As a vegetarian in Singapore, there are few things that I look forward to more than lunch at Kinki. More so when I go with my partner, who happens to be from Japan, and who also happens to be vegetarian. It’s times like these that I feel that the planets are aligned and that the gods are smiling benevolently down upon us. Life does, in other words, feel perfectly complete. And, for that matter, completely perfect as well.
Simply put, Kinki serves some of the best Japanese food in Singapore. Japanese food is notoriously vegephobic, and your stomach will only propel you there for one glorious reason: the tofu steak with seasonal vegetables. There’s nothing else worth considering, let alone eating. It makes the luxury of choice seem like nothing more than a puerile distraction from the righteous path. Whilst your sashimi-addicted friends may hunch fish-eyed over the menu, you can sit back, flick your wrist, roll your eyes, and state with a cool indifference the two most blindingly obvious words ever to have reverberated around Customs House: “TOFU STEAK”. It never fails to deliver, and stands alone as one of the most salivatingly good vegetarian set lunches in Singapore. I kid you not.
Flattery aside, the decor is a little worn and the acoustics are reminiscent of your prototypical Indian restaurant. That is, bad. They are not helped by the abundance of hard surfaces and fact that it’s usually full of patrons that happen to like the sound of their own voices, thus amplifying them for all to hear. A romantic little getaway Kinki is not. But if you can put up with the clamorous and slightly claustrophobic atmosphere, then you will be in for a gustatory treat of Goliathan proportions.
After a hyperbolic preamble like that, what more is there to say? Oh yes, the deets. The tofu steak with seasonal vegetables set lunch (SGD 20.00) comes with a slab of glazed tofu that is smothered with a buttery soy and mirin sauce and the aforementioned “seasonal vegetables” (they claim seasonal, but the veggies don’t change…) of babycorn, asparagus, mushroom, courgette, pumpkin, and potato. Also plonked on the tray is a green leaf salad with cherry tomatoes and a wonderfully sour nori vinaigrette, two wedges of pickled tomato, some pickles, rice, and mochi (today’s was sakura-flavoured, although it’s usually black sesame).
Kinki’s tofu steak is actually the dish that converted me from tofuphobe to -phile; a complete U-turn that took everyone by surprise, not least myself. The crunchy outer glaze yields to a mild and creamy slab of tofu, which is given a smooth richness by the buttery soy sauce that is drizzled over the top and sides. Every mouthful is a juxtaposition of smooth crunchiness and mild tanginess; a balance of textures and flavours that elevates vegetarian eating to a new level of sophistication. Hontoni.
A trip to Kinki is undoubtedly pricey (even a cup of sencha will set you back SGD 5.00), but a treat that is worth saving up for. It’s noisy and brash, but if you can tolerate the suits and the egos, then it’s definitely worth a visit. I can’t wait until next time.