Review: Kai Kai Sushi & Grill dishes up delightful Japanese fare with great value

By Gary Lim March 22, 2024
Review: Kai Kai Sushi & Grill dishes up delightful Japanese fare with great value
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere
  • The new Kai Kai Sushi & Grill by Teppei Yamashita takes over the premises of Wisma Atria’s popular Koh Grill & Sushi Bar
  • Think casual Japanese restaurant dishes at reasonable prices — signature sushi, grilled dishes, donburi, skewers, and more
  • Try the castle bento, hanabi roll, squid mouth skewer, and beef steak don

The best Japanese restaurants usually sell themselves, not through heavy marketing, but through word of mouth from satisfied customers. 

This applies to anywhere, from the most expensive omakase joints in the city, to even that small coffeeshop stall in the heartlands. 

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar, a casual Japanese restaurant tucked away in the heart of Orchard Road, and known for serving up affordable and mostly authentic Japanese fare to locals and tourists alike, was one such spot.

After an impressive 17-year run in the top floor of Wisma Atria shopping mall, the creator of the legendary Shiok Maki (a maki roll with aburi salmon, avocado, unagi, and flying fish roe) shuttered in January. 

But when one door closes, another door opens — another Japanese diner, Kai Kai Sushi & Grill, opened right in the same spot the following month.

The backstory

kai kai sushi grill
Kai Kai’s layout is mostly similar to Koh Grill & Sushi. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

As it turns out, Kai Kai Sushi & Grill is run by chef Teppei Yamashita, who also owns popular brands such as the wallet-friendly omakase restaurant Teppei and Man Man Unagi, which specialises in well, unagi. 

Kai Kai, named after the Cantonese slang “gai gai” (which means “to go out”), takes after its predecessor quite closely, featuring an izakaya-style layout with both counter and table seating and wooden furnishing all around — nothing unusual for a Japanese restaurant. 

Even the menu is similar to Koh Grill’s, serving up a large variety of Japanese dishes at value-for-money prices. 

You’ll find everything from sushi and deep-fried items to donburi (rice bowls), nabemono (hot pot) and kushiyaki (grilled skewers) here. It’s worth noting that many of Kai Kai’s seafood, such as cod, scallops, squid, and abalone, are imported from Japan.

kai kai sushi grill
Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The Teppei Group has always managed to churn out little gems that deliver exceptional quality for what you’re paying and Kai Kai Sushi & Grill looks keen to carry on the trend. 

Koh Grill & Sushi Bar is something I’ll miss — mostly for nostalgic reasons — but I reckon this new place could be worthy to pick up the legacy left behind. 

While I’ve heard that service could be erratic, I found the staff to be nothing short of helpful. But to be fair, I visited Kai Kai in the mid-afternoon, when there were only three other groups of diners, so things may differ during peak meal-times. 

There are still things to be improved, mostly in terms of food execution, but it’ll be exciting to watch if this new venture, led by chef Teppei Yamashita’s vision, can carve out its own identity.

What it’s good for

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The value-for-money Kai Kai castle bento has three layers of cooked and raw goodies. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

You might’ve seen the Kai Kai castle bento (S$18.90) making its rounds on social media. 

Served in a multi-tiered bento box shaped like a Japanese castle, the top-most layer sees two slices of tamagoyaki (egg) and a sizable slab of unagi (eel). The warm egg roll is soft with a light sweet flavour, with a hint of savouriness, while the eel is soft and rich with tare (sauce) that’s a tad saltier than sweet. 

Neither taste particularly premium, but both are generous in portion.

The second layer featured assorted sashimi and I got salmon, mekajiki (swordfish), hamachi (yellowtail), and what I believe to be shiro maguro (albacore tuna). Again, the cuts are pretty average — the best slice is the swordfish which is fairly fatty and flavourful — but considerably decent for this price. 

The small and fragrant mound of wasabi on the side seems to be freshly grated, which is a plus. 

kai kai sushi grill
Negitoro and tempura crumbs is a classic Teppei combination. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

The bottom layer is basically a negitoro (minced tuna) and ikura (salmon roe) don topped with tempura crumbs – a tried-and-true pairing I’ve seen before at Teppei that works well. 

The textures, from the almost-creamy minced tuna and burst-in-your-mouth ikura spheres, to the crispy batter, are fun to munch on. The sushi rice below was a little too densely packed for my liking though.

The set also comes with a tasty miso soup that’s full of seaweed and bits of heavily boiled salmon and a nice chawanmushi filled with imitation snow crab stick, kamaboko (steamed fishcake) and a slice of shiitake mushroom. 

That’s a lot of food for a signature dish that costs less than S$20.

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Kai Kai’s signature hanabi roll. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

I still remember the sauce-laden, flame-torched Shiok Maki from Koh Grill & Sushi Bar with its creamy mentai mayo sauce — easily one of the restaurant’s most iconic items.

The Kai Kai hanabi roll (S$18.80) is reminiscent of that, with the same core ingredients: Smoky melt-in-the-mouth salmon topped with briny black and orange tobiko and a centre of avocado and grilled eel. 

The version here adds in raw minced tuna and is drenched in salty-sweet miso mayo sauce. Together with warm and well-packed sushi rice, it’s a total crowd-pleaser with a luxurious depth of flavours.

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The beef don is simple but skillfully-executed. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

You’re not getting wagyu with the beef steak donburi (S$16), but it doesn’t matter when you have beef that’s cooked this well — or should I say, medium rare. 

The marinated beef is tender and juicy and even better when drizzled with the umami-rich yakiniku sauce on the side and the onsen egg mixed in.

The garlic chips are toasty and crispy and the bed of pearly rice firm, but sticky with a natural sweetness.

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The kushiyaki skewers here are promising. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Have you ever had squid mouth on a stick? Because it is incredible. It’s one of those parts you usually toss away when making calamari rings, but the Japanese have turned this into a delicacy that’s juicy and bouncy to the bite. 

The ika tonbi (S$5) skewer is made with several squid mouths that’s rolled into small balls. Grilled over charcoal, the squid has a sweet-savory-umami flavour from the tare grilling sauce. 

The negima (S$2) chicken thigh and leek skewer is pretty decent as well and not overly seasoned, such that I can still get the natural taste of the chicken.

kai kai sushi grill
Cold brew tea imported from Japan. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

There are regular hot and cold teas (as well as canned drinks, beers, and sake) here, but it’s the Umacha golden oolong tea (S$5.80) that catches my eye. The Japanese brand Umacha specialises in cold-brew tea bags made with premium tea leaves.

Kai Kai steeps the tea bag in advance and the result is a refreshing dark golden brew with outstanding aroma and umami, as well as a unique astringency that’s characteristic of oolong.

What it could improve on

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Century egg tofu without much century egg flavour. Photo: Gary Lim/HungryGoWhere

Pitan tofu (S$5) is one of those Japanese side dishes that’s technically easy enough to make at home, but some places do it so well that it’s worth paying every dollar. The rendition here is below or just close to average. 

The silken tofu is firmer than I’d like and the amount of century egg flavour you get is dependent on how much Kai Kai garnishes the tofu with, which truthfully, is not much.

What is usually a creamy and robust grey sauce made from blended century egg yolks now tastes mostly like Japanese sesame sauce — nutty with a bit of umami and acid — not quite what I was expecting.

Our quick takes

Is it conducive to conversation? Absolutely — there’s ample spacing between tables and a comfortable ambience.

Is a reservation necessary? No reservations; first come first served!

How to get there? Kai Kai Sushi & Grill is next to the food court at Wisma Atria, a three-minute walk from Orchard MRT Station Exit D. 

HungryGoWhere paid for its meal at this restaurant for this review.

Looking for more places to dine? Check out our latest compilation of the best places for an iftar feast this Ramadan, or read what we thought of KFC’s newest Pockett wraps

Do explore the GrabFood Dine-in service for awesome deals. 

You can also book a ride to Kai Kai Sushi & Grill at Wisma Atria.

Kai Kai Sushi & Grill

Wisma Atria, 04-21, 435 Orchard Road
Nearest MRT: Orchard
Open: Monday to Sunday (11.30am to 9pm)

Wisma Atria, 04-21, 435 Orchard Road
Nearest MRT: Orchard
Open: Monday to Sunday (11.30am to 9pm)

Gary Lim-HungryGoWhere

Gary Lim


Gary eats and knows things, which he attributes to over 30 years of eating and drinking — surely that must count for something, he surmises. He was previously the deputy editor at City Nomads and content lead at Burpple.

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