The 7 Best Izakaya in Singapore – A Taste of Tokyo in the City

In Japanese kanji, Izakaya translates to “Stay. Drink. Place.” In other words, an Izakaya is a space where you can go to drink, eat and spend some time. Unlike the formal dining culture associated with Omakase restaurants, Izakaya are casual, small bars where office-goers congregate after work. The food available at such establishments is usually bite-sized, and the prices are relatively affordable. Following is a list of the seven best izakayas in Singapore to enjoy your shochu along with some sushi.

1. Tomo
Phone: +65 6333 0100 (Clarke Quay)
+65 6333 0012 (Esplanade)
Email: marketing@katrinagroup.com
feedback@katrinagroup.com
Website: www.tomoizakaya.com.sg
Location: Clarke Quay – 3A River Valley Road, #01-04 Singapore 179020
Esplanade – 8 Raffles Ave, #01-09 Singapore 039802
Opening Hours: Clarke Quay – 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm / 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm (Tue – Thur, Sun), 5:00 pm – 12:30 am (Fri, Sat and public holidays), Mondays closed
Esplanade – 12:00 pm – 3:00 pm / 5:00 pm – 11:00 pm (Tue – Sun), Mondays closed

Located in two of the city’s tourist hubs, TomoIzakaya can be found at the bustling Clarke Quay and the more refined Esplanade. Both outlets offer vast menus, specializing in traditional Japanese meals and bar snacks. An array of spirits at affordable prices are available to accompany your lunch or dinner order.

Chef’s Specials

  • Sushi rolls
  • Kushiyaki skewers
  • Mentai balls
  • YakiGyoza
  • Matcha ice cream

Other Things to Consider

  • The Clarke Quay outlet has several private rooms, as well as indoor and outdoor sections that are perfect for private events.
  • You need to use an app to order food at the restaurants.
  • Full payment needs to be made before the food is served.
  • Their unique ‘tree’ of sake bottles makes for a good photo-op when dining at the restaurant.
  • Picturesque riverside location at Clarke Quay
  • A wide variety of sake, shochu, beer, and wine are available.

Customer Feedback

“I celebrated my birthday at Tomo at Clarke Quay. It was a special night made even more special by the excellent staff and delicious food. We ordered sushi and skewers for the table with sake and beer. Everything was top notch.”

Robert
2. The Public
Phone: +65 6604 9622
Website: www.hachi-group.com
Location: 100 Tras Street, 100AM Shopping Mall, #01-09, Singapore 079027
Opening Hours: 11:30 am – 2:30 pm / 5:30 pm – 1:00 am (Mon – Fri), 5:30 – 1:00 am (Sat-Sun)

What began as a simple diner, serving traditional Japanese meals and drinks, has now become a twin outlet restaurant with seating for more than 200 diners. The Public excels in hard-to-find dishes such as Oden and kani salad. Wash these down with pitchers of Japanese Suntory beer, and you will be transported to Tokyo in a flash.

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Chef’s Specials

  • Oden
  • Yakitori
  • Oysters
  • Japanese omelette
  • Kani salad
  • ButaKakumi

Other Things to Consider

  • Wide variety of beers, sake, wine, and other beverages.
  • Largest seating of almost 240 covers between the original Public outlet and its sister concern – Public Izakaya 2.
  • Huge portions at affordable prices.
  • The restaurant has a strict no-sharing policy.

Customer Feedback

“The Public has authentic Japanese food in a traditional Izakaya setting. The location is easy to get to as well. Lots of different types of sushi and yakitori skewers to choose from and a great place to relax with friends after work.”

Mark
3. Neon Pigeon
Phone: +65 3129 7551
Email: info@neonpigeonsg.com
Website: www.neonpigeonsg.com
Location: 36 Carpenter St., #01-01 Singapore 059915
Opening Hours: 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm (Mon – Fri)
11:30 am – 3:00 pm / 5:30 pm – 11:30 pm (Sat – Sun)

Recreating the gritty, raw nature of Japanese street bars, Neon Pigeon takes izakaya dining to the next level. The decor is industrial and dark, the drinks are potent and innovative, and the menu is filled with traditional Japanese bestsellers such as robata grills and hearty rice bowls.

