New Stanley Street concept Sake Labo combines a sake bar, bottle shop, and soon, an exclusive omakase kitchen.
One of the newest F&B concepts to dive into Central Business District dining enclave surrounding Amoy Street is Sake Labo on Stanley Street, a gastrobar focused around sake. Sake Labo by Envy Hospitality – which operates Japanese omakase restaurant Nishikane (also on Stanley Street), and casual bar restaurant Cicada in Clarke Quay – combines three different concepts in one space.
The first concept you see as you enter Sake Labo is its bottle retail space, sides flanked by massive refrigerators containing bottles of sake. These are fridges purpose-built for storing sake at an ideal temperature, and were specially shipped in from Japan. And while the selection isn’t the most extensive you’d find in a sake bar, it’s more than sufficient for a night’s worth of drinking. And to pick a bottle or two up when you do discover a gem.
Past the retail section, you either head downstairs to a bar area, or a flight of stairs up to its main dining space. If you love your drinks, downstairs is the place to be. The dining floor is better suited for larger parties whose aim is dinner; it’s certainly more conducive for dining and conversation than the bar beneath when it gets crowded. At the back of the upper floor is an open kitchen, where award-winning chef Angus Chow holds court. Here Chef Angus – a two-time winner of the Chef of the Year award by World Gourmet Summit – and his team put out a range of sake-friendly eats they call “Japas”; essentially, these are small plates fusing Japanese and Spanish influences.
What we do like about Sake Labo’s “Japas” menu is that it’s a huge departure from the usual izakaya offerings. More importantly though, these dishes work really well with sake.
There’s the likes of Tomorokoshi, which sees baby corn and Manchego cheese roasted in a Josper oven and topped with furikake, or Ika Fritas, where Japanese-style fried baby squid comes served with aioli tinged with a touch of spicy wasabi. The Puffs de Bacalao were a delight, the puffy little fried cod balls with a texture that reminded us of Brazilian pão de queijo (cheese puffs). Also rather clever is Tori Frito de Nero, a take on Japanese chicken karaage but blackened with the use of charcoal powder in its batter.
Ironically, it was Chef Angus’ signature dish of Signature Truffle Somen that was somewhat of a let-down. Chef Angus had made his name in his previous stints with this creation of somen tossed in truffle oil topped with sakura ebi, Avruga caviar, and tobiko, but here it turned out to be a soggy clump and a mess of flavours. Instead we were more enamoured by the Ebi Al Ajillo, which is essentially a twist of classic Spanish gambas al jillo but using sake kasu – the pressed lees left behind during the sake making process – to help emulsify the sauce and give it a most delectable creaminess.
As for the sake? Well, we enjoyed the sparkling sake that is the Mizubashi Pure. It works as a fabulous champagne substitute and to start off our meal, its bone-dry finish and fresh acidity cutting through fried dishes such as the fried baby squid or the karaage. More traditional is the Taka Tokubetsu Junmai, whose rich and rounded flavours work with almost any dish you throw at it. And for those prefer somewhat funkier flavours in their sake, the Mimurosugi Bodaimoto Junmai – made using that most ancient method of making sake – offers that in spades. Yet those yeasty notes somehow play well with food, holding up to even strong, assertive flavours such as truffle.
But if you can only have one sake, make sure you opt for the Kamonishiki Nifudasake Junmai Daiginjo Namazume Genshu, one of the four sakes specially brewed for Sake Labo by the Niigata producer. This is an elegantly made sake that somehow combines vibrant freshness with a rich complexity, and comes with an extended finish longer than its name.
Sometime in March, Sake Labo will start its special Chef’s Table, an exclusive dining experience where Chef Angus will offer a special Japanese omakase menu that’s different to its usual Japas offerings. We’ve seen and tasted what Chef Angus is capable of during his time at Boruto and Gake, so we’re totally looking forward to it.
For now, Sake Labo is first and foremost a fun and tasteful contemporary sake bar with a good selection of sake that so happens to offer some rather interesting fusion bites. That may just change when Chef Angus’ Chef’s Table opens.
Address 29 Stanley St, Singapore 068738 (Google Maps link)
Opening Hours 5pm to 10pm Mondays to Saturdays; closed on Sundays