Kanpai! These cosy sake bars are perfect for your Japanese fix
Toast of the town
Here’s an idea. Forget boring ol’ Merlot this weekend and check out some Japanese spirits instead. To the uninitiated, sake is a type of rice wine is best enjoyed when paired with Japanese food. Just a word of warning though – sake has a fairly high alcohol content, so it’s best not to have too much of it in one sitting (unless you’re hosting Japanese friends, in which case drink up). Here are 10 places you can explore for some amazing sake selections. Kanpai!
This smallish bar is an offshoot of a bigger Japan establishment, and is cannily located alongside a yakitori restaurant for back-to-back enjoyment. But don’t be fooled by its modest size – the range of drinks offered here is impressive. Don’t believe us? Just ask for their huge menu. And if you’ve taken a fancy to any of the drinks in particular, feel free to buy some bottles to restock your home bar.
This gastro establishment has a pretty neat concept: It aims to showcase and promote the virtuosity of pairing sake with Spanish-influenced food (it used to be called BAM! Tapas and Sake). The sake collection consists of around 80 labels and you’ll be able peruse them all via the clear cellar which is on display just as you walk in. And because they work with both big producers as well small-batch and organic breweries, you’ll get an interesting selection of niche labels too.
If you don’t know much about sake, this is a great place to start. The in-house sommeliers are more than happy to tell you more about the drinks on offer, or you can check out the ‘talk sake to me’ link on their website for more info. It has the feel of an authentic izakaya (think informal Japanese gastropub) and the artisanal sake served here will please both newcomers and discerning drinkers alike.
Part of a beautiful colonial black-and-white bungalow that includes a restaurant (Ki-sho), a sushi bar and formal dining rooms, Kakure is situated on the second floor, with its decor being an updated reflection of Meiji- and Taisho-era Japan. The spirits list focuses on small handcrafted breweries from Japan that are not commonly available anywhere else in Singapore. You can also learn more about the drinks from the sake sommelier at the bar counter. And if you’re serious about your sake, there’s a Sake Room that seats eight and where you’ll get to sample over 50 labels of traditional and seasonal sake.
A concept store and bar, there are over 220 Japanese sake labels culled from more than 60 sake breweries. You can enjoy your sake here or choose to take a bottle – or more – home. The long, communal high table is inviting and, who knows, you might even make friends (and score a date) with fellow sake lovers while you’re here. Feel free to end the night with a bowl of springy ramen from Ippudo’s restaurant, which is just across the bar.
The range of sake bottles in the glass window at the entrance will pique the interest of any sake lover, but the real test comes from tasting the drinks – which Boruto passes with flying colours. There’s a tapas bar on the first floor and a sake bar on the upper level; you should just head upstairs if you want to do some serious drinking.
#01-01 Golden Castle Building, 80 South Bridge Road; boruto.com.sg
Premium sake is the order of the day here and this bar’s swanky location makes it a great spot to stop for a breather (and a sake, of course) while you’re on a shopping spree. It has a cosy fishing boat cabin feel and there’s even fishing equipment and tools hanging on the walls. (Ishinomaki is the name of a fishing port in Japan.) The seafood here is fantastically fresh and the sake delicious, so strap in for a delightful time at this venue.
This restaurant has an exciting menu of Sumiyaki (charcoal-grill) dishes but it also stocks over 60 sake labels so you’ll definitely find something that’ll please your palate. You’ll also get less common sakes like Nigori (which refers to a cloudy and unfiltered variety) and fuguzake (blowfish-infused sake). A favourite with the Japanese expatriate crowd, don’t be surprised if you get hooked on Shunjuu after just one visit.
If you prefer to enjoy your sake in the posh surroundings of a hotel restaurant, you’ve come to the right place. Mikuni also stands out for brewing and bottling its own sake, and has an in-house sommelier on standby, too. There are two house sakes here – Kiku Masamune (hot) and Mikuni Sake (cold) – but there are a lot of other sakes to choose from: Options include sparkling sakes, regional sakes and a wide selection of premium sakes.
The eccentric decor here is worth an Instagram post or two – the artwork on the walls is beautifully curated – so make sure you snap a couple of photos before you hunker down for a serious sake session, preferably accompanied by the yakitori on offer.