These fun izakayas serve sake, beer, and Japanese whisky, along with slabs of sashimi, yakitori, and Japanese tapas
Here’s the thing: you (probably) won’t find the best ramen, tempura or sushi at izakayas in Singapore. What you will find, though, are smooth sakes, excellent whiskies, exotic cocktails, wonderful craft beers, and small, salty munchies (of which some pretty damn shiok, mind) to go with your Japanese booze in a rowdy atmosphere where you can let loose and go wild. Want the best izakaya drinking experience? Pop into these watering holes in the city.
Located on Keong Saik’s is modern Japanese izakaya, Neon Pigeon. From the graffiti murals on the walls to the quirky ninja cocktail “cups” from the bar and the industrial-style, dark wood-fitted space, everything about this buzzing social house is pretty darn hip. On the menu, you’ll find Asian-inspired sharing plates like tuna tartare and baos and bone marrows crafted by Australian chef Justin Hammond, who did a stint at Melbourne’s famous Asian-fusion dining establishment Gingerboy. Feel free to challenge the bartenders and get them to customise your poison to your liking – they whip up potent bespoke cocktails!
Neon Pigeon, #01-03, 1 Keong Saik Street, Singapore 089109, p. 6222 3623.
Planning a night out for drinks at an izakaya joint isn’t an excuse to skimp on a good feed. Jinzakaya, Les Amis Group’s latest venture, aims to elevate the izakaya experience from a sleazy salaryman haunt to a legitimate dining alternative. In this cosy joint decked with old-school Japanese posters, you’ll find typical meat skewers that start from $2.50, as well as more unconventional choices like foie gras and wagyu beef. Sick of sticks? Then order some maguro tataki, chicken karaage, hand-made gyoza or small plates like tako wasabi.
Jinzakaya, #01-08/10 Owen Link, 1 Farrer Park Station Road. p. 6443 1173.
Jibiru Craft Beer Bar
As its name implies with gusto, JiBiru is a post-work heaven for those craving a bespoke tipple; beer brands you can only find in the heart of Japan. But aside from these rare brews, JiBiru also feeds the parched with grilled kushiyaki inspired by the Saitama region near Tokyo. Sakura chicken and high-quality Japanese pork are just some snacks you can’t resist here, marinated and glazed in special sauces directly imported from the Hibiki yakitori restaurants of Higashi-Matsuyama. Authentic!
Meaning “friend” in Japanese, Tomo is indeed an ideal waterhole to see the best (or embarrassing) sides of your gals when they’re hammered. With irresistible happy hours for beers (5pm-7pm, every day including weekends), it’s easy to see why this place is ideal for bonding and catch-ups. As for grub, expect izakaya fare like deep-fried king prawns, grilled squid and garlic fried rice.
Tomo Izakaya, #01-04 Clarke Quay, 3A River Valley Road, Singapore 179020, p. 6333 0100.
Want izakaya-style dining with a little French flair? This very narrow izakaya serves as a playground for Chef Jeremmy Chiam, who blends Japanese ingredients and French culinary styles to create unique izakaya dishes that are perfect for post-work bites. And particularly, the establishment prides itself on smoked meats and seafood, done traditionally over a binchō-tan (white charcoal) grill. Expect unconventional twists on classic dishes like foie gras, as well a bar bites like tripe with champignon mushrooms. Check out our full review here.
Le Binchotan, 115 Amoy Street #01-04 (Entrance via Gemmill Lane), Singapore 069935. p. 6221 6065.
The Public Izakaya
The Public Izakaya by Hachi on the ground floor is great for alfresco dining, and we have to say their Tokyo Fish & Chips ($12 for the set lunch with a side of their salad) is an interesting East-meets-West mish-mash we can’t get enough of. The Negitoro (raw tuna with spring onion) Don is also fantastic.
The Public Izakaya, #01-09, 100am, 100 Tras Street, Singapore 079027, p. 6604 9622.
