Reviewing Live Twice, Jigger & Pony Group’s new elevated izakaya on Bukit Pasoh Road, Singapore
"You only live twice, or so it seems
One life for yourself, and one for your dreams"
- Nancy Sinatra, "You Only Live Twice"
When you're done with snapshot-baiting bartending flair and cocktails with Chef's Table-calibre list of ingredients, this place is where to set your drinking straight once again. Named after Nancy Sinatra's theme song to the eponymous 1967 James Bond film, Live Twice is an exercise in Japanese minimalism — but not quite in the traditional sense. A hark back to Tokyo in the '60s, the setting is Mad Men meets ryokan: plywood-lined interiors are pared down and lightly appointed with vintage mid-century modern furniture, including a classic Akari Light Sculpture (the bamboo ribbing and washi paper give the effect of sunlight seeping through traditional shoji screens), vintage yellow Saarinen stools, two original buttery-soft Falcon armchairs you'll melt into, and Giancarlo Piretti's signature Alky chairs. Depending on where you're seated, the noirish 40-seater space can feel like a bar or a cosy living room; grab a stool at the large communal table to soak up the buzz, or retreat in one of the alcove receptacles for intimate get-togethers.
Beyond the bar's moniker, Sinatra's lyrics also make an appearance in the spirit-focused drinks menu. Divided into two sections, "One Life For Yourself" and "And One For Your Dreams", you'll find seven classic Japanese tipples in the former (numbered 001 to 007 as a reference to Bond) and seven dreamier expressions with poetic geisha-sounding names like Spring Riot and Little Bell in the latter. Keeping true to the minimalist ethos, cocktails here have no more than four ingredients in each, which allows the nuanced magic of different flavours to come through with more clarity.
Of course, there's a Bond drink on the list — and no, it's not a martini. The original Vesper, ordered by the man in both the book and the movie Casino Royale, has "three measures of Gordon's, one of vodka and half a measure of Kina Lillet." Potent it sure is, but not as smooth and debonair as it supposed to be. Live Twice's rendition, on the other hand, is more refined — with white wine-based bittersweet aperitif Tempus Fugit Kina L'Aero d'Or shaken with Ki No Bi Sei Navy Strength gin and Ketel One vodka. If you're feeling more Don Draper than James Bond, order the whisky-based Mizuwari. Served with a thick strip of ice, the blend of Nikka Nikka Coffey Grain Whisky and Nikka Coffey Malt Whisky is aged in a porous earthen pot steeped in Hokkaido soft water before it's ladled out with a bamboo cup. The drink that stole my heart, though, in case you missed last week's cocktail round-up, is the Quiet Inlet, a ume-flavoured beaut that is uncannily delicate and strong at the same time.
Believe it or not, Live Twice excels in its yōshuku (Western-influenced) snacks — so much that it's a shame that there's only a handful on the menu. Make sure you pop the Wasabi Cheese Terrine as soon as it arrives on your table to best savour its intriguing mix of smoky, spicy, sweet and briny flavours. The raw scallops, perched on an oba leaf and topped with a dollop of sour plum and hana hojiso (edible perilla flowers) is also stunningly delicious. But don't leave without sinking your teeth in one of their soul-hugging katsu sandos (Japanese sandwiches); take your pick of beef, cheese and tuna.
Any bar can fill itself with mid-century modern furniture and call itself cool, but there's something more subliminal and transportive about Jigger & Pony Group's new establishment. For one, the slick, retro-American-Japanese vibe is first-of-its kind. The unwavering dedication to the East-West dichotomy in all aspects of the bar is also applaudable, as are the precisely-executed drinks served with such unpretentious joy. You'll want to settle in for a while.
20 Bukit Pasoh Road, Tel: 9011 8304
Opening hours: (Mon-Thu) 6pm-1am; (Fri and Sat) 6pm-2am