Enter a secret door to access Tempura Oji, a hidden bar that serves affordable dons & ramen

by Natalie Lim

Walk down an alleyway in Japan and you’ll be greeted by a flow of izakayas, bars, and eateries — all bustling with neon signs and waiters calling out to you, vying for a small bit of your attention on the busy streets. 

While travelling to Nippon still seems like a dream, Keong Saik Road holds a treasure that’s worthy to be amongst the ranks of these Japanese eateries. The unassuming Tempura Oji holds a quaint storefront, but inside, there’s a secret to be revealed.

Tempura Oji’s hidden entrance to a night in Tokyo

tempura oji
Photo: @suivezcheryl/instagram

Only a single neon sign that states “Late Night Ramen & Tempura” gives away the secret to what may be a portal to Tokyo’s hidden side streets. 

Photo: @tempura.oji/instagram

Enter its premises and you’ll see sakuras hanging on the ceiling, some Japanese portraits, and a menu of tempura, udon, and ramen. It’s pretty, but there’s more than meets the eye. 

tempura oji
Photo: @yoonkichee/instagram

At the corner stands a refrigerator of chilled craft beer and sake — a comforting sight to the weary businessmen of Tokyo, who crave cold pints after a long day of work. But what Singaporeans do not know is that hidden behind these refrigerator doors is an entrance to a secret bar.

An entrance to underground Japan.

Photo: @_saberhagen/instagram

The quaint Tempura Oji is immediately transformed into a lively bar, with bottles of hard liquor and mixers displayed in rows. Titled as “Brown Sugar”, the hidden bar serves a selection of cocktails and craft beers, perfect for winding down on a Friday night.

During pre-Covid, the bar had DJs turning decks and helming the night scene. While this isn’t available now, you can still look forward to the Japanese nosh.

tempura oji
Photo: @j_dn/instagram

True to its name, Tempura Oji serves a variety of tempura dishes. However, it is the donburi that steals the hearts of customers.

The Gyuniku Don (S$19) is a hearty bowl of premium short plate shabu shabu that’s marinated in a flavourful homemade sauce and stir-fried with onions till caramelised. Served with an onsen egg, the yolk breaks to coat each grain of Japanese rice for a rich mouthfeel. 

Other options such as Unagi Don (S$22) and Tendon (S$22) are also available — comforting familiars in the Japanese food scene.

tempura oji
Photo: Tempura Oji

For a piping hot bowl of ramen, try the Shio Tonkotsu (S$15). Custom made Hakata-style skinny noodles are paired with a rich-bodied pork bone broth and simmered till springy. Served with a seasoned egg and slices of slightly charred char shu, this’ll hit the spot on a rainy day.

Photo: Tempura Oji

If you prefer lighter bites, sides such as Gyoza are offered too. Priced at S$12 for regular (8 pieces) and S$20 for large (16 pieces), the crispy dumplings are served with a glistening house dipping sauce.

Of course, other favourites such as mentaiko fries and tori karaage are available too.

tempura oji
Photo: @kelairr_/instagram

Be it for a gathering or a date, Tempura Oji makes for a fun night out

Do make your reservations in advance!

Tempura Oji
Website | Facebook | Instagram
???? 51 Kreta Ayer Rd, Singapore 089008
????️ 10.30am–2pm, 5.30pm–10pm (Mon–Sat)

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I leave the office at 6PM on the . to rush home and play games. My boss has no control over me!!

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