With the looming presence of our chaperone writer, the two youngest BiTES staff take on the student specials at Rocku Yakiniku Japanese Charcoal Grill.
Visited 16 Dec, 12.30pm ($13.90++ Mon-Fri; U.P. $15.90++)
First impressions: What caught our attention and drew us in were the LCD screens at the entrance, displaying enticing visuals of the BBQ food, as well as the ’loudhailer’ front-at-house hostess calling out. Stepping inside this dark alcove, we noticed the rise in temperature, thanks to the warmth emitting from the live charcoal grills. Mmm… we couldn’t wait to get grilling!
The interior of Rocku Yakiniku was actually quite dark and it took a moment for our eyes to adjust. The flashing strobe/disco lights that shone across the bare red bricks painted over with Japanese inspired graffiti, created a hip and cosy vibe all around. We weren’t sure about the industrial and pop art mix, but the dim lighting prevented further scrutiny, and the grilling process really took up all our attention.
Reservation tip: Best to come in an even-numbered group. A grill table accommodates four people, and for a large company, you’ll be seated at the long tables (individual grill tables lined up).
Food stations: There is a humble buffet island at one corner, with a small selection of cooked food items like fried chicken, edamame, chawanmushi and the all-time-favourite garlic fried rice–made from Japanese short-grain rice–that was so popular it ran out in the first 30 minutes of our arrival. Lettuce, tomatoes, oyster mushrooms, corn, appetisers, apples, pears and some colourful Japanese jellies also made an appearance.
Moving on to the main stars, our meats! To satisfy that voracious appetite, fill up on unlimited servings of meats. The selection is made up of three beef and pork parts, three types of seafood, bacon and chicken. To start us off, we were served sampler platters; thinly sliced pork belly, pork collar, beef chuck tender and beef chuck short plate, and green mussels, baby octopus and baby cuttlefish.
Besides these, add-ons include wagyu beef ($5.90 per pax, free flow), and prawns and salmon ($3.90 per pax, free flow). Don’t forget your sauces–spicy miso, ponzu and sweet miso sauce.
Based on the above advice, our top three favourites are:
“… The wagyu beef, crisp grilled bacon and the pork collar” Cheng Wei said right off the bat,
“No! The last one would have to be the grilled, chewy baby squid” Samantha protested,
“Ew no. Not squid. The pork collar was juicy and tender, it deserves the last spot in our top 3!”
“The pork collar was good, but not as good as the baby squid, fresh and yummy from the charcoal grill.”
“Buffet is life!” –Cheng Wei
Not so hawt: During lunch, there weren’t many servers around, and it took awhile to place more orders for meat. It gets more crowded at night, so there’ll be more wait staff to attend to you then.
PARTY PEOPLE: Head over for birthday celebrations if you want to put your birthday pal on the spot. Get them to sing the restaurant a song instead with the in-house live band (Fridays, 7pm onwards), and receive a party pack for their efforts too.
Final say: A fascinating experience in the heart of Bugis+. Great place for a casual get together with friends after school, and even for working adults after dark (they have beer towers to accompany you through the night too). A simple no frills, no fuss meat-centric place for students on a budget.