Japan's equivalent of taverns, izakayas have traditionally been known as cosy joints Japanese salarymen visit for barbecued skewers and a few rounds of drinks.
Many such bars have been popping up all over Singapore recently, with a modern, hip spin. Here are some of the best hidden spots to check out.
1. JinzakayaPhoto: SilverKris
This newly opened yakitori/sake bar is the latest addition to the establishments by the acclaimed Les Amis Group.
Tucked away in Owen Link, a small passageway within the Connexion complex near Farrer Park MRT, the decor here is eclectic and effortlessly cool, cleverly curated with interesting pieces like a ceiling lamp made of glass bottles.
Jinzakya offers a pretty comprehensive selection of affordably priced dishes that range from the usual skewered yakimono offerings to ramen, donburi, sashimi and more than 10 different types of sake.
Crowd favourites include the kaki, fresh oysters wrapped with bacon ($5.50), foie gras ($9.50), and the Jin Tori Ramen ($12.80).
2. Neon PigeonPhoto: SilverKris
Hidden behind old school wooden shutters in Keong Saik Road, this bar stays true to its hipster zip code by presenting a modern rendition of an izakaya featuring industrial-chic design and trippy indie playlists.
What makes Neon Pigeon truly hip, though, is its selection of creative cocktails, which include the Miss So ($22), a rich concoction made with buffalo trace bourbon, luxardo cherry, miso syrup and chocolate. Its bar bites are equally luscious.
Try the chicken liver mousse ($17) and the smoked baby back ribs ($21) laced with an unctuous sake glaze.
3. IZYPhoto: SilverKris
Though not exactly hidden from plain sight, the fact that it looks nothing like a conventional izakaya provides IZY with a wicked camouflage.
Helmed by chef Kazumasa Yazawa, who earned his chops at the swanky Waku Ghin, IZY dishes up traditional Japanese bar bites in a narrow, chic looking space within an old shophouse at Club Street.
The signature dishes here are the Buta Pork Ginger Roll ($12), Ohitashi ($12) and absolutely addictive chicken karaage ($24).
4. Izakaya 95Photo: SilverKris
If you're looking for a truly hidden spot, this izakaya overlooking the river certainly fits the bill.
After all, the laid-back compound it is situated in - Punggol Settlement - sits all the way in the north-eastern end of Singapore.
Nibble on a comprehensive selection of skewers, from the moreish tsukune ($4) to the luscious Kagoshima buta pork belly ($5). Quench your thirst with premium Suntory beers on tap, a respectable array of Japanese whiskies and an impressive selection of sake.
5. Inaho's Kitchen Bar
To get to this intimate bar on the second level of a heritage shophouse in Duxton Road, you have to first locate its signboard that will point you up a narrow flight of stairs. Run by a Japanese lady, the establishment's simple interior is anchored by a dark wood bar counter in front of a well-curated selection of Japanese sake. You'll notice that this place is packed with Japanese expats savouring tasty dishes like the beef tongue ($17) and the squid with ponzu dressing ($13).
This article was first published in Singapore Airlines’ travel magazine, SilverKris. Go to silverkris.com for more travel stories.