3 new Japanese sake places to try this week

Unwind over delicious sake and Japanese bites at these three new watering holes

1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar
1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar
28 Jul 2015

1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar

#01-08 ORCHID HOTEL, 1 TRAS LINK S078867, TEL: 6444-0880. Open daily 1pm-midnight, last orders 11.40pm. www.keisuke.sg

THE LOOK & VIBE: This cramped, humble three-week-old sake and oden joint reminiscent of a dingy Shinjuku dive bar is the latest concept from the Keisuke brand. It’s part of the little ‘Japan town’ enclave surrounding Orchid Hotel in Tanjong Pagar and joins its popular sibling ramen and gyoza restaurants, as well as a new tempura-don eatery, just round the corner.

Two small tables and some counter seats make up the 11-seat interior, with another three tables outside. It’s done up in traditional izakaya-style décor with a sprightly J-pop soundtrack. Try and grab a seat inside: outside, the odour from the unwashed grease-traps of nearby fry shacks hits you at full blast. 

 

1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar
1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar
28 Jul 2015

1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar

DRINK THIS: The 13 types of sakes here are reasonably priced, and available by the glass, 160ml carafe or 720ml bottle. The Dassai 50 (pictured above: $17.80 a glass/$22.80/$94.80) is perfect for people new to sake. This top-grade Junmai Daiginjo (“daiginjo” means at least 50 per cent of the original rice grain has been polished away for a silkier, cleaner flavour, and the higher the percentage, the more refined it is; "junmai" means pure, without additives like extra spirits to dilute it) has a rich rice flavour and a mild savoury-sweetness that goes down smoothly.  

1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar
1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar
28 Jul 2015

1. Takeda Shouten Sake Bar

EAT THIS: Oden (pictured above) reigns here. Sixteen items are simmered in a tasty chicken and seafood broth with lots of bonito. There are more unusual items like Beef Gristle ($4 each), with a nice jelly-like texture and mild beefiness, and Gyu Tan or ox-tongue ($4), which we found too tough and gamey. The standard options — like a yummy, savoury-sweet Chikuwa Fishcake ($3) — are safer bets.

BOTTOM LINE: The least atas of the three joints featured here. Still, it boasts a solid selection of good and affordably priced sakes, and the food isn't an afterthought.
 

2. Bar Ippudo
2. Bar Ippudo
28 Jul 2015

2. Bar Ippudo

#04-23 SHAW CENTRE, 1 SCOTTS RD, S228208. TEL: 6235-2547. Open daily 11.30am-10pm, last orders 9pm. http://www.barippudo.com/

This alcoholic spin-off evolved from the waiting-room bar at the perpetually packed Ippudo Ramen in New York, where people could grab a drink and light snacks while waiting for their tables. Bar Ippudo debuted in Singapore three months ago at Shaw Centre.

THE LOOK & VIBE: A simple set-up, with a 12-seat communal table in a small, brightly-lit bar that’s across its sister ramen restaurant. There are fridges where you can browse helpfully labelled bottles of sake and the vibe here is great. A happy jazz soundtrack and the sight of friendly staff tending to a mostly Japanese clientele help transport us to a trendy Tokyo neighbourhood bar.

The stars of the show are entertaining Japanese sake master team, outlet manager Ryu Fujibe, 39, and project manager Takao Nakasuji, 32. Both part of the opening team at Ippudo New York, they wax lyrical about sake and tease each other, all the while helping you get tipsy with very knowledgeable recommendations.
 

2. Bar Ippudo
2. Bar Ippudo
28 Jul 2015

2. Bar Ippudo

DRINK THIS: “High price doesn’t always guarantee good sake,” Ryu muses, stroking his chin as he takes us through a selection of fairly accessibly-priced bottles. There are over 80 kinds of sake here from 32 breweries. The Suigei Junmai Ginjo Ginrei (pictured above: $22 a glass; $91 for 720ml) is a refreshing, almost vermouth-like sake served in a wine glass.

