After-work sake gastrobar in Telok Ayer
The hype: This no-frills, sake-focused shophouse gastrobar in the CBD area is perfect for, well, any day of the week—especially weekdays after work—thanks to its convenient downtown location and accessibility. Plus, did you know that sake (in general) doesn’t leave you with as much of a hangover?
The vibe: Find this cozy 50-seater joint on the second level of a shophouse. Walk right in through the nondescript doors and be greeted by warm red hues from the overhanging LED lamps and a burst of colors from the curtains donning Kabuki art. Then either choose a high stool or sofa to get comfy on.
The food: There’s enough variety of grub here to keep you satisfied, but make no mistake, the star of the establishment are the sakes. Most dishes on the menu have a sake pairing to offer. To accompany your rounds are classic nibbles like edamame ($4) and salmon bruschetta ($6) plus more unconventional eats like the raisin butter with crackers ($3) that are actually really good.
For more filling tapas items, there are the meat and seafood plates such as the tsukune skewers ($3 each), crispy goma goma wings ($12) and tuna tataki ($12). But what you mustn't miss out on are the well-seasoned miso pork ($18) and decadent takoyaki fries ($12). There’s a selection of vegetables too, like the oven-baked baby eggplants ($9) and the momotaro tomatoes ($12) that are fragrant and opens up your palate nicely.
Full meals are possible here too. Get a reasonably-priced four-course omakase ($68) set or opt for their mini umami bombs—essentially a DIY rice bowl. Choose from items like onsen egg, hotate, iberico jamon, and more. Then complete the dish with your choice of sauce and toppings.
The drinks: The sake collection here isn’t mind-blowing in terms of variety, but adequate, and is a well curated selection by in-house sake sommelier Keiji Heng. He has done for sake what many whisky bars around town have done—making the spirit more accessible by offering flights. Rather than fuss over which sake to go for, go ahead and taste several at one go. Each flight (3x50ml) costs only $24.
Heng himself is an affable chap and is easy to chat with. So if still unsure of your sake choices, just speak with him to find out more. According to him, a good general tip to find out what your personal preference is is to first know your preference with wine. Usually, if you prefer fuller bodied wines, your taste in sake will be the reverse, and vice versa.
Those who already know their rice wines will find lots to love too. There is a list of premium sakes and large format bottles for whether you’re here to appreciate or simply enjoy the Japanese beverage.
Why you’ll be back: If it reads like we’re being partial to sake, it’s because we are. Sake is often associated with pairing it with pricey izakayas and omakase meals, but is actually also suitable for casual imbibing—perhaps even more so than beers and wine. Sake every day? Why not.