Chef’s Specials

  • Hyogo oysters
  • Tokyo hummus
  • Robata grill
  • Snow crab donabe

Other Things to Consider

  • Thursday nights are DJ nights at Neon Pigeon.
  • They have a wide variety of Japanese whisky and beer on the menu.
  • Neon Pigeon has done pop-ups in other cities as well, bringing their sell out menu to Thailand and Malaysia.
  • Reservations are to be made via sevenrooms.com
  • Group bookings and inquiries are to be made via their own website.

Customer Feedback

“ I took some business clients to Neon Pigeon last night and the dinner was a resounding success. The menu is creative, the cocktails are tasty, and the staff are friendly. It is a little expensive, but the music and the ambience make up for it.”

Ramee
4. The Horse’s Mouth
Phone: +65 6235 1088
Website: www.horsesmouthbar.com
Location: #01-41 Forum Shopping Mall, 583 Orchard Road, Singapore 238884
Opening Hours: 6:00 pm – 12:00 am (Mon – Thu)
6:00 pm – 1:00 am (Fri – Sat)

There’s a secret bar on Orchard Road and it’s getting a reputation as being the best izakaya in Singapore. The Horse’s Mouth is hidden behind a nondescript ramen shop, and getting to the bar is half the adventure. The seating capacity is tiny (22 chairs), and the walls are packed with books and futuristic lights, making this destination on Orchard a secret worth keeping.

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Chef’s Specials

  • It is known more for drinks than food. Their cocktails, such as Hainanese Chicken Rice and Peanut Butter Jelly Sandwich, really push the boundaries of what talented bartenders are doing with their craft today
  • A menu that concentrates on Nihon ingredients
  • They offer a range of sake available exclusively at The Horse’s Mouth
  • Omakase menu is available

Other Things to Consider

  • Their cocktail menu is an exciting mix of drinks classified as “starters, mains, and dessert.” Along with their large alcohol menu that includes sake, beer, and cocktails, they also have an innovative mocktail and iced tea menu.
  • The neighboring shop – Uma Uma Ramen – provides meals and starters for the bar crowd at The Horse’s Mouth.
  • They hold regular sake tasting sessions. Keep an eye out for updates on their Facebook page.

Customer Feedback

“We loved the cocktails at The Horse’s Mouth. The food was great too, but the cocktails really stole the show. While the overall bill was on the higher side, I would return for the drinks and the excellent service.”

Jean
5. Musubi Japanese Tapas and Seiro Gohan
Phone: +65 6334 1084
Email: sg.musubi@gmail.com
Website: www.musubi.com.sg
Location: #04-12, 50 Jurong Gateway Road, Singapore 608549
Opening Hours: 11:00 am – 3:00 pm / 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm (Mon – Sun)

The latest entrant to the izakaya scene in Singapore, Musubi brings the concept of tapas to a traditional Japanese setting. Choose from cold or fried tapas to enjoy along with your beer or sake. The bar also serves seirogohan, which translates to savoury rice dishes.

Chef’s Specials

  • Dashi edamame
  • Salmon in wasabi sauce
  • Cheese canape with vegetables
  • Gama tofu with crab sauce
  • Octopus fry
  • Lemon Kara age
  • Beef seirogohan
  • Pork belly gohan

Other Things to Consider

  • Low or non alcoholic beers and beverages are available at Musubi.
  • In-house koji is free flowing at the bar.
  • There is an adjoining cafe that serves iced drinks and Japanese snacks and is open from 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm (Mon – Sun).

Customer Feedback

“If you are missing Japan, please visit Musubi at Jem. You will find all your traditional snacks and meals like pork shabushabu and even Japanese suimai. The decor is bright and lovely and the staff are helpful.”

