Late-night drinks in the city are one of the top picks when it comes to unwinding with friends, especially after a tough week of work. And for those who want to partake in the Japanese experience without being in the Land of the Rising Sun, izakayas — essentially Japanese bars — are the ones to go to. Well, there’s a new izakaya called Saketoshi that has set up shop in the Clarke Quay area recently in June, but while it also provides that Japanese experience, it has its unique aspects.
Residing on the first floor of the UE Square Shopping Mall, Saketoshi was founded by Jeff Ong, a man with much experience with izakayas, having previously run a chain of them across Malaysia, Singapore and Australia — this one now being his sole focus at the moment.
What sets it apart from other izakayas? Well, Saketoshi is an izakaya bar that specialises in Sake but not only that, you’ll also be able to pay for your meal with cryptocurrency. In fact, Saketoshi’s very name is a portmanteau on those two facets, with Sake referring to the Japanese alcohol and Toshi referencing Satoshi Nakamoto, the pseudonym for Bitcoin’s creator. For payment, most crypto wallets are accepted here.
According to Jeff, Saketoshi was created to be a space for him and his crypto-enthusiast friends to relax and chill while discussing all things crypto. “Think of it as a safe space to talk about cryptocurrency with no backlash or judgement,” Jeff says.
But while it was conceived to be a place for crypto-enthusiasts to hang out and chat, it also extends beyond that niche.
When you enter Saketoshi, you’re greeted with a quaint ambience that touches on the look of traditional izakayas; featuring wooden flooring and tables (with some accompanied by comfy couches) and subtly lit by overhead lamps — combining to create a cosy space that invites all to come in and unwind. For those wanting to soak in the city landscape, the restaurant also has an extended outdoor dining area for customers to enjoy food and drinks.
While we are on the subject of food and drinks, let’s take a look at what Saketoshi is offering. We tried several food items from their menu, which paired alongside a couple of choices from their sake selection.
Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 45
And Sake is an excellent place to start. Our first drink was the Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 45 from the Chugoku region. Available in 720ml (S$118) or 1800ml (S$299) quantities, the drink is smooth to down and provides flowery notes for taste.
Considering our curated food selection was a little bit on the heavier side, it was an apt pairing that helped to reset the palette after a couple of bites.
The first food item from the kitchen was the Amaebi Karaage (S$15). These are tiny sweet shrimps that have been deep fried to a lovely orange hue, topped off with a slice of lemon that you can squeeze over it.
It’s a lovely bar snack that surprisingly gets addictive to eat. Each bite contains a deep prawn flavour, but it never becomes overpowering and deep frying adds a nice crisp chew to the outer shell. Since these come in small sizes, it is easy to take it all in one bite, which makes it more tempting to grab another. Think prawn crackers with the same addictiveness but packing in more umami flavour.
The only real nitpick is that it chokes easily. After a couple of shrimps, the bits from the shell tended to get stuck in my throat and had me coughing a couple of times. It’s not a pleasant feeling, but a glass of water helps. Still, I would say the Amaebi Karaage is worth the occasional cough.
Ika Geso Karaage
The other fried bar snack on offer was the Ika Geso Karaage (S$15). Here, you get squid that has been battered and deep fried, producing an enticing stack of calamari bites ready to be eaten. Likewise, it comes accompanied by a slice of lemon and some dipping sauce.
It is probably the most familiar tasting dish you will find on the menu. The batter gives that nice meaty, deep-fried flavour and crunch but inside, the squid is soft and provides a good amount of chew. Overall, a decent option as a bar bite.
Coming alongside our fried bar bites is the unique Saketoshi Cocktail (S$39). But despite the name and appearance, this isn’t a drink. Rather, it is a food concoction made from various seafood ingredients.
It is a new menu addition that has fresh uni (sea urchin) as the centrepiece. Alongside it, a generous serving of ikura and tobiko sits atop a special homemade sauce before it is finished with a dash of truffle caviar at the top.
Uni might scare a few people off with its peculiar taste, but for those hesitant to try this: not to worry! The uni used here comes fresh and has a milder sea taste, allowing you to appreciate the buttery texture better. Meanwhile, the ikura, tobiko, and caviar add different levels of saltiness to the overall dish that complements the creaminess of the uni.
For a taste of the Hokkaido region, the Scallop Ikura (S$24) is an option to try. Sourced from the Hokkaido area, the scallops are pan-seared and then topped with a generous dollop of ikura, presented as a skewer for you to pick up and eat easily. The scallops themselves are tender and succulent. Still, while the ikura is good, it doesn’t necessarily add that much to the dish itself.
