Kabuke – New Sake Gastrobar Brings Sake Tasting by the Glass to Giajin

Kabuke may only be a few months old, but it’s already creating a buzz in the non-Japanese, “gaijin” Singapore sake community. The self-professed “sake gastrobar” joins the increasingly competitive Japanese restaurant scene near the CBD. Not far from other izakayas like Birders , recently reviewedby fellow Sakemaru writer Takanao Todo, and Shukuu , the subject of my recent Sake Sommelier’s Secrets, Kabuke looks to stand out with a more “approachable” way to appreciate sake.

Once you find Kabuke, hidden away on the second floor of a heritage shophouse, it’s immediately clear where the focus will be – sake! The wall of sake bottles behind the bar running along much of the venue makes quite impression, as does the traditional kabuki décor (the origin of the name), including massive Japanese painted fans separating a small sitting area from the rest of the bar.

While the food was originally planned to just complement the available sake, Chef Rio Neo, has taken Kabuke’s cuisine to a much higher level. Amazingly, the top-notch chef was hired after a Facebook posting enquiry! The umami-focused menu, while not particularly extensive during my visit, was both creative and diverse, ensuring that almost everyone should find something they like.


Trained sake sommelier, Keiji, welcomed us at the sake bar counter with an overview of the seasonal food menu, suggesting a variety of personal and customer favourites. Starting healthy, we ordered a couple of vegetable dishes, the edamame and baby corn. While the edamame wasn’t anything special, the corn, dressed in Siracha mayo and furikake topped with pork floss was excellent.

Moving onto meats, the crispy goma goma wings came highly recommended and lived up to their reputation as one of our favourites of the evening. Despite being deep fried, they were still moist within their sesame flavoured crust, which was perfectly complemented with Kabuke’s chunky egg mayo wasabi yuzu dip. Being fans of grilled dried pufferfish, we decided to try eihire (grilled dried stingray fin) for the first time which seemed similar. It turned out to be almost as good as our favourite grilled dried fugu with the same texture and accompanying sauce.


Two of the more creative items on the menu we enjoyed were the kabukini and shiso tempura with hotate tartare. The kabukini dish was made up of a number of bite-sized, toasted Spanish ham and cheese sandwiches. While rich, especially with the kewpie mayo and Japanese milk bread, they provided a nice complement to the more traditional food. The hotate tartare was even more unique in its combination of ingredients with a base of diced scallops, as the name would suggest, dressed with truffle shoyu and ikura all on top of crispy tempura shiso leafs.

Still feeling a bit hungry given the smaller “tapas-like” portions, we finished up with the more hearty miso pork dish which we really enjoyed – again nicely moist like the wings – and a nice way to finish up the meal.


After we had started satiating our hunger with the delicious food and were thirsting for accompanying sake, Keiji shared his thoughts behind the presentation of the sake selection. With a clear target audience of non-Asian expatriates and Singaporean locals, Keiji knew he wanted to present sake in a way traditional wine drinkers could easily understand. These customers wouldn’t intuitively know what type of sake they would like best and wouldn’t be familiar with any of the brands more familiar to Japanese drinkers.

This thinking led to the best, easiest to understand sake menu I’ve seen in all my sake travels – an impressive accomplishment considering they have sake from over 20 prefectures and something which sets Kabuke apart from other izakayas. The menu has sake sorted into three main categories:
A (90ml – S$8/300ml – S$24), B (90ml – S$12/ 300ml – S$36) and C (90ml – S$18/ 300ml – S$54) based on the cost of the sake to Kabuke. It, therefore, doesn’t mean that C sakes are necessarily better than A sakes, as Keiji placed the best sakes he could source in each of the categories. They also offer sake flights of three different sake types for S$24 for those looking to explore something new.

He also shared that, despite going through limited sake stock each month, he uses an impressive six different sake distributors. That prevents Kabuke from being beholden to any one supplier and enables them to more nimbly respond to ongoing customer preferences and ensure more complexity of tastes appear on the menu.

We tried a number of sakes on the menu, including a tasting flight and a namasake not on the menu which turned out to be our favourite of the evening – and from the same brewer as our favourite sake at nearby Shukuu, Miyakanbai.


Given the consistently delicious food and variety of well-explained sakes, I’d now consider Kabuke to be one of my favourite izakayas in Singapore, as good as Shukuu and likely better for sake newbies, although more of a bar than a restaurant in terms of ambiance.

200A Telok Ayer Street (Level2) Singapore 068638
TEL : +65-8822-5525
Email: connect@kabuke.sg

Operating Hours
Monday to Friday 1130am to 2pm

Monday to Thursday 5pm to 11pm
Friday and Saturday 5pm to 12am