage Plaza #04-05
Tel: 6734 2492
Open Tuesdays to Sundays from 6pm to 10pm; Closed on Mondays