Nestled along Kandahar Street, Maison Ikkoku is a quiet cafe with a narrow speakeasy squeezed in above it that’s celebrating its 6th Anniversary.
As with most bespoke cocktail bars, I approached with a mixture of hesitation and skepticism. Heading into any bar where I’d have to choose a drink without anticipation of what I might receive isn’t exactly a way my beer drinking self plans a good night.
The speakeasy brings with it an inspired modern version of its prohibition predecessors. To commemorate its sixth anniversary this 2017, Maison Ikkoku introduced a twist on traditional udon with a fusion of local spices and regional flavours.
The first thing that hit me was the size of all the ingredients – large prawns and succulent scallops. The aroma pushed me to stop absorbing this dish with my eyes and to start getting to work.
And work I did, savouring a lobster bisque that had been cooking for 72 hours creating a thick infused broth. The King Prawn Udon ($18) noodles were flatter and more akin to Kishimen Udon, as compared to the traditional thick round noodles found in most Japanese restaurants.
If you believe spice and heat are an absolute must, you’ll be in for a treat with hints of tom yum and lemongrass added to the mix.
Being a speakeasy and a bespoke cocktail bar, you’d of course be spoilt for choice with the copious amounts of alcohol on offer. There isn’t a drink list to choose from so imagination and a sense of adventure would bode you well.
Blessed with a comprehensive range of spirits from common finds such as Hendricks gin, to the slightly more exclusive Whitley Neil gin, you as a patron will be given a great opportunity to add to your spirit vocabulary.
Despite being a lover of beer, I decided to start my night off with something tart instead.
I asked for anything that contained amaretto in it, and I was not disappointed. I was expecting a sour, but instead was blown away by a well-balanced cocktail that tasted like Ben & Jerry’s Strawberry Cheesecake.
Complete with rose petals and strawberries, drinks like these are also usually followed by jibes on your questionable choice (especially if you’re a man with a healthy beard).
Done nursing both my cocktail and masculinity, I decided to dive into the deep end of the pool with a second cocktail. Throwing disregard to the wind and my sense of smell, I leapt for the safety net of obscurity with a salted fish concoction.
There was literally a small bottle of the potent essence that the bartenders would gladly hand over for you to have a whiff. Despite my reservations, the blend of savoury flavours left me with a sense of awe and admiration for the thought process behind this creation.
The salted fish, although ever present, didn’t overpower the vodka-based cocktail. Savoury and full-bodied, the hint of heat definitely added more dimension to the cocktail.
To help wash down the various drinks, management at Maison Ikkoku kindly provided a platter of Trio Fries ($15) as accompaniment. Chunky sweet potato fries, curry-seasoned french fries and finely sliced spam fries made up the trio.
Despite my misgivings, the fries were actually nicely seasoned and complemented the drinks nicely as the night wore on. In particular, the spam fries really stood out.
Finely sliced and deep fried, they were crisp and not overly salty as compared to most. The combination of the curry and sweet potato fries (perhaps in lieu that it was a cocktail bar) helped provide a nice balance to the platter.
In all, the night turned out to be enjoyable as the bartenders proved knowledgeable of their craft and took great pride in providing quality cocktails. On top of that, they exuded both charm and genuine delight in interacting with their customers.
Expected damage: $24 – $28 per cocktail