Our favourite is the Nihonasakari Namagenshu Daiginjo ($17 for 200ml single-serve bottle). This full-bodied ‘fresh’ sake has a lovely yeasty fruitiness. Because it's unpasteurised, it’s sweeter, richer and boozier due to the additional alcohol produced by the live yeast present. Its shelf life is also shorter, and it needs to be refrigerated.  

2. Bar Ippudo
2. Bar Ippudo
28 Jul 2015

2. Bar Ippudo

EAT THIS: Seven Japanese "otsumami" or small bites from the menu at the ramen restaurant (but no ramen) are offered. The nibbles are tasty enough, but nothing to write home about. Try the Okura Yamaimo Ume Suishou ($6), a mound of waxy raw lady’s finger topped with white Japanese yam and a dollop of fermented cuttlefish tossed in pickled plum. Also good is the Squid Tempura (pictured above: $6), crunchy little deep-fried squid tentacles that are not at all greasy.

BOTTOM LINE: For a range of funkier sakes in a hip, fun setting, this place is for you.
   

3. Boruto
3. Boruto
28 Jul 2015

3. Boruto

#01-01 GOLDEN CASTLE BUILDING, 80 SOUTH BRIDGE RD, S058710. TEL: 6532-0418. Open daily except Sun, 4.30pm-midnight. Last orders 10.30pm (food); 11.30pm (drinks). www.boruto.com.sg

You can’t miss its colourful display of decorative sake barrels and bottles lining this Japanese tapas and sake bar along a nondescript stretch of South Canal Road. The month-old outfit comes courtesy of chef-owner Patrick Tan, 35, a Tatsuya sushi alum and chef-owner of Tamashii Robataya, a high-end Japanese grill restaurant just down the road. Here, you’ll find some 120 varieties of sake from over 70 brands, many of them premium labels that go well with the classy tapas made with Japanese ingredients.

3. Boruto
3. Boruto
28 Jul 2015

3. Boruto

THE LOOK & VIBE: Bypass the duller 40-seater on the first floor and head upstairs, where there’s a handsome 30-seat bar and a cool walk-in sake fridge built into a wall of old vaults (below) from the bank that used to occupy the premises ("Boruto" means The Vault in Japanese). In doubt about what sake to order? The amiable Japanese manager and sommelier will walk you through the selection.

3. Boruto
3. Boruto
28 Jul 2015

3. Boruto

THE BOOZE: Most, if not all, of the sakes here are exclusive to Boruto. There are some super premium bottles here, the priciest being the rare Juyondai Soko Junmai Daiginjo ($2,280 for 1.8L), which was already reserved when we visited, so we didn’t get to sample some. Humph. The cheapest is the Wakaebisu Ninja Junmai ($68 for 720ml). Sadly, they’re all only sold by the bottle.

DRINK THIS: The Homare Junmai Daiginjo (above left: $138 for 720ml) is an award-winning high-grade sake with a malty, almost chocolatey finish. Super refined and delicious. The most unusual is the Amabuki Junmai Daiginjo ($108 for 720ml). This sake is fermented not with the usual rice yeast but banana yeast. There’s a very clear flavour of the fruit in this, which is delightful.

If you’re coming with a group, splurge on the Strawberry Wine (above right: $388 for a 2 litre jug; serves 12 pax). Technically a liqueur, this is shochu infused with heaps of seasonal Japanese strawberries till it morphs into heady, pure-tasting strawberry goodness. Patrick says each jug is so expensive because of the high cost of using imported Japanese berries.

 

3. Boruto
3. Boruto
28 Jul 2015

3. Boruto

EAT THIS: The modern Japanese small plates here are pricey but very good. Strips of Saga Gyu Tataki ($28.80) is briefly seared and lightly coated in soy dressing. The prized wagyu is amazingly creamy and sweet, with just a subtle hint of saffron and smoke. The Zuwai Gani Sausage ($30.80) comprises a pork sausage skin stuffed taut with shredded crab meat. It luxuriates in a shallow moat of light, sweet and briny crab bisque, the best part of this dish. Mop it all up with the accompanying bread.

BOTTOM LINE: Boruto boasts an upmarket sheen and prices to match. But the posh food cooked by the only non-Japanese chef in this line-up is outstanding.
 

Report a problem