This izakaya distinguishes itself by being certified by the Hokkaido City Council to promote the city’s remarkably fresh produce, with the freshest seafood and dairy sourced from Yakumo Town, while high-quality beef is procured from Kamishihoro City. Pop by for dinner and enjoy dishes like the creamy milk hotpot with salmon, or if you’re with your mates, share a fresh sushi platter instead. Wash that all down with fine sake like Jyosen Kunimare.
Hokkaido Izakaya, 95 Tanjong Pagar Road, Singapore 088516. p. 6221 7118. Open Mon-Sat 11.30am-2.30pm, 6pm-12am, Sundays 11am-2.30pm, 6pm-10.30pm.
Just one of seven reasons why Suntec City’s Sky Garden is the new hip place to be in the CBD – thanks to the Japanese group of restaurants that is Eat At Seven – Enbu stands out from its kitchen kin as an izakaya concept. Enbu distinguishes itself with a traditional Warayaki-style of grilling meats using a straw fire. This imparts a distinctively smoky taste to their izakaya dishes, that include katsuo warayaki (grilled bonito) and chicken warayaki with spring onion sauce.
Enbu, #03-307 Suntec City Sky Garden, 3 Temasak Boulevard, Singapore 038983, p. 6268 8043.
Experience a contemporary, European-infused take on Japanese izakaya dining at Wmartin’s Mo’Mor Izakaya. Mo’Mor boasts both indoor and outdoor seating areas perfect for gatherings with friends and family, or more intimate tête-à-têtes with its congenial, peaceful vibe. If izakaya style dishes conjure bad memories of oily, greasy fried meats, put those thoughts to bed and tuck into skewers of seared Australian wagyu with goma dressing or Hokkaido scallop tartare. If you’re eager for something a little more adventurous, the apple-cured salmon sashimi offers a medley of harmonious flavours with its mix of yuzu gel, pickled cucumber and olive oil caviar. But for the height of decadence, try the fresh rock lobster topped with creamy mentaiko hollandaise.
Mo’Mor Izakaya, 56 Tanglin Road, #B1-01, Tanglin Post Office. p. 6463 8080. Open Mon-Wed 11am-11pm, Thu-Sat 11am-1am, Sun 11am-11pm.
Standing Sushi Bar
Dirt cheap sashimi and cheap drinks: Best. Combo. Ever. Standing Sushi Bar serves up some pretty attractive promotions that you’ll be crazy to pass up on. Think $2 sakes, $5 beers and wines to go with $3 salmon sashimi on Mondays and Thursdays, 50% off house pours and nigiri sushi on Tuesdays, and 50% off house pours and hand rolls on Wednesdays!
Standing Sushi Bar, 8A Marina Boulevard, Marina Bay Link Mall, Singapore 018989, p. 6634 7068.
Shopping in Orchard has worn you out, and all you wanna do is drink like a fish and nosh like a pig – one place often comes to mind! We’re fans of the Orchard Central branch on the 12th storey; its sequestered, elevated locale permits us to be as rowdy as we like. The izakaya grub here gives us all the energy we need – charcoal-grilled skewers, grilled seafood served in dashi broth and soy sauce (try the Hokkaido scallop isoyaki), deep-fried tempura and stingray, sashimi sets and small nibbles like edamame and tamagoyaki omelette. And not forgetting the liquid fuel from Sumiya’s selection of beers, sakes and shochu cocktails.
Sumiya, #12-02 Orchard Central, 181 Orchard Road, Singapore 238896, p. 6509 9618.
The Horse’s Mouth
Much like hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth, letting loose at this hideout on the fringes of Orchard feels just like dining at a raucous izakaya in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Inspired by these Japanese waterholes, The Horse’s Mouth – its bar helmed by Woo Wai Leong – sports sleek wooden furnishings, walls with motifs of autumn leaves, and a menu that’d make you wanna stay for hours. From braised duck breasts and shishamo, to stingray fins and wagyu tongue, and even bigger bites like mazesoba and karaage don; this selection of plates will make sure you don’t stop at one!
