There’s more to it than just izakaya culture
There’s more to it than just izakaya culture
- By Bite! Japan Staff
- | Jan 04, 2017
As much as Singaporeans are obsessed with Japanese food, it merits mention that Japanese alcohol is right up there too. And we don’t just mean sake—although Singapore is certainly developing a taste for the good stuff. We also mean all those award-winning whiskies that are sweeping up blind tastings in recent years, and of course, craft beers. Here’s where to try it all in Singapore
It might be an oldie, but it’s a goodie. This place stocks well over 1,000 Scotch whiskies on its lofty shelves covering every distillery in Scotland from affordable drops to truly astonishing bottles like the Mortlach 70-year-old, but the hidden gem here is its Japanese whisky offerings. They have a selection of over 250 Japanese whiskies, ranging from well-known names like the Yamazaki, to lesser known but equally enticing distilleries like the Karuizawa, Shinshu Mars and Akashi.
Sample the unusual pairing of sake and Spanish tapas at this gastro bar. This casual Spanish-Japanese eatery by Chef Pepe Moncayo has close to 100 sake labels in the glass-paned cellar and of course, a sake sommelier on hand. On offer are premium sake offerings from renowned distilleries like Juyondai, Nabeshima and Isojiman. Besides small plates, the restaurant also offers omakase and set lunches (from $38), with items such as cold capellini with tobiko and bamboo clam; and Spanish pork with organic mushrooms and ginger rice.
Located right across Ippudo Ramen, 12-seater sake gastrobar offshoot of the famous noodle chain carries around 70 bottles of sake from over 20 sake breweries all over Japan, and the space doubles as a bottle shop, too. Pair each sake with otsumami, or bar bites like oden ($2 per ingredient), a yong tau foo-like dish comprising items like a boiled egg, daikon, fishcakes and konjac jelly; crispy corn ($6) and beef tataki ($6). Don’t worry, there’s still their Hakata-style ramen available, too.
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Helmed by Ginza celeb bartender Daiki Kanetaka, this bar at Bukit Pasoh does interesting Japanese-inspired cocktails alongside its impressive array of Armagnac, calvados and imported blends of Japanese whisky and cherry brandy. There’s not much food at this 28-seater space, but who needs bar bites when you're in good company? It’s not cheap, but with Kanetaka’s elegant, theatrical antics and impeccable attire, the entertainment value is pretty priceless—not to mention the drinks are good.
Perched over the hustle and bustle of Orchard Road is the massive but cozy restaurant Kuvo and its attached bar Elixir. The space, outfitted with lots of dark wooden shelves and a long lit bar, is helmed by Japanese bartender Yutaka Nakashima who shakes up Japanese inspired cocktails. For whisky, they have single and double malt offerings from Yamazaki, Yoichi, Miyagikyo and cult favorites like the Hibiki and Taketsuru. They also offer a glossary of mood words to help you pick your very own bespoke cocktail.
This underground bar at the Forum on Orchard is known for its bustling and dimly lit, chic atmosphere and for its Japanese-style drinks. Whether it's using sake or other Japanese ingredients, the concoctions here are inventive and really pop against the muted backdrop. Splashes of color come from the origami-like cascades by the wall, and you can order food from Uma Uma Ramen upstairs to fulfill that midnight craving.
There’s more to Japanese drinking than fancy whisky and bottles of sake. The Japanese craft beer trend has been going steady in Singapore for a while, and one of the only dedicated Japanese craft beer bars in Singapore, Jibiru is pretty well-trafficked as it's located in 313@somerset. Nonetheless, it loses none of its charm with heavy wooden tables and a breezy alfresco atmosphere. Here, you'll find beers like the well-known Hitachino, as well as an interesting Minoh Cabernet made with grapes. FYI, they also just opened the more upscale Craft Beer Bar Takumi.
A relative newcomer is the bar attachment to Japanese kaiseki restaurant Ki-sho at Scotts 29 lifestyle enclave—and it’s perfect for fans of sake. Dim lighting, a cozy wooden top bar and plush leather seats add to the sexiness of this bar. A must-try is Kakure's house sake, the Tatenokawa Junmai Daiginjo, Nakadori Ki-sho label ($60) which features a delicate aromatic brew with a fruity after taste. If you prefer something that’s more soft and crisp, try the Kinshi Masamune, Matsuya Kyuubei Junmai Daiginjo label ($80) with a clean, fresh aftertaste that goes easy on the palate.
Specializing in sake, shochu and all things Japanese and boozy, this Singaporean offshoot of the well-known Japanese liquor store is a place to discover a still relatively underappreciated drink. Their dark and non-descript location in the Robertson Quay area belies its immense popularity with Japanese and non-Japanese alike. The diffident store manager Naoki Satoh is a wealth of knowledge, whether you’re drinking in (with their excellent drinking snacks) or buying bottles to take home.
This sleek, narrow space on Upper Circular Road is a mix of modern and traditional. Near the entrance is a well-lit cellar made of white onyx, and inside is a Japanese cedar bar counter. On the menu are top notch drinks: a well curated selection of mostly Old World wines (from $20/glass; $68/bottle) and an exhaustive list of whiskies, with options like Yamazakura blended shot ($20) as well as blowout bottles such as Karuizawa Samurai Cask 1984 ($11,250). The bar bites—including duck rillettes ($12) and cheese ($6 per 25g)—are a great complement to the swish sips, and owner and sommelier Daisuke Kawai is a gem.
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