There are certain concepts that transcend cultures, like the idea of drinking while nibbling on small plates of savoury snacks. The idea being that you get hungry from the drinking, whilst the salt from the snacks makes you thirsty and drink more, making for a very enjoyable hedonistic cycle.
Very much like the Spanish and their tapas bars, the Japanese have their izakayas. Izakaya were traditionally down-to-earth places where men drank sake and beer after work, and served small bites to keep the hunger at bay and fuel continued drinking.
In London, there is Bincho Yakitori which specialises in yakitori, which is essentially grilled skewers. BBQ and sake – it’s difficult to go wrong!
On our visit, the Tummies ordered a bunch of skewers (NB: you have to order a min of 2). The chicken livers and beef tongue were particular winners! Not to say the others – beef short ribs, oyster mushroom and chicken oysters – were lacklustre. In fact, the BBQ technique was perfect in getting the right amount of charcoal-flavoured char on the meat.
Bincho also offers an assortment of other small plates. We had the grilled aubergine with miso as well as daikon salad. The latter was creamy yet crunchy and refreshing, providing the perfect foil for grilled meat. (On subsequent visits, we also tried the kimchi ribs, sashimi salad and vegie fried rice which all got our seal of appeoval)
For dessert, we ordered the soya doughnuts with green tea ice cream. Crispy on the outside and fluffy instead, the subtle soya flavour went well with the green tea ice cream.
If we had any grouses about the place, it would be that it is not set up well enough to facilitate drinking. The sake selection was relatively limited and pricey and the layout was better suited to a dining outlet rather than a drinking outlet. A shame coz Bincho would have been a spot for spending many happy after-work drinking/eating hours. Just ask the Japanese salarymen who frequent the izakayas in Japan.
Owners of Bincho – if you read this, we hope you will take heed coz we are looking forward to many happy hours of after-work drinking after a hard day’s work!
Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Good for: dinner with friends ( the more the merrier so you can get more variety of skewers), after work drinks and nibbles
Details: 2 locations – 16 Old Compton Street (Soho) or 55 Exmouth Market (Clerkenwell)