Last Updated on 26/04/2023 by iEat&Eat Team
Izakaya originated during the Edo era in Japan as a place where customers could unwind after a hard day’s work while sipping on sake, beers, and highballs, and enjoying simple, casual food options.
Today, this unpretentious Japanese concept has gone global, and even if you can’t travel to Japan, you can still find some excellent Japanese restaurants in Singapore that offer izakaya-style experiences.
1. Shukuu Izakaya
Website | 8 Stanley Street, Singapore 068727 | +65 6327 9240
Shukuu Izakaya is a popular spot among CBD workers, offering a trendy atmosphere, affordable sake, and delectable Japanese cuisine, particularly its seafood dishes.
It’s the perfect place to unwind and let your hair down after a long day at work. The Kani Gratin ($8), a crab gratin with mentaiko, Aburi Shimesba ($14), which is torched vinegared mackerel, and Maguro Yukke ($13), bluefin tuna sashimi tossed in sesame oil with a quail egg, are some of the most sought-after seafood options.
If you’re looking for a more substantial meal, try their Mini Donburi ($10-$12), featuring sushi rice topped with sliced beef, spicy salmon cubs, whitebait and raw quail egg, minced tuna belly, or premium salmon roe.
The Hokkaido Scallops with Mentaiko and Cheese ($18) are the highlight of the menu, featuring juicy Hokkaido scallops seared at the bottom, paired with a creamy mixture of mentaiko and cheese topped with ikura.
All ingredients are sourced from top Japanese suppliers and air-flown in fresh from Japan to ensure quality and freshness.
2. The Public Izakaya
Website | 100 Tras St, #01 – 09, Singapore 079027 | +65 6333 9622
The Public Izakaya 2 is a vibrant and popular spot that aims to offer traditional izakaya cuisine to the masses, making it accessible to everyday salarymen.
Their extensive menu transports customers to the heart of Shimbashi & Yurakucho in Tokyo, where the highest concentration of izakayas is found. So, even if you can’t travel to Japan, The Public Izakaya 2 provides an authentic izakaya experience.
Some of their must-try signature dishes include Buta Kakuni ($15), a slow-cooked premium Iberico pork belly served with onsen tamago, a softly cooked egg in a flavorful soy broth. The pork meat becomes tender and juicy through hours of simmering, and the fat melts in the mouth.
The Yakitori Omakase ($28), a set of 7 assorted yakitori skewers, is a perfect dish for sharing and allows you to sample various flavours.
Other dishes worth trying include Jaga Mentaiko ($10), a dish made with strips of shredded potatoes topped with mentaiko, a spicy Pollock roe, and baked au gratin until the mentaiko is torched; and Maguro Avocado Cream Cheese ($15), which combines marinated raw tuna with avocado and cream cheese.
3. Kakurega The Lair
Website | 12 Smith Street, Singapore 058926 | +65 6223 0102
Kakurega (The Lair) is a unique dining destination in bustling Chinatown that seamlessly blends contemporary and classic elements. The restaurant’s interior features a display of colourful Bearbrick figurines, traditional Japanese art pieces, Japanese fans, and an extensive selection of sake.
Step into this hideaway and explore an expansive menu that offers a range of appetizing Zensai (starters), Kushi-Yaki (skewers), Sumi-Yaki (charcoal-grilled) dishes, Age-Mono (deep-fried) creations, and Itame (sautéed) items.
The Hotate Mentai ($9.80) scallops are grilled to perfection and boast a succulent texture with a light, buttery taste. The scallops are further enhanced by torching, which adds a golden-brown colour to the dish without overcooking them. The house-made mentaiko sauce, which typically includes cod roe marinated in spices, provides a creamy and somewhat spicy element that elevates the dish’s flavours.
One of the restaurant’s most popular items to pair with sake is the Gyu Tataki ($19.80) Meltique beef (230g). The beef is seared along the edges, marinated in soy sauce and mirin, and then cut into thin slices.
4. Shunjuu Izakaya
Website | 30 Robertson Quay #01-15 Riverside View, Singapore 238251 | +65 8427 8155
Shunjuu Izakaya is an ideal spot to unwind as it offers a choice between indoor seating, the bar, or the open area. The restaurant prides itself on being one of Singapore’s top sake bars, passionately run by sake enthusiasts.
With over 70 sukiyaki options on the menu, many of which are not commonly found in other Izakayas in Singapore, the variety is impressive.
