When you were a child, having a Japanese meal meant zooming straight for the kid’s section on the menu and trying to figure out whether you’d prefer your dinner to come in a shinkansenor a plane.
Fast forward to jaded adulthood, and you’re probably hitting up the sake bar or list first thing through the door, because what’s enjoying Japanese food without being able to clink cups and yell, “kanpai“?
To a casual drinker, the barrier for entry into sake is far less intimidating then delving into spirits like whisky. This clear rice wine, more appropriately termed nihonshu, is light to drink, with barely any astringency on the nose. It has the typical ABV European wines would have, ranging from 9 to 16 percent, so you can drink with the ease of not getting too drunk (sort of). Rumour has it that sake hangovers don’t feel nearly as lethal as other wine and spirit classes too, but don’t quote us on that.
If you’re looking for a sake bar to call port at this weekend, here’s our take on the best sake bars in Singapore.
Kakure is the sake bar accompaniment to the fine dining Japanese restaurant, Ki-Sho. Housed in a black-and-white colonial bungalow, coming to Kakure means taking your sake seriously, and wanting to fork out equally serious prices. That shouldn’t be any deterrent if you love quality rice wine. The bar serves omakase and sake, with a jaw-dropping supply of artisanal bottles to set any sake fan’s heart on fire. Opt for the pairing menu to make the experience count.
Kakure, 29 Scotts Road, Singapore 228224, 6733 5251
Bam! Tapas Sake Bar
Bam! is a unique tapas and sake place that serves you top-line sake and Euro-fusion bites. It’s a place that’s hip, lively and warm, with a carefully curated sake menu that spans 100 bottles. Bam! doesn’t just focus on sake from the main sake-producing regions, but brings in lesser known bottles from smaller breweries like Shizuoka and Tochigi. If you’re looking for a great dinner and drinks option to cap off your evening, make Bam! the one to visit to top your list of sake bars.
Bam! Tapas Sake Bar, 38 Tras St, Singapore 078977, 6226 0500
This small, intimate sake bar will transport you into the heart of Tokyo just by passing through the panelled doors. Orihara Shoten is a bar where sake is revered, and you’ll find no typical mass-market labels here. Instead, the bulk of its offerings comprises rare and artisanal bottles for the keen sake enthusiast to try. The bar also has a seasonal sake of the day, if you’re a tad overwhelmed by the 200 bottles in stock.
Oriha Shoten, Roberston Walk, 11 Unity St, Singapore 237995, 6836 5680
Hakata ramen restaurant Ippudo is already a household name in Singapore. Its bar and retail outlet is one where you can line your stomach with noodles as you pore over an intense sake menu, spanning limited first-press seasonal sakes, and over 50 sakes by the glass on the menu. You can be sure that the sake you’re about to enjoy has been picked by a discerning expert, as its resident sommelier actually flies down to the brewery to sample each expression before they appear at Bar Ippudo. Sake novices can also order a tasting flight, with three sakes to sample.
Bar Ippudo, #04-23 Shaw Centre, 1 Scotts Road, Singapore 228208, 6235 2547
Just to be clear, this place wasn’t named after Naruto’s son. Instead, this sake bar on the second level of Bōruto houses sake in a vault, with over 50 labels being exclusive to this bar by the bottle. Those not mentally prepared to drop a couple hundred and up on a bottle can seek help from the in-house sommelier, or pick a sake from a list of 15 available by the glass. Despite the high-end variants of sake sold here, Bōruto’s happy hour promotions are wallet-friendly. Happy hours are from Monday to Saturday, 4:30pm to 8pm.
Boruto, #01-01 Golden Castle Building, 80 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058710, 6532 0418
Mobomoga may be the new kid on the sake bar block, but it’s got plenty to offer the keen sake drinker. Rare sakes are aplenty, sharing space with izakaya-style bites in this snug UE Square joint. You don’t have to know your sake to enjoy your time here either, as the resident bartender has enough knowledge for two. State your flavour of choice and he’ll dish out recommendations. Your greatest trouble is finding the bar, as it is hidden behind a door framed by a red light in the unit.
Mobomoga, #01-58 UE Square River Wing 207 River Valley Road, Singapore 238275, 6219 3430
Parked on the second floor of a Telok Ayer shophouse is Kabuke, a restaurant-bar that serves up contemporary Japanese bar bites alongside a wide selection of sakes. Their sake menu is especially useful for amateurs, describing the rice wine according to flavour profiles, with flights also available for tasting. Plus, Kabuke has unagi tempura and camembert mochi for you to munch on. Enough said.
Kabuke, 200A Telok Ayer Street Singapore 068638, 8822 5525
Michelin-starred Nouri is not a sake bar by definition, but it does have a healthy array of sakes on its drinks menu. Its presence is in part thanks to the restaurant’s focus on food and drinks that cross cultures, hence Japanese wines finding a home in Singapore, as well as the fact that the beverage director, Matthew Chan, is a certified sake sommelier.
Nouri, 72 Amoy St, Singapore 069891, 6221 4148
Big Sake Bar
Big Sake Bar prides itself on offering sakes in a convivial atmosphere that feels almost like Japan. Sakes are reasonably priced here, available by the bottle alongside regular “sake of the month” promotions that sell them by the glass. Apart from the extensive list of wines, Big Sake Bar offers classic Japanese bar bites, including grilled food, sashimi, sushi and don bowls.
Big Sake Bar, #01-02 302 Beach Rd, Singapore 199600, 6291 2700
Snug is what comes to mind when you step into Kamoshita, a small sake bar and oden restaurant along Neil Road. Along with warming portions of the wintertime staple, Kamoshita has a regularly updated roster of sakes sourced from across Japan, spotlighting both big-name and small-batch brewers.
Kamoshita, 5 Neil Road, Singapore 088806, 6221 3950
This article first appeared on Lifestyle Asia