Nestled on the second floor of an old shophouse along Telok Ayer, sits Kabuke. The restaurant’s location was so inconspicuous, we actually walked straight past it, until we spotted the restaurant’s blue signboard with directions leading us up a flight of carpeted stairs.
Upon entering through the front door, we were greeted by a sleek bar, flanked by luxe wine-coloured velvet curtains and warm lighting, with traditional Japanese decals on the wall.
This led us to the main dining area with a pretty blue and grey colour theme, furnished with bar tables and chairs, to give our meal that extra lift with its ambience.
A cosy private space was hidden behind two large hand-painted Kabuki-themed fans, with the left flank representing masculinity, and femininity on the right. Prfect if you need some privacy on a date night, and comfortable enough for a small party of eight.
Our meal was served in 3 Acts, curated from their selection of small bites and dishes from their main menu.
Act 1 started off with the Shiso Tempura With Hotate Tartare ($15), featuring diced scallops tossed in Kabuke’s signature truffle shoyu, atop of a crispy battered Shiso leaf and dressed with ikura and black caviar.
I’ve always loved Shiso leaf (an acquired taste, tbh) and this particular starter was one of my favourites. It was fluffy and light, wonderfully paired with the savoury scallops, and the ikura just pops in your mouths, packing a briny flavour punch. I know I’ll definitely be coming back for this dish!
The Tuna Tataki ($12) was dressed in a honey Ponzu sauce and topped with crispy garlic flakes. I’m not usually a fan of yuzu, but this tangy sauce was blended so well with the honey, the citrus flavour came off light and pleasant, complementing the thick pieces of seared tuna. There was a subtle hint of fragrant garlic in the aftertaste too.
This makes for a refreshing palate cleanser and whets our appetite for the meal ahead.
The third dish of the first act was the Salmon Bruschetta ($6), crunchy baguette slices topped with smoked salmon, creme fraiche and miso butter. The salmon topping was deliciously rich and smokey, however it paled in comparison to the other two more unique light bites in terms of taste.
Act 1 was paired with a glass of Yuki No Bosha ($16, 90ml), a smooth fruity sake with layered notes of peaches and cream. Definitely one of my favourites that evening.
We kicked off Act 2 with the Crispy Goma Wings ($12) that were delicious to boot and reminded us of the all-familiar har jeong kai (prawn paste chicken). The crispy sesame wings were paired with an egg mayo wasabi yuzu dip.
While that may be a mouthful of a sauce to pronounce, the dip was velvety and smooth, with a kick on the palate from the wasabi, and the light yuzu fragrance remains in the aftertaste. I would recommend this for those who love their chicken wings; Kabuke has got it right.
Another one of my favourites that evening, the Baby Corn ($10) came topped with Furikake and pork floss, and a generous drizzle of Sriracha mayo.
The corn had a smokiness from the slight char over the grill, and was very tender. The pork floss further enhanced the sweetness of the corn, eliminating any “green” smell from the baby corn.
The Takoyaki Fries ($12) was a visual standout. Crispy shoestring fries with bits of diced octopus hidden within, lashings of takoyaki sauce, Japanese Kewpie mayo and melted cheese sauce, topped with ebiko, seaweed and bonito flakes.
This dish was every bit as yummy as it looked, and tasted authentic to its takoyaki inspiration. My dining partner and I couldn’t get enough of this dish and kept picking at it till it was all gone.
Act 2’s sake pairing was the Nanbu Buin ($12, 90ml), carrying green apple and orange aromas. This tipple had subtle floral notes with an interestingly savoury umami mid-palate, and a dry finish.
If you’re a fan of fatty pork, you’ll love the Miso Pork ($18), featuring grilled ginger-infused miso pork belly, topped with apple and Shiso vinaigrette tossed pea shoots. The pork was soft and tender, with the grilled fat giving it a great bite. Best paired with the Dijon mustard that came on the side to cut through the richness.
Act 3 started us off with the Nabeshima ($16, 90ml) as our sake pairing. This sake had a rich aroma of banana and mangoes, with moderate acidity and a dry mouthfeel. A great choice for the rich food in this course as well.
The Nasu Dengaku ($9) is grilled eggplants topped with a savoury spread of red and white miso, each infused with sake and yuzu. This mild dish was my least favourite in this course because I found the eggplant to be too soft, however, I do give it credit for it being melt-in-your-mouth tender though.
My highlight of the evening was the Kabuke Beef Bowl ($28). This rice bowl features striploin topped with garlic flakes, an onsen egg and truffle shoyu.
The best part about it? Mixing in the egg with the meat and the rice. I also loved the refreshing slices of Japanese pickled radish that helped to cut through the richness of this dish.
As a complement to our final dish of the evening, we had the Kabuke Sake Flight ($24) featuring 3 50ml picks of your own from each category (A, B & C) off the sake menu.
Mine came with the Ichinokura — an extra dry mouthfeel with hints of cantaloupe aroma, Jozen Mizunogotoshi — a soft and refreshing sake with apple, grape and peach aromas; and the Tengumai, a full-bodied and well-balanced dry sake.
The Kabuke Cheese Platter ($25) was the final curtain call for the evening. This platter includes three types of cheeses, curated by The Cheese Artisans, and came with condiments such as Meiji crackers and raisin butter, hand-carried back to Singapore by the owners straight from Japan.
My pick from the platter was the La Tur, a soft goat’s cheese, from Italy. Its strong flavours reminded me of my favourite Tetê de Moine from Switzerland. For those who prefer something milder on the palate, you’ll love the Le Burgond, a rich and creamy semi-hard cheese from France.
Kabuke is indeed a real class act with its delicious food and premium sake choices. For those who want to get into sake, this is the place to be.
The restaurant has its resident sake sommelier who can recommend you the best tipples to suit your palate, and with the Sake Flight, you can get the best of what Kabuke has to offer.
Don’t miss out on the Shiso Tempura fritters, Crispy Goma Wings and Tuna Tataki, you won’t be disappointed!
Expected Damage: $20 – $35 per pax