Sake lovers, this one’s for you.

Better known for its malls of children’s hair salons and aesthetic clinics, west Orchard Road is fast turning into a mecca for sake connoisseurs. Since the start of this year, two bars have appeared at the quieter end of the famed stretch, offering craft sake, sake on tap, a hot sake programme, and exclusive styles.

The latest is Nomi Dining Bar. Taking over The Horse’s Mouth at Forum The Shopping Mall, the new izakaya offers over 300 sakes with a focus on seasonal and rare bottles from all over Japan. Currently, 55 sakes are available by the glass and 180-millilitre carafe.

The list is complied by certified sommelier Jack Lau, a jolly man who whirls off facts, figures, and fun stuff about each bottle. Lau also deftly pairs the alcoholic beverage with bar bites and charcoal grilled dishes by chef Jing Chen, formerly of the fine dining kaiseki restaurant Yoshi.

Nomi’s sake sommelier Jack Lau (Image credit: Nomi Dining Bar)

Ask Lau what he has on draught, and it could be a creamy and bright sparkling sake by Hyogo Prefecture brewer Tsubosaka. A starter of aburaage, or tofu puffs similar to taupok, is matched with Raifuku x Fermier Fusion, a special edition Ibaraki junmai ginjo aged in red wine barrels. Quietly toasty with a mushroom-like flavour, it rounds out the earthiness of the puff’s natto cheese filling.

From Kyoto, Shuhari Ultra is a rich and crisp junmai daiginjo that stands up to juicy Hokkaido pork steak, thinly sliced and doused with togarashi. Kuheiji Eau du Désir is a 2020 vintage junmai daiginjo that is lush and saline. It also has a mouth-puckering astringency that prompts you to dig out more oily morsels from a beautifully caramelised maguro kama, or tuna collar.

(Image credit: Table 33)

Across the road from Nomi is Table 33, a new concept in the basement of Palais Renaissance. Opened earlier this year by the people behind Japanese restaurant Ishinomaki Grill & Sake, the bar offers a hot sake programme, exclusive bottles, and some they age themselves.

The menu is put together by cofounder and certified sake sommelier Janice Chi, who took a crash course on the Japanese beverage after a manager left one of her restaurants suddenly. “As I learned more about sake, I realised it’s a fascinating world as there is so much care and respect behind the crafting of each spirit,” she said.

Table 33 cofounder and sake sommelier Janice Chi (Image credit: Table 33)

Table 33 – named after the Ishinomaki table where Chi sat at and supervised from after her knee operation – is stocked with up to 180 sakes from all 47 Japanese prefectures. They also procured single tanks of sake bottled solely for the bar, such as Ippongi Daiginjo from Fukui. Covered with snow for three years to slow down its maturation process, it is smooth with aromas of musk melon and toasted cereal.

A highlight is Table 33’s hot sake offerings, where certain styles are served at various temperatures to show off their characteristics. “There is this misconception that hot sake is only for cheap sakes,” Chi said. “Enjoying sakes that are warmed up helps to enhance their umami notes and elevate the appreciation.” Ichinokura Mirai e Tsunagu Baton, for instance, is perfumed and sharp at 18 degrees Celsius, then develops peppery and savoury notes as the mercury rises.

orchard road sake
Rumiko no Sake at Table 33 (Image credit: Table 33)

Chi also dispels the notion that sake should be drunk fresh by ageing around 20 high-end styles at the bar, some for up to three years. A number of these sakes are served under the hot sake programme, including Torotoroto Neriage Junmai Genshu Nigorizake. When fresh, the cloudy sake has a grainy texture and ripe banana flavour, but takes on a cotton candy-sweetness tempered by umami. Served at 45 degrees Celsius, it recalls creamy soybean and lychee.

Created by Ishinomaki chef Chi Pin Han, the Japanese-inspired bar bites menu of Hokkaido salmon jerky and renkon chips with grated cheese encourage drinkers to find unexpected food and drink combinations, and perhaps a new boozing buddy. “We hope for Table 33 to be a place where you can find a friend – in food and wine pairings, and with like-minded people.”

Nomi Dining Bar is located at 583 Orchard Road B1-39 Forum The Shopping Mall, 238884. Book here.

Table 33 is located at 390 Orchard Road, #B1-02/02A/03, Palais Renaissance, Singapore 238871. Book here.

This story was first published on Lifestyle Asia Singapore

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