Ikki Izakaya: The Best Thing That Happened in my Hood

After almost eighteen years growing up and staying in the east, in particular, Simei, I moved to unfamiliar territory in the west of Singapore about five to six years ago. I am not sure why, but the first couple of years was difficult. I felt disconnected, like a part of me was missing, and I felt “homeless” despite having a place to stay and be comfortable at. I think this is possibly what happens for most married couples when they leave home, but for me, this happened much earlier. This was in part due to circumstances and in part due to the personal choices I made in my early adulthood on the way I wanted to live my life.

The feeling of being “alone in a crowded room” is something I experienced intensely in my early 20s. Despite being happy and generally satisfied with how my life was going, I would also feel sharp pangs of loss whenever I thought about my old home in Simei. The thought that it was no longer an option, a place I could go to, could bring me to tears. Perhaps, this is all just part of adulting and I just happened to experience it a wee bit earlier than my peers, but having none of my friends in the same boat, I often kept this strange, unfamiliar and scared feelings all to myself. Independence, even partially, comes with a price. I had to take it on the chin if this was what I sought.

Anyway, emotional musings aside, it wasn’t till the past two years that I finally accepted that the West would be my new ‘hood. It was most obvious when I visited Simei and discovered that the mall was different (Grand Dame East Point had been fully renovated), the stalls at the food centre was no longer the ones I remembered and I only had muscle memory to go by as I walked around the small town I used to call home.

So now that I’m like finally settled in to the wild wild west of Singapore, its about time I found my favourite “foodie haunt” in my area and it is none other than Ikki Izakaya at the Metropolis in Buona Vista. This post is for you, Westies.

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Ikki Izakaya is just a five-minute stroll from Buona Vista MRT

Both The F Man and I are die-hard Sushi Tei fans (#SorryNotSorry) and for the longest time, with my Sushi Tei card, we’d be hitting VivoCity for our Japanese food fix on the weekends. It’s either that or we go for our same old, same old baked rice and spaghetti combinations at Hong Kong Kim Gary Restaurant, also at VivoCity. I know I’m boring, but even with my love for food, I like to stick to the tried-and-tested restaurants, okay?

These days though, after our first few encounters with Ikki Izakaya, it has become our de facto go-to restaurant for chill eat-out nights. We really, really liked the vibe, the service (at least on most visits), food quality and even the price point. Sushi Tei has got nothing on Ikki Izakaya. It came as no surprise when we found out that it was opened by the same people who brought to life PARK at Holland Village (which we are also fans of). Cool.

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Chill out vibes making it perfect for an enjoyable dinner experience

I heard Ikki Izakaya packs in the crowd on weekday afternoons and bustles like crazy with activity on Friday evening. It obviously serves the office crowd around Metropolis (which also includes Biopolis and Fusionopolis – go figure) on most weekdays and quietens down on Saturday evenings, which works out perfectly for us chill-seekers.

The quiet atmosphere is something I crave on the weekend and I think when it comes to winding down on the weekend, the last thing I want is a packed restaurant and long waiting times for food. And that’s the thing about Ikki Izakaya – even on Friday night when the massive crowd, they’re serving everything efficiently and quickly. It’s amazing!

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Ikki Izakaya boasts an affordable menu of sashimi, extensive selection of donburi and bites

Another wonderful thing is that the menu is so affordable and even if you’re really price conscious, you’ll find the mostly under $20 price on most of the rice bowls such value.

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Bara Chirashi Don ($13)

Take the Bara Chirashi Don for instance, it’s only $13, and there are generous cubes of salmon and tuna sashimi, vegetables, eggs, sprinkles of ikura and sliced pickles. This price is definitely not something I usually expect in Singapore.

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Unagi Don ($14)

The Unagi Don at just $14 is a steal and Ikki Izakaya offers an Unagi rice bowl that comes in common sense portions. There’s just enough sticky Japanese pearl rice, two slices of sweet tamago and a fairly large fillet of grilled eel that should fill most tummies. No complaints on the quality as well. On two occasions when I ordered this, I thoroughly enjoyed the fresh fillet of unagi and none of the bone-filled eel that would have made eating unpleasant.

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Chicken Teriyaki Don ($8)

$8 is probably what you’ll find at a food court in Singapore and yet here in the comfort of an izakaya environment with service, you can get a Chicken Teriyaki Don with such plump juicy slices of fried chicken in delicious teriyaki sauce. This is seriously, so worth it. The sauce is not sickeningly sweet and the chicken meat is in good proportion to the batter. What more can I ask for? It doesn’t hurt the wallet and tastes great – I can have my cake and eat it too in this case.

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Braised Pork Don ($13)

The Braised Pork Don is also delightful. The fatty (and thick) slices of tender, melt-in-mouth pork belly is marinated and braised so well that it is tasty without being overwhelming. Once again, this is amazing value at just $13.

So far, I’ve mostly tried the rice bowls and the reviews have been great from friends I’ve brought there and also our own experiences. Not that we have the most discerning taste buds, but it’s definitely good enough that we’d revisit again and again without second thought even with no shortage of food joints available at nearby Star Vista, Holland Village and VivoCity/Harbourfront Centre.

In addition to an extensive selection of donburi, Ikki Izakaya also serves charcoal grilled skewers and yakitori, sashimi, sushi, hand rolls or temaki, and some pretty unique inspired Japanese starters (Chashu Sliders and Steamed Clams in Sake Broth anyone?). I’ve yet to try them all, but I’m slowly eating my way through the menu visit by visit. It’s always a struggle to eat what I already love (like the donburi) or to be adventurous and try something new on the menu.

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Ikki Izakaya on a Saturday evening

I’ve not much to grouse about regarding Ikki Izakaya. My experience there has been mostly positive, save for once or twice when we visited and the restaurant was empty but service was extremely slow and not at all intuitive (difficulty getting service and water refilled because staff were chatting during the lull period). That said, most of the time, service is efficient, friendly and polite. I think there are bound to be “off days” now and then for F&B establishments and that is something I can live with.

As I was writing this review, I grappled with the thought that I wanted more people to know about this place so that it would do well and be open FOREVER AND EVER and also with the reality that if more people knew about it, it would be crowded and that is going to take away one aspect of the restaurant that I am totally loving. BUT… I will take that risk, because this place is damn solid and deserves plenty of business.

Ikki Izakaya
9 North Buona Vista Drive, #01-06/07,
Singapore 138588

Open Mondays to Thursdays from 11:00am to 12 midnight
Open Fridays from 11:00am to 2:00am
Open Saturdays from 5:00pm to 2:00am
Closed on Sundays

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