The curtains are drawn and the scene is set. Lanterns cast a dim red glow over the bar as you settle into your seat, waiting for the show to begin. Without missing a beat, the affable waiter descends upon the table with bottles of sake, each more beautiful in taste than the last to keep you enthralled throughout the evening.
Like the Japanese art of Kabuki, which combines dance and drama, Kabuke blends sake with zany bar bites such as takoyaki fries ($12) and kabukini ($10), a toasted jamon and Swiss cheese sandwich to keep you entertained. You don’t have to be an expert to appreciate the pairings either – everything is easily broken down and you’re encouraged to order sake by the glass or carafe to savour a range of types throughout your meal. And if you’re still stumped, there’s always the Wagoto Flight ($24), where you’re served 50ml pours of some of its best – the Shirayuki Daiginjo, a full-bodied brew with a subtle sweetness, the Jozen Mizunogotoshi, a refreshing and easy-to-drink beverage and the Dassai Junmai Daiginjo, a cult favourite with notes of grape and berry that linger on the tongue.
Each dish on Kabuke’s menu comes pre-paired with a sake so ordering is a breeze. Replace wine and cheese night by having your cheese with sake instead. The cheese platter ($25) comes with a curated selection of three cheeses from Greenwood Avenue’s The Cheese Artisans and, for an additional $18, you can have it with a special sake pairing courtesy of sake sommelier Keiji Heng. Drawing upon his previous experience at Bar Ippudo, Heng’s pairings try to harmonise the complex flavours of sake and cheese. Krista, an aged cheese from the Bavarian Alps is served with the Jozen Mizunogotoshi. The Krista’s nutty intensity is juxtaposed against the Jozen’s reserved and clean nature, allowing the cheese to take centre stage. The other two pairings are better matched and each sip of sake accentuates the richness of the cheese. The well-balanced Tengumai works with the mild creaminess of France’s Le Burgond, a semi-hard cheese and the Ichinokura is an extra dry sake with a clean finish, which provides a good balance to the tangy acidity of oozy soft cheeses like Italy’s La Tur.
Kabuke also serves up Japanese whisky, beer, umeshu, red and white wine to have with more substantial bites such as its ever-popular beef bowls – but with its extensive menu of sake, it’s obvious what its forte is.
BY: Pailin Boonlong