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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Do make your reservations in advance!
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???? 51 Kreta Ayer Rd, Singapore 089008
????️ 10.30am–2pm, 5.30pm–10pm (Mon–Sat)
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