Some of the dishes that complement drinks well include Gyoza Potstickers ($11), Oyster Omelette ($18), Pork and Cabbage Omelette ($17), Beef and Kimchee Hotpot ($21), and Stir-Fried Mushrooms with Anchovy ($10).
The chef’s speciality seems to be skewered, so if you’re looking for sakana (food to pair with sake), give them a try. Customers rave about the Tsukune Meatballs ($6 for two sticks) and the Fresh Oysters rolled with Pork ($13), describing them as fresh and succulent.
The Plain Doufu with Century Egg ($4), which sounds like a simple dish, is one of the restaurant’s most popular sakana options. There’s also a sashimi menu that changes with the season.
To avoid disappointment, it’s recommended to book a table instead of attempting a walk-in, as there is usually a long queue of office workers outside by 6:30 PM.
5. Amazing Hokkaido
Website | 30 Robertson Quay #01-16, Riverside View, Singapore 238251 | +65 6235 0212
With its colourful decor, retro music, and staff in Japanese costumes, you’ll feel like you’ve been transported to the Land of the Rising Sun upon entering this restaurant.
Inside, the informal Japanese restaurant vibe is present, with Hokkaido posters adorning the walls. The caption on the side, “Every day! Hokkaido Food Fair,” sums up the restaurant’s theme.
For a highly Instagrammable and special dish, try the Bursting Salmon Roe Rice Bowl ($39), which features a generous layer of umami-laden ikura atop freshly steamed rice. The salmon roe pearls are marinated in a unique blend of soy sauce and vinegar to infuse them with more flavour and give them their brilliant orange colour.
If you’re a fan of grilled food, don’t miss out on Muroran Yakitori ($3.90), a famous Hokkaido dish that originated 80 years ago from Toriyoshi, a classic Hokkaido grill restaurant. This dish is the signature dish of Amazing Hokkaido, and every diner is encouraged to try at least one stick.
While yakitori often refers to grilled chicken skewers, this one features melty skewered pork with grilled, glazed meat chunks and onion pieces in between.
6. Izakaya Hikari
Website | 190 Middle Road Fortune Centre #03-01, Singapore 188979 | +65 8921 3779
Located just ten minutes from Bugis MRT, Izakaya Hakari is a convenient spot for those who have indulged in one too many cups of sake. Situated on the third level of Fortune Centre amidst a familiar scene of vegetarian eateries and mom-and-pop shops, the restaurant has a casual vibe.
You can choose to sit at tables outside the shop or head inside to the open bar with shelves stocked with sakes. While their sakana menu is not extensive, the Yakimono Set offers a lot of variety. For $20.90, you can select seven different skewers, including green chilli pepper, chicken meatballs, and black mushrooms, among others.
Reviewers also recommend their fried food menu, with sleeper hits of Crispy Karage Chicken ($5.90) and Hikari Cracker ($3.90).
If you’re looking for mains, the Salmon Mentaiko Donburi ($16.90) comes highly recommended. The mentaiko sauce is draped over layers of torched salmon slices, providing a smooth and buttery taste with each bite.
Despite its humble appearance, Izakaya Hakari is part of the 2020 Discover Sake in Singapore, offering great food at affordable prices. Sit by the open-concept kitchen to chat with the chefs and see what other diners are ordering.
7. Izakaya 95
Website | 3 Punggol Point #02-05 The Punggol Settlement Singapore 828694 | +65 6384 1132
The second level of Punggol Settlement is a hidden gem, home to numerous good food spots, including Izakaya 95, which offers yakitori and Japanese cuisine with a view.
Although locally owned, Izakaya 95 has an extensive variety of Japanese small plates, including some signature items that are worth trying. To accompany your meal, they offer sake, shochu, or Japanese beer, with light bar snacks like Tatai Iwashi Grilled Dry Baby Sardine and Kawa Ebi Deep Fried Prawns also available.
Izakaya 95’s strength lies in its grill items, with seafood, meats, and vegetables like Tori Negi, Kagoshima Buta, Hotate Scallops, and Engiri King Mushroom prepared over charcoal. The skewers generally range from $3 to $5, with my personal favourites being the Bacon Asparagus, Hotate Scallop, and Tsukune Tare Homemade Minced Chicken Meat Skewer with Tare Sauce. These items are fresh, juicy, evenly grilled, and have a minimal layer of char.
