best japanese food singapore

Ku-Kai Izakaya pAirs Unique Seaside Serenity with Decent Japanese Grub

In the far-flung North of Singapore, there stands a lone cottage by the seaside. A quaint spot where crowds are graced by the gently subsiding fizzle of waves, by wafts of brackish sea breeze, and enshrouded by a meek glow from festooned lines of fairy lights — this is Ku-Kai Izakaya, a unique Japanese bar that provides a seaside setting that distinguishes it from the competition.

ku-kai izakaya review

Waterfront dining has become a bit of a highly-marketed draw in recent years but Ku-Kai Izakaya feels decidedly different.

It sits on the edge of a yacht club where nightfall’s darkness vignettes the illuminated cottage and the seats propped up on the boardwalk right in front.

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Other than the lighting fixtures of the restaurant itself, the only other real source of light is the faint glow of boats docked a few miles away. It’s rare to find a spot in Singapore with a palpable feeling of isolation, much less an Izakaya.

 

As we all know, these rowdy watering holes are commonly littered about the CBD, as convenient means for Nomikai. In contrast, Ku-Kai Izakaya feels like a serendipitous chance encounter at a Japanese beachside town, far removed from any metropolitan buzz.

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It’s not a perfect seaside town experience, admittedly, as sparse lights are still visible in the periphery plus it’s quite a voyage to find the SAF Yacht Club far up in the North. Nevertheless, it’s still quite an inviting setting if you tune out these little flaws.

Working the Grill

ku-kai izakaya grilled squid

Ku-Kai Izakaya’s food is not spectacular by any means. Nonetheless, they worked the grill quite proficiently to churn out some smoky bites — most solid, some rather good.

A rather dependable choice comes in the form of the Grilled Squid ($30), arriving smokily charred and accompanied by a moreish sauce to pair with the bouncy slivers of flesh while the Kushiyaki Omakase ($19/5pcs) provided moments of satisfaction but also glimpses of mediocrity.

ku-kai izakaya yakitori singapore

Take the Chicken Heart ($4/pc), for example, that announces itself on the plate with a jarringly limp crunch and residual offal pungency. Whereas some sticks were executed to a standard just slightly below the most revered Yakitori joints in Singapore, like the Chicken Skin which delivered a glorious mix of fat and crunch.

Some were rather enjoyable though not noteworthy, like the Tsukune that’s seasoned just right but not in any way that’s outstanding. Overall, that’s a good indication — it shows Ku-Kai Izakaya churns out more-than-decent food to do justice to its ambience. 

ku-kai izakaya wagyu beef

Similarly. there’s competency apparent from the Grilled Beef ($36.80) that’s rendered a luscious pink with scores of fats and smoke. Ku-Kai Izakaya doesn’t quite make it melt-in-the-mouth but it honestly wouldn’t feel out of place at some of the more established after-hours haunts in the CBD.

Homespun Tastes

best highball izakaya singapore

Libations are a key aspect of any bar, as much as bar food, and this is an area where Ku-Kai Izakaya showed some nous. As simple and modest as a classic Japanese highball is, the Ume-Shio Highball ($12.30) proved to be quite a beguiling thirst quencher.

For a mere highball, it’s furtively complex — refreshing, slightly tart, with a mellow shiso sharpness permeating it. More importantly, it’s phenomenally palatable, which is the paramount attribute for Izakaya tipples.

ku-kai izakaya menu

Compared to the grill-worked bites, the other items at Ku-Kai Izakaya leaned toward being more homespun, such as the Potato Salad ($11). No doubt it’s creamy, well-spiced, and enjoyable but nonetheless, it was frankly quite mundane.

Of the whole assortment of dishes ordered, the Seafood Okonomiyaki ($19) was the biggest disappointment — bland and garishly doughy while punctuated with cumbersomely hefty bites of onion that took over the palate, a problem accentuated by a marked lack of seafood.

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Regardless, I would still advocate for a trip to Ku-Kai Izakaya for a breath of fresh (seaside) air. With pretty serviceable food, delightful drinks, and immaculate vibes, it’s a spot that wouldn’t astonish your palate but will satisfy you with an experience that feels like you were spirited away.

Make your reservations by WhatsApp or SMS to 83043028.

Ku-Kai Izakaya

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  • Address: 43 Admiralty Rd W, SAF Yacht Club, Singapore 759962
  • Hours: (Tues–Fri) 5:30pm–11:30pm, (Sat–Sun) 11:30am–11:30pm

 

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