Kemuri BBQ Review: Texan-Japanese Smokehouse In Balestier |
Restaurant Reviews

Kemuri BBQ Review: Legit Texan-Japanese BBQ Donburi Under $20 By Young Chefs

27th October 2023

Kemuri BBQ is a new Texan-Japanese restaurant at Balestier Plaza


If you love discovering hidden gems in unexpected places, you’ve come to the right place. A little birdie recently told me about Kemuri BBQ, a new addition in the Balestier hood that’s still fairly under the radar—not for long, though. After hearing about their legit house-smoked meats and affordable donburi, we cleared our schedules and dropped by for lunch on a weekday.


Here’s a little background: Kemuri BBQ is helmed by Chef Davis Ng (left), a 26-year-old who also happens to be a professional boxer. In full transparency, I first tried their rice bowls at a pop-up during a boxing event a few months ago. Fast forward to today, the young chef has set up his Texan-inspired smokehouse and restaurant at Balestier Plaza!

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Food at Kemuri BBQ


Visit for lunch and you’ll be greeted with a smorgasbord of Texan-Japanese donburi lined up on the menu; take your pick from a whopping total of 10 flavours.


In any given rice bowl, the star of the show is the meat, painstakingly prepared in-house using their trusty smoker, “Rocky”. Fun fact: Davis spent six months in Autin, Texas, cutting his teeth at the famous Leroy and Lewis Barbecue.


Back to the food: we started with a bang with the Smoked Beef Cheeks Donburi ($17.90+/$21.90+). Depending on how hungry you feel, you get to choose between two sizes: medium and large. We went for the medium portion for all our orders.


If you love any form of smoke—wok hei included—their braised beef cheeks are to die for. These sizeable slices of beef cheeks were meltingly tender, with just the perfect amount of gelatinous layers that added texture and flavour to each bite. The glorious, abundant char on the edges was the cherry on top.


They were also topped with a savoury pepper sauce, which I could do less of as I felt it stole some limelight from the already well-executed meat.


If you want something less smoky but no less delicious, I’d recommend the Smoked Beef Curry Rice ($15.90+/$18.90+). Each bowl comprises a generous portion of pearl rice, Japanese curry, potato and carrot chunks, beef brisket, and the same sides offered in every donburi: onsen egg, kimchi, pickles, corn.


According to Davis, the Japanese curry sauce is made from the trimmings of the brisket chunks that feature in this dish. The bits are lightly smoked and then incorporated into the sauces for their curry and sukiyaki rice bowls. We noticed that this resulted in a slight smokiness that balanced out the sweetness of the curry.


The brisket chunks were also delicious and well-seasoned, though not as melt-in-the-mouth as the cheeks. They held a firmer bite and were slightly leaner, which I personally preferred.


Break into the yolk and mix it all together; the creaminess of the egg complemented the flavourful curry sauce well.


We were also impressed with the condiments served in each donburi. The kimchi, in particular, added a much-needed tang and crunch to the rich bowls of meat and rice. It’s not house-made but sourced from a Korean restaurant instead.


To my surprise, the Bacon Donburi ($15+/$18+) made it to the top of my list. This was a unanimous favourite at the table, solely for the thick-cut bacon that’s smoked in-house.


The smoked bacon strips were the highlight of my entire experience at Kemuri BBQ. Each slice was proper thicc and chunky, boasting just the right amount of fat and meat. They were sufficiently smoky, yet not overly salty, so you could even enjoy them sans rice.


The smoking process creates the Maillard reaction, which is responsible for the browning of food—there was a decent amount of char on each bacon strip. The meat was packed with rich, smoky, and umami flavours, rounded out with a subtly sweet fragrance from the Applewood.


If you want to go over the top like we did here, drizzle some of your broken yolk on a bacon strip for an extra shiok pairing.

Besides the rice bowls, which are available from 11am to 3pm daily, there’s a separate dinner menu served from 5pm.

kemuri-bbq-wings (2)

For both lunch and dinner, you can get Tebasaki Wings AKA crispy smoked wings at $15+ for four. We found them to be a tad dry, though with an addictively smoky aroma.

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Ambience at Kemuri BBQ


Kemuri BBQ sits in an inconspicuous corner on the ground floor of Balestier Plaza, an old mall that’s rather out of the way if you’re taking public transport. It’s a short bus ride from Toa Payoh, Novena, or Boon Keng MRT Station, though some walking is involved.


The air-conditioned eatery sports a no-frills decor with two white tables on one side and a few more counter-seats on the other. This cosy joint only fits up to 15 people, but I think that adds to its charm.

Kemuri BBQ also serves as a pickup point for orders on, Davis’ other venture. I think this is an excellent idea; after enjoying your meal, da bao some smoked meats to recreate the experience at home!

The verdict


Having tried Kemuri BBQ’s smoked meats before this visit, I thought I knew what I was in for. Instead, I left the restaurant, completely blown away by the quality and execution of the meats—especially at the price point. Limited seats and ulu location aside, this is definitely one noteworthy spot to bookmark when your meat cravings hit.

For more food in the area, read our Balestier food guide! Otherwise, check out Two Bake Boys for crepe cakes and desserts just next door at Shaw Plaza.

Address: 400 Balestier Road, #01-41 Balestier Plaza, Singapore 329802
Opening hours: Daily 11am to 10pm
Tel:  9466 6919
Kemuri BBQ is not a halal-certified eatery.

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Photos taken by Daryl Lim.
This was an independent review by Eatbook.

Kemuri BBQ Review: Legit Smoked Meats, Hearty Don Bowls And More By 26-Year-Old Chef
  • 9/10
    Legit Texan-Japanese BBQ Donburi Under $20 By Young Chefs - 9/10


 Delicious smoked meats
– Value-for-money portions
– Donburi had great mix of textures and flavours

– Out of the way
– Limited seats

Recommended dishes: Bacon Donburi ($15+/$18+), Smoked Beef Cheeks Donburi ($17.90+/$21.90+), Smoked Beef Curry Rice ($15.90+/$18.90+)

Opening hours: Daily 11am to 10pm

Address: 400 Balestier Road, #01-41 Balestier Plaza, Singapore 329802

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