Speakeasy bar Here Kitty Kitty by the Zouk Group seduces us with its otherworldly interiors inspired by a Japanese vice den from the 1950s, as well as its thematic cocktails
If there’s one brand that can make a red-light district look fashionable, it’s the Zouk Group, which recently opened Japanese concept bar Here Kitty Kitty and adjoining omakase restaurant Sushi Ichizuke, both a short walk away from Zouk’s premises at The Cannery, Clarke Quay.
While the restaurant’s cavernous yet minimalist interiors give us a sense of mystery and modernism, the ultra-luxe feline bar exudes an air of maximalism, transporting us back to the flourishing nightlife of 1950s Shinjuku when the rich and famous (as well as infamous) would frequent the Golden Gai, home to narrow alleyways that led to several well-known shanty after-dark establishments. Before prostitution became illegal in 1958, this narrow enclave was also home to several brothels.
Dressed opulently with layered textures and reddened hues enhanced by Japanese-themed wallpapers of every kind, Here Kitty Kitty strips away the illustrious history of illicit courtesanship, while retaining the vivacious energy and culturally rich architecture of narrow shanties.
As you enter the space, you’re greeted by a ceiling full of lanterns and overhanging foliage in burnish shades reminiscent of Kyoto in autumn. The welcoming space is flanked by a well-appointed bar on the left, and to the right, separated by wooden lattice dividers, a row of kinky rooms filled with sexy paraphernalia.
Private Bar & Lounge
Able to seat 75, the bar’s best rooms in the house are the Cathouse, a spacious red room for large groups; the Mamasan Lounge, which resembles a sexy boudoir; and the Shibari Room, a BDSM corner complete with a swing and ropes. There’s also a concealed back room with another bar and lounge perfect for private events like a bachelorette party, birthday bash, theme night and costume party.
Here, food takes the form of signature maki rolls and izakaya bar bites befitting of its location. Must-tries are the Wagyu Sando ($58), a premium Japanese sandwich filled with wagyu beef, caviar, uni and caramelised onions; Here Kitty Kitty Signature Maki ($28), a sushi roll made with soft-shell crab, tobiko and mixed salad topped with bonito flakes; and Negitoro Tataki ($30), a seared toro dish topped with caviar, kinome leaf, shio kombu, spring onions and crispy sushi rice.
Here Kitty Kitty Signature Maki
The true stars of this speakeasy are the intoxicating cocktails featuring Japanese spirits and ingredients. Of the 12 cocktails currently listed on the menu, our favourite is the photogenic Haku-Hai ($24), with its verdant hues and earthy flavours of matcha, Haku vodka, Calpis and lemon; followed by the Ume Whiskey Sour ($24), a drink made with Maker’s Mark Bourbon, ume, apricot and egg white that packs a surprising punch. A ladies’ favourite would be the easy breezy Zen Garden ($24), a sweet-sour creation made with Roku gin, Midori, herbal elixir and lemon.
As the night progresses, you can try some stronger libations such as the Golden Hour ($22), a clarified milk cocktail consisting of Havana Club 3 Rum, hojicha, vermouth and lemon; Here Kitty Kitty Highball ($22), a classic cocktail consisting of Kakubin whiskey, Chita whiskey, lemon and soda; Here Kitty Kitty Martini ($24), a special concoction of Roku gin, nori, vermouth, orange bitters and umibudo; and Shiso Julep ($24), an Old-Fashioned variant made with Kabukin whiskey, Umeshu and shiso.
For the serious drinker, the bar also carries plenty of spirits (by the glass or bottle), from 18 brands of gin to a dozen Japanese whiskeys, and 20 single malt Scotch whiskeys. Due to the posh nature of this place, beer options are limited but do try the light and effervescent pale ale from Far East Brewing Company.
While walk-ins to Here Kitty Kitty are welcome, diners are encouraged to call or text ahead for a reservation.
In case you’re hankering for a proper Japanese meal, the neighbouring Sushi Ichizuke is just a 20-second walk away. Helmed by executive chef Ryoichi Nakatani, the 16-seater omakase restaurant offers lunch sets from $80, and dinner sets from $220, featuring a fresh array of seafood imported twice a week from Tokyo’s Toyosu Fish Market.
Other than one hearty soup, every other dish is prepared raw or slightly seared using a fiery piece of charcoal, as Nagatani’s specialty lies in Edomae (Edomai) Sushi, a traditional Tokyo-style of sushi. Sushi Ichizuke also offers a very detailed wine and champagne list, and close to 20 labels of sake, many of which come from premium small batch producers.
3E River Valley Road #02-01/02 The Cannery Singapore 179024
Tel: +65 9489 8357
Opening hours: Tuesdays to Saturdays 6pm – 10.30pm