Reni
6. TokuIzakaya
Phone: +65 6734 2015
Website: https://www.facebook.com/Toku.Izakaya/
Location: 220 Orchard Road, #B1-06 Midpoint Orchard, Singapore
Opening Hours: 4:00 pm – 11:00 pm (Tue – Sun)
Mon closed

A well-known sake bar, TokuIzakaya, is located in the centre of Orchard Road. This tiny space can accommodate only fourteen diners at a time, so the night can get quite crowded. In addition, the ambience is basic at best, but the food menu (written on a blackboard and changed every day) is authentic and affordable.

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Chef’s Specials

  • Ankimo with ponzu sauce
  • Oden
  • Japanese potato salad
  • Oyster with ginger

Other Things to Consider

  • Large portions as compared to other izakayas.
  • Very homely atmosphere with basic decor and ambience.
  • Owned by Chef Kadomatsu, formerly of the Shangri-La in Singapore.
  • Reservations are hard to come by, so book in advance.
  • The owners are happy to give recommendations to their customers and plan brewery tours in Japan for them. 

Customer Feedback

“I must insist that everyone have at least one meal at Toku. It’s the best izakaya bar in Singapore. The seating is restricted, so make sure you make a reservation well in advance. The sake on offer is fabulous and the food menu is authentic.”

Terry
7. Shinjuku Restaurant
Phone: +65 6734 8436
Whatsapp: +65 8268 6748
Website: www.shinjuku.sg
Location: 5 Koek Road, #01-01/02 Cuppage Plaza, Singapore 228796
Opening Hours: 11:45 am – 2:45 pm / 6:00 pm – 11:00 pm (Daily)

Look past the old shops and massage parlours at Cuppage on Orchard Road, and you will be rewarded with an authentic taste of Japan. Shinjuku is almost four decades old and continues to woo locals and expats with its range of delicious sushi, ramen, donburi, and, of course, its extensive bar menu. Visit during lunch for a quick set menu or enjoy a more relaxed dinner with drinks after 6 pm.

Chef’s Specials

  • Wagyu steak
  • Sashimi
  • Yakitori
  • Sake and Shochu
  • Truffle Kurobuta Don

Other Things to Consider

  • Free delivery is available.
  • Seasonal menus available.
  • Lunch set menu available at only $12.50 nettpp – the menu varies daily.
  • A little difficult to find as the location is tucked away within the sprawling Cup page Plaza.

Customer Feedback

“I love dining at Shinjuku. The location is central, the prices are affordable, and the meals are delicious. If I’m in Orchard Road around lunchtime, I always get myself a set menu. Its real value for money and the portions are generous.”

Lee

FAQS

Is visiting an izakaya different from visiting a regular bar?

There are quite a few differences between a regular bar and an izakaya. For example, at bars, customers usually stand around, and the focus is on the alcohol at hand. At an izakaya, you would be seated at a table (no matter how small), and the highlight would be the flow of small plates of food and snacks being sent to your table. While there would definitely be drinking involved, this doesn’t necessarily always mean alcoholic beverages at an izakaya.

What should I expect in terms of food and drinks at an izakaya?

At a traditional izakaya, there are two types of menus. The first is known as the tabehodai, or all-you-can-eat menu, and the second is the nomihodai, which is an unlimited beverage menu. When you enter an izakaya, you pay up front for the menu option you choose. You then take your table and enjoy the endless flow of food or drinks until you leave. This is normally after one to two hours, as most izakayas expect their patrons to  leave after a fixed amount of time. Also keep in mind that alcoholic beverages at such establishments are usually more affordable but also weaker. This is to prevent their customers from getting too inebriated.

Is smoking allowed in an izakaya?

Izakayas, like most restaurants and bars in Japan, are pretty flexible when it comes to their smoking policy. If you notice ashtrays on the table or in the bar, you can conclude that smoking is allowed. Keep this in mind if cigarette smoke is a deterrent to your night out.

CONCLUSION

As Singapore sees more and more izakaya opening in the city, you can be assured of a taste of Japan under more affordable circumstances. No longer are sushi and sake relegated to the rich and famous. Ordinary folk can now enjoy the best Japanese food and drink in Singapore at these buzzy, crowded, happening bars.