The recommended chicken items, such as Tori Negi Chicken Leek, Tebasaki Chicken Wing, and Tori Momo Chicken Meat, were of typical quality. In fact, the pork skewers, such as the Kagoshima Buta Pork Belly, were generally better than the chicken ones, which tended to be dry.
Alternatively, you can opt for a Meat Set ($17), which includes Bacon Enoki, Asparagus, Smoked Duck, Tori Niniku, and Tori Negi all on one plate.
Apart from the grilled items, I also enjoyed the Niniku Garlic Fried Rice ($7), which was flavorful and filled with the aroma of garlic (just don’t burp!). Overall, it’s a great value for the price.
8. Shinjuku Restaurant
Website | 5 Koek Rd, #01-01/02 Cuppage Plaza, Singapore 228796 | +65 6734 8436
Located in a quiet, tucked-away spot at Cuppage Plaza, Shinjuku Japanese Restaurant can be easy to miss if you’re not paying attention.
However, with an extensive menu offering a wide selection of dishes, it’s worth taking notice of this restaurant. Whether you’re in the mood for sake, sakana, or mains, they’ve got you covered with lunch and dinner menus.
If you’re looking for something hearty, the stir-fried beef Yakiniku Set ($20.50) with rice, soup, and fruit is worth trying. For a splurge, the Wagyu Steak ($69) from Kagoshima (Kyushu Island) is an excellent option.
Gyoza is always a sake favourite, and Shinjuku offers six pieces of chunky pork wrapped in thin, pan-fried skin for $8.70. The beancurd with onion is also interesting and pairs well with sake for a spicy kick.
Many Japanese diners frequent this small izakaya for food and sake, indicating that the food is authentic. If you’re missing a trip to Japan, a visit to Shinjuku Japanese Restaurant may make you feel like you’re back in the country.
9. Tomo Izakaya
Website | Clarke Quay Blk A #01-04, 3A River Valley Road, Singapore 179020 | +65 6333 0100
Tomo Izakaya is an ideal venue for an intimate and relaxing get-together with friends or colleagues. The restaurant’s concept is inspired by Japanese izakaya, where you can order a variety of small plates of bar chow for sharing, similar to a tapas bar.
The signature dish to try is the beautifully presented Sushi Moriwase (from $28), a collection of 5 assorted sushi, including Akami, Salmon, Mekajiki, Ikura, and Kanpachi, served on a ladder plate. Alternatively, you can get Temaki (from $6.50), a variety of hand-rolled sushi wrapped in dried seaweed cones, such as Spicy Tekka Avo, Unagi, Salmon Cheese, Salmon Spicy, Aburi Salmon Cheese, and Salmon and Salmon Skin.
If you love oysters, you can’t resist the freshly shucked oysters ($2 each).
For a sharing option, order the Kushi Mori ($24), an assorted platter of 5 grilled kushiyaki skewers, including Negima (chicken with leek), Tsukune (chicken meatball with sweet soya sauce), Aspara Maki (pork belly-wrapped asparagus), Nankotsu (chicken breast soft bone), and Enoki Bacon (golden mushroom wrapped with bacon), cooked a la minute over live charcoals.
If you’re looking for lunch options, Tomo Izakaya offers a Set Lunch (priced from $14.50 – $16.50) and 12 varieties of Bento Sets to choose from.
10. Neon Pigeon
Website | 36 Carpenter St, #01-01, Singapore 059915 | +65 3129 7551
Neon Pigeon, previously located at Keong Saik, has found a new home on Carpenter Street. In contrast to the traditional izakaya, the atmosphere is modern, with dim lighting and spotlighted sakes atop an exposed concrete kitchen top. Fancy ceramic plates and ambient lighting adorn each table, making it a great spot for a chill date or small group gathering.
The menu at Neon Pigeon offers Japanese fusion food, featuring items such as The Breakfast Bao ($22) with teriyaki ham, eggs, mizuna, and furikake fries on its brunch menu. Notable dishes include the Tokyo Hummus ($10) with blended edamame and curry chips, Kumamoto oysters ($16 for two) topped with smoked dashi gelee, and the horse mackerel Crudo ($24) served with bits of tempura nori.
For seafood lovers, the grilled octopus ($24, $26) with a spicy Korean-inspired sauce, and New Zealand cod katsu priced at $20 and $38, are highly recommended. As a seasonal menu, new items are frequently added.
Neon Pigeon is also known for its cocktails, with gin-based drinks served in bird-shaped glassware. The restaurant has also enlisted street artist Zeroed to create colourful bird graffiti on its walls.