Kakure: The Subtly Complex Elegance of Sake
Now open and ready to receive guests, new boutique bar Kakure provides an intimate first-hand look into the heretofore hidden world of sake. Begun by the team behind omakase powerhouse Ki-sho to round out and complete the dining experience they offer, Kakure offers the same scrupulous attention to detail. Housed in Level 2 of the same amazing black and white bungalow that Ki-sho is in, Kakure’s décor is an updated reflection of Meiji- and Taisho-era Japan designed to exude that unmistakable Japanese hospitality. Their sake list, one of the largest in Singapore, has been carefully curated in a partnership between Ki-sho’s chef Kazuhiro Hamamoto and two kikisake-shi or certified sake sommeliers John and Makoto. The list focuses on small handcrafted sakes from Japan not widely available in Singapore. Each of these sakes is brought in only once, in limited quantities; each experience with them will therefore be utterly unique. Guests can learn about sake with the sake sommelier at the bar counter or explore on their own at discreet little niches.
An aspect of Japanese spirit only just starting to be explored in Singapore, sake is deeply rooted in traditional Japanese life and culture. The national beverage of Japan, sake breweries can be found all over the country – each with its own subtle differences. To bring a more complete picture of sake to Singapore, Kakure has committed to one of the largest sake lists in Singapore, with over 50 different labels from multiple regions of Japan. Much like wine, sakes reflect the terroir and lifestyle of a region and its people; a list like Kakure’s can genuinely be said to reflect Japan and its people.
Kakure’s sake list includes some of the established, well-known names in the industry, but its strongest focus is on the niche labels that produce small handcrafted batches of sake.
These small-batch sakes are insider secrets that are often known only to the most knowledgeable Japanese locals and are hard to find even within their region, let alone outside of Japan. They are particularly loved for being paradoxically full of character yet easy to drink and accessible to both expert and layman sake drinkers.
A must-try is Kakure’s very own house sake, the Tatenokawa Junmai Daiginjo, Nakadori Ki-sho Label. Served exclusively in Kakure and Ki-sho, the house sake hails from the Yamagata prefecture of Japan. The cold weather in Yamagata means that sake brews tend to ferment slowly, resulting in more fruit-expressive sakes that are higher in sugar. The house sake is described as a delicate aromatic brew that makes for an impeccable pairing with the elegant cuisine served in Ki-sho.
The sake list in Kakure does change from time to time, as the season changes or when exciting breweries are discovered. In addition, the sakes on the list are available only in limited quantities, and brought in one time only. Depending on how regular guests are, their experience with each sake style will be unique to that visit. A few highlights on the current sake list include:
The Kinshi Masamune, Matsuya Kyuubei Junmai Daiginjo – this hails from Fushimi in the Kyoto prefecture. Sakes from this region are historically famous for their extremely soft styles, thanks to the crystalline purity of the spring water available there. Some sake connoisseurs believe sakes from this region have an unparalleled mouth-feel because of the water.
The Aramasa Junmai Viridien – the Aramasa name may be one of the more familiar ones to sake enthusiasts, being an award-winning brewery in the Akita prefecture. It was also where the famous No. 6 yeast strain was discovered in 1953. This particular sake from the family-run brewery is a showcase of the pleasantly acidic style of Akita sakes, with just enough sugars for balance.
The Fuurosen Junmai ginjo Nakagumi, Namazake Yamahai – the Shiga Prefecture location of the brewery for this sake matters a great deal. Being located inland, the food in this prefecture tends to meats and other heavier foods as opposed to seafood. Brewers tend to take this into consideration and brew sakes that are stronger in flavour and aromas to match. Additionally, the Yamahai brewing method used and the fact that it is namazake or unpasteurised add power and an element of nuttiness to the sake.
The Bar Cuisine
For the full sake experience, Kakure presents an assortment of bar cuisine to accompany the sake. Crafted by chef Hamamoto, the bar cuisine is a luxe, witty twist on traditional sake accompaniments – and remain an expression of the fresh premium ingredients with seasonal highlights.
For instance: the nodoguro or black throat sea perch is highly prized in Japan but very under-rated everywhere else partly because its rarity means it’s tough to purchase through mainstream means and partly because many people don’t realise that its white flesh is rich and creamy. As it is currently in season, Kakure’s menu offers a whole fish, grilled slowly over white charcoal.
The menu is select, as befits a sake bar but still has a choice of cold and hot items. Intriguingly, for people who really enjoy the omakase style of dining, they have the option of taking it up at Kakure too.
As an added special touch, Kakure has been carefully designed to reflect the look of Japanese inns and homes during the Meiji and Taisho eras of Japanese history. These were the periods when Japan first opened its doors to the Western world and accepted their influence in different aspects of life. In fact, thanks to a generous piece of legislation, the sake industry boomed during the Meiji restoration; there was an estimated 300,000 sake breweries. Architecture during this time reflected what was happening in Japanese society at large and was a blend of traditional Japanese ideals slowly incorporating new Western ideas and building materials. Kakure’s space is a soulful modern interpretation.
Different varietals of warm rich woods and earthy tones add softness and tranquillity. The furnishing is kept simple but flawless, accented with pieces found in traditional Japanese homes with warm, soft and flattering lighting reminiscent of fire- or lantern light.
A bar counter of solid wood, sanded golden smooth, greets guests when they enter. The counter is carved from Japan’s national tree, the suji which is renowned for its subtle perfume and from which sake barrels are often built. Guests can choose to spend the evening with the sake sommelier at the bar which can host 4 persons comfortably. Small groups of four to six may also enjoy the evening at the Japanese-style niches set up in discreet areas. The highlight of these niches may quite possibly be the table with a sunken but unlighted hearth, with a genuine kagizuru or pot hanger.