FOOD REVIEW: At Kabuke, mod-Japanese cuisine and Sake pairing makes for great bedfellows

·Lifestyle Contributor
·5-min read
(PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)
(PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)

Kabuke is no stranger to the vibrant food scene at Telok Ayer Street, having set up home here since 2017. While much has been said about the excellent food on offer, even more fuss has been made about the secret blue door that pushes open to reveal a Sake bar in a setting that also serves affordably priced rice bowls.

2020 proves to be an exciting year for Kabuke - a portmanteau of “kabuki” and “sake” - with a shift of entrance and a new menu that includes quality seafood that aims to elevate the menu setting of mod-Japanese cuisine crafted by Chef Rio Neo. To the uninitiated, mod-Japanese might come across as an adulteration of the traditional but here, it is spun to great effect especially when married with an extensive sake pairing program helmed by in-house sake sommelier, Keiji Heng.

Kani Miso Kourayaki (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)
Kani Miso Kourayaki (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)

As far as presentation goes, nothing beats Kabuke’s Kani Miso Kourayaki (S$22+)—a pretty little thing that sits unhurried and unaffected by transit. It’s like opening up a present to yourself during Christmas except in June. In a contrasting non-descript box, a hollowed-out crab shell perch on Japanese cucumber sticks, its inside filled with the most intensely-flavoured snow crab and flying fish roe—as if the entire world’s ocean dances and twirls at the tip of the tongue.

The explosion of umami is further exacerbated by the snow crab butter, here, in a handsome shade of ebony and best enjoyed slowly because why hurry pleasure, am I right?

There’s also an appetiser of Miso Eggplant Itame (S$12+) that unlike it’s far cooler and prettier neighbour above, is rather unfussy in appearance. The nature of eggplant is in its absorption of whatever flavour your throw at it. Fling some soya sauce, and eggplant becomes salty; viciously grill it, and it becomes rich and creamy. Here, it is cooked with red miso—the brightest and saltiest miso in the family where a little goes a long way—rendering this flailing tender and a delicious side dish for the next few selections to come.

Kabuke Wagyu Bowl. (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)
Kabuke Wagyu Bowl. (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)

Kabuke takes their sake pairing very seriously. A fact most apparent in the partnering of the Kabuke Wagyu Bowl (S$28+) with their Bijofu Honjozo sake from the prefecture of Kochi. Here, the beef is of Australian Queensland wagyu variety cooked to absolutely tender perfection, its beefiness enhanced by the arresting aroma of truffle shoyu and a luscious onsen egg that stayed intact upon delivery.

The combination of flavours and olfaction couples well with the medium-bodied sake with its hints of grapes and figs, which I recommend drinking chilled for a refreshing and light mouthfeel. It is quite exemplary.

Uni Ikura Somen (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)
Uni Ikura Somen (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)

In contrast to the previously bold flavours, the Uni Ikura Somen (S$28+) feels like a dainty lady with a lot of attitude and a penchant for a good time. This is strictly for the uni fans who appreciate its thick, creamy, and buttery flavour. But if you’re not big on uni, you’ll be glad to know that the truffle shoyu mixed with the somen, greatly tampers the overwhelmingly rich overtones of the sea urchin. Overall, it is a presentation that toes the line between cloying and delightful—if there’s even a word that could succinctly describe that.

And then, there're the Foie Gras & Scallop Don (S$28+). Who knew foie gras and scallop make such good bedfellows. The former is all sorts of fatty indulgence while the latter forego the advantages of flavour for something more textural. In some ways, the Ikura and seaweed bring both worlds together in a hearty don with a combination you have to taste to believe.

Sata Andagi (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)
Sata Andagi (PHOTO: Zat Astha/Yahoo Lifestyle SEA)

Desserts come by way of the Sata Andagi (S$12+ or S$10+ with any set), an Okinawa brown sugar doughnut made of cake flour, sugar, and egg. This begs to be air fried to crispy perfection outside while still retaining the bounce within.

It comes with a Yin and Yang dip of mixed berries compote and vanilla crème which, if you ask me, is a welcome addition to a pastry that is slightly on the side of being too plain for my liking. But that would mean that you can go crazy with a favourite dip of your choosing to make dessert a satisfying denouement to a meal from Kabuke.

Kabuke offers takeaway, kerbside pickup, and complimentary island-wide delivery for orders above S$80. Orders below S$80 will incur a S$10 delivery fee and there’s a minimum spend of S$35 for all orders. You may place your orders via WhatsApp at +65 9784 2950.

Website | 200A Telok Ayer Street, S(068638)

Mon-Thu: 11.30am - 2pm, 6pm - 11pm

Fri: 11.30am - 2pm, 6pm-12am

Sat: 6pm - 10pm

Sun: Closed

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