The Horse’s Mouth, #B1-39 Forum The Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road, Singapore, 238884, p. 6235-1088. Open Mon-Thu 6pm-12am; Fri-Sat 6pm-1am.
FIV五 Izakaya Bar
Payday is still a week away but you’re in dire need for an after-work tipple. We totally get you, and so do the folks behind FIV五 (pronounced “five”), a CBD bar with daily $5 all-night drinks promotions that includes sake. Inspired by Tokyo’s ‘salary man’ 300-yen, Tachinomi (standing) bars, the minimalist watering hole is bursting with white-collar workers who are there as early as 5pm.
Five Izakaya, #01-05B, 16 Collyer Quay (Formerly Hitachi Towers), Singapore 049318, p. 9826 1049. Other outlets can be located at Changi City Point, Cuppage Terrace and Maxwell Chambers.
Dimly-lit and furnished with huge sake barrels from floor to ceiling, Boruto reminded us of Tokyo’s upper-class tachinomi (standing) bars, except there are seats here! Founded by Patrick Tan, owner of one of the best robatayaki restaurants in Singapore, Tamashii Robataya, this sake bar (located along South Bridge Road) has already garnered a steady following, most of whom are Japanese expats. Boruto has over 80 different sake brands, 50 of which are exclusively stocked here, including a woozy range of high-quality junmai daiginjo and daishiki. Splurge and order the priciest bottle on the menu, the Juyondai Soko ($2,280 per 1.8-litre).
Boruto, #01-01 Golden Castle Building, 80 South Bridge Road, Singapore 058710, p. 6532 0418.
This Japanese dining spot may be izakaya-inspired, but it looks nothing like what you have in mind. Colourful pop culture posters, concrete floors and walls, exposed light bulbs, IZY’s one edgy, hip izakaya. Food-wise, expect a good mix of traditional eats and contemporary creations, such as the classic katsu don and the ocean trout carpaccio with ponzu sauce. After you’re done with the chow, ask the staff about Cache – a secret lounge bar tucked away in the back. They’ll let you in as long as it’s not a full house and you can stay to enjoy a drink or two.
IZY, 27 Club Street, Singapore 069413, p. 9678 0027.
Bam! Tapas Sake Bar
What do you get when the classic Japanese aperitif collides with traditional Spanish bar bites? Bam! Tapas Sake Bar (No. 38) is the answer. This watering hole offers a refreshing twist on the same ol’ tapas concept (which you’ve probably had enough of by now). Savour small plates like ikura and salmon skins, pork jowls, and duck gyozas, while you sip on their specialty sake cocktails (they’re all good – we couldn’t pick a fave!).
Bam! Tapas Sake Bar, 38 Tras Street, Singapore 078977, p. 6226 0500.
Ishinomaki Grill & Sake
Serving up robatayaki and izakaya dishes, this grill and sake restaurant in Orchard is all about fresh seafood and seasonal produce. Follow them on Facebook to see what’s new for the day, and when you’re there, order from their yakitori menu or go for a kaiseki-style meal. Ishinomaki also takes pride in their sake selection and houses premier sake grades like the Junmai Daiginjo and Junmai Ginjyo.
Ishinomaki Grill & Sake, #B1-02/02A/03 Palais Renaissance, 390 Orchard Road, Singapore 238871, p. 6737 1065.
Be greeted by a wall of dining awards as you enter Shunjuu Izakaya – an izakaya specialising in sumiyaki (charcoal-grill). Offering over 60 types of sake by glass, this cosy sake bar gets real boisterous on weekends – reminding us of our youthful nights out in Japan.
Shunjuu Izakaya, #01-15 Riverside View, 30 Robertson Quay, Singapore 238251, p. 6887 3577.