Japanese Oysters Karaage
Our final deep-fried dish comes in the form of the Japanese Oysters Karaage (S$24), which comes presented nicely in their shells, waiting to be picked up and eaten.
I’m not a fan of oysters; I find the taste too strong for my liking. This oyster dish, however, is one that I enjoyed. Deep frying it with batter helped offset most of the strong briny taste I disliked, but it still retained subtle hints of the oyster flavour for me to enjoy. The oysters also came out plump and juicy inside, which combined well with the crunch from the fried batter.
While I’m still not converted, the Japanese Oysters Karaage provides a nice compromise for me to enjoy if I’m out with friends who love oysters. If you’re like me, perhaps this is a dish you could check out.
A4 Wagyu Steak
If there’s one iconic food item you hear about all the time in Japanese cuisine, it’s Wagyu. For those craving this luxurious beef from Japan, you’ll be happy to know that Saketoshi is serving them up in their menu offering.
Their A4 Wagyu Steak (S$48) is grilled to medium-rare doneness before being served up in slices with some simple garnishing, a side of rock salt, and some dipping sauce. While A4 may not be the highest quality of Wagyu available, it was specially chosen for its balance of marbling and leanness for customers to enjoy longer.
And a great decision that was. Each slice of the Wagyu Steak is deliciously tender and juicy and dissolves easily in your mouth, but it isn’t too fatty to the point that it will make you feel sick after eating a few. After taking one, another beckons to be taken and adding a touch of the salt or dipping sauce accentuates that beefy flavour.
Going back to seafood, the Uni Tempura (S$24 for two pieces) from Saketoshi is the restaurant’s signature offering. The dish comprises seaweed tempura as the base with slices of otoro (fatty tuna) and the main star, the uni, resting atop it. Some truffle caviar is then laid on top to finish it.
It’s certainly the most aesthetically pleasing dish we’ve had for the night, with each serving laid on a wooden spoon and plated in a bowl with pebbles and garnish — very zen-like. Luckily, the taste is of the same quality as its looks.
As with the Saketoshi Cocktail, the uni is similarly fresh and has that rich, buttery texture when taking it in. The seaweed tempura brings subtle saltiness while the otoro provides that burst of meaty umami flavour from the tuna fat. If you are new to uni, this is an excellent dish to try for your first time.
Scallop Foie Gras
The penultimate dish from Saketoshi is the Scallop Foie Gras (S$48). Here, we have two servings of foie gras sitting on a bed of scallops and mentaiko sauce.
It’s probably my favourite dish of the lot. I love the smooth buttery texture and rich meaty flavour from foie gras, and it is all present here as well, but combined with the scallop and mentaiko, it elevates the dish to another level — the sweetness from the scallop and the salty, savoury taste from the mentaiko further enrich the foie gras’s umami profile to provide an exciting kick of flavour with every bite. It is a must-try for sure.
Aburi Engawa Donburi
Finally, we have some rice to end things. Saketoshi has several donburi offerings on its menu, with the Aburi Engawa Donburi (S$28) being one of them.
The Aburi Engawa Donburi has rice paired alongside a flame-seared halibut fin, ginger, Japanese pickles, ikura, and an onsen egg. Once you mix everything together, the gooey egg clumps nicely with bits of each ingredient, providing a gentle but refreshing taste all around. It may not be as flavourful as the rest of the food we’ve tried, but it is a nice dish to have in-between.
Kotsuzumi Rojoh Hana Ari Tohka Junmai Daiginjyo
The night ended with sampling the Kotsuzumi Rojoh Hana Ari Tohka Junmai Daiginjyo sake (S$158 for 720ml). Coming from Hyogo Prefecture, this Sake has a mellow but sweet taste on the palate and is recommended to be paired with meat and fish dishes to highlight their flavour profile. Considering Saketoshi’s menu, this is a great sake to have alongside your meal.
Final Words & Quick Facts
Saketoshi may be small in size, but it provides a relaxing, cosy atmosphere for friends to hang out in the city. Meanwhile, the food on offer here is a delight for those looking for things to excite the palate, with a smorgasbord of umami options and various sake choices to choose from to elevate your meal. Just be sure to order a salad or two since the ones we tried leans on the heavy side.
- Address: UE Square Shopping Mall, 81 Clemenceau Avenue #01-14, Singapore 239917
- Operating Hours: Monday to Friday, Lunch from 12pm – 2.30pm, Dinner: 5.30pm – 10.30pm
- Reservations: Book via WhatsApp or Email
- Social Media: Follow on Facebook and Instagram
Photos by Sunny Low of the DANAMIC Team.