I love a good izakaya. There is first something about its ambience, which promises a mix of liveliness and warmth, that eases one into comfortably into the setting. Once settled in, a round of drinks, or two, would quickly add to the mood. The food is then a good accompaniment as the evening goes on. Friends are a must. It is, after all, a place of escape and solace for the regular Japanese salaryman.
Shukuu Izakaya aims to recreate that ambience, and yet does so in an overt fashion that ranges from unique, Japanese-inspired cuisine, an extensive range of artisanal sake procured by the restaurant’s sake sommeliers, to the bold, hand-painted murals that reminds one of a Japanese matsuri. It is not your typical izakaya, and it seems catered for a clientele that romanticizes Japan.
One of Shukuu’s highlights is the option to indulge in a little sake pairing as the meal begins. The restaurant boasts a myriad of labels, from the more regular to the rare, and each individually sourced by Shukuu’s sake sommeliers. There is a firm, guiding hand that recommends a particular sake for a dish that comes and the restaurant’s dedication to sake appreciation has gone so far to the extent of even having sake introductory classes. While this may be a little overbearing for some, it is a unique experience both for the newcomer and the veteran.
The first drink that came up was the Sawahime Junmai Yamahai, from Tochigi prefecture. A sake with a subtle, sweet grain aroma, the Sawhime is a bright and dry sake with a marked acidity. The subtle notes of mineral richness balances out the umami after each dish, making this one drink that goes well with the kushiyaki, aburi shimesabe and rosti mentai.
I started off dinner with the Gyu Ponzu ($7++). Lightly seared beef fillets were dressed with a lavish amount of ponzu sauce, spring onions and a finale of ebiko. The tangy ponzu was distinct with each bite, flavouring the beef into a sweet-savoury-sour complexity. It was a very refreshing dish, and perfect to start the meal with.
Move on next to the Reba Shoyuzuke ($6++). This peculiar portion of marinated chicken liver in soy sauce will not appeal to all, but the chef has done a decent job in balancing out the rich, gamey flavours with a sprinkle of salty shoyu and (sesame oil).
The Maguro Yukke ($12++) was a favourite around the table for a mix of refreshing, crisp tuna flavours coupled with the deep intensities of egg, earthy sesame oil and a sprinkling of chilli oil. Mix up the beautifully layered ingredients before serve and then marvel as it becomes a satisfying mess.
When the Rosti Mentai ($8++) made its appearance, it was without a doubt one dish that would hit all the right spots in the umami index. The sheer thought of having shredded potato pan-fried and then topped with aburied salty, spicy fermented cod roe was simply remarkable. I thoroughly enjoyed this dish.
The second sake served up to me was the Kikusui no Karakuchi Honjozo, from Niigata prefecture. A favourite of Japanese restaurants, this was a clean sake with a refreshingly crisp dryness. Because of its medium bodied flavour, it is a perfect balance to any meal and pairs well generally with the food served at the restaurant.
If possible, do order the Aburi Shimesaba ($12++) for a sweet, sour and meaty enjoyment. Its flavour is an even spread of savouriness, and the layers of acidic vinegar within quelled any semblance of oiliness – which strangely, allowed me to enjoy the mackerel in a different fashion. A definite favourite!
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The Kaki no Sakamushi ($9++) was a delight for its plump oysters cooked in sake, and then served in a hotate shell. The Tori Kara-age ($10++) was also pretty decent with each chicken piece being turned inside out before frying in order to retain the juiciness within the skin and the meat.
And as any regular izakaya would have it, there is the usual assortment of Kushiyaki ($27++) and Yakitori. In particular, the Iberico pork collar stood out, while crowd-favourites such as the bacon asparagus did not disappoint.
End off the meal with a round of Hot Inaniwa Udon ($14++). Akita prefecture’s specialty thin udon is served in a konbo tsuyu soup base. Easy to slurp, and satisfying after all the small bites and drinks.
In all, Shukuu Izakaya promises an interesting, out of the norm experience from any izakaya or Japanese restaurant that I am familiar with. While it aims to be an izakaya for all its casual aspirations, it is also a boutique restaurant that serves up food and drink that is both traditional, and modern-inspired. The food is good, and the sake served up, distinct and occasionally memorable. Still, its uniqueness is what brought me back for a second visit, and I am sure that it will be a hit with guests who like to be a little more adventurous in experiencing a taste of Japan. It is not an Izakaya in the traditional sense, but it definitely is a good take on it.
Thank you Shukuu Izakaya for the invitation.
|8 Stanley Street|
Reservations: 6327 9240
Monday to Fridays, 11.30 AM – 2.00 PM, 5.30 PM – 11.00 PM.
Saturdays, 6.30 PM – 10.30 PM.
Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays.