Fort by Maison Ikkoku: Raise your glass this holiday season

When I first heard that the trio behind Maison Ikkoku bar was opening a bar on Fort Canning, it got me really really excited. Afterall, this new bar would be highly perched on quiet grounds, far away from the usual drinking holes down south of the river. More importantly, it was an effort of Maison Ikkoku, one of the pioneers and shakers of the local bespoke scene.

For this project, the folks at Maison Ikkoku also decided to rope in F&B veteran Ethan Leslie Leong who doubles as one of Fort's directors and master mixologist. Many might have heard of the world's most expensive cocktail, but they might not know that Ethan was the one that conceived the recipe for "The Jewel of Pangaea" which is sold exclusively in Club Pangaea for a whopping $35,000 per glass. Still, holding the reigns as the world's most expensive drink.

A celebrity in his own rights, he had done countless collaborations with international renowned brands such as Chanel, Montblanc and Polo Ralph Lauren, among others. Ethan was also appointed the Brand ambassador for Martell, in line with the celebration of Martell's 300 years anniversary earlier this year.

With so many accolades to his name, it was hard not to pin my hopes high.

Fort by Maison Ikkoku occupied a rather cosy section on the ground floor of the Singapore outpost of the Pinacotheque de Paris. Continuing a trait from Maison Ikkoku, the shop front of Fort by MI was kept modest and classy.

Hidden beneath a veil of excitement, I was pleasantly surprised by the chic Moulin Rouge meets laboratory-industrial chic design; highbrow yet playful at the same time. And even more so when I learned that Ethan who had no prior training in interior design, was the sole designer behind the lights and the brilliantly constructed bar table made with used railway sleepers.

Unlike the main outlet in Arab street which does mainly Ginza style fresh fruity cocktails; Fort by Maison Ikkoku focuses on homebrew alcohol and bespoke cocktails with a twist. And to make it a more holistic experience. Omakase food menus were also specially created to pair with the different alcohols.

The first drink we had was the daisy vodka, a flowery shot that came with a stalk of fresh daisy. Next came our first dish, "The Sea" ($38) which was comprised of raw Hokkaido scallop, sea salt sorbet, Irish oyster, seaweed, Ikura, Tobiko and Ebiko. This was paired with a cup of Japanese Sake.

Whilst I cannot fault this combination, this dish appealed little to me with its rather expected taste. Nevertheless with so much elements on one plate, this was a feast for the eyes.

The second drink, bourbon infused ginger whisky was by far my favourite of the night. Unlike conventional bourbon whisky which gets its flavor from barrel ageing, this one was done by burning rare bourbon wood into a metal device and then injecting its smoke via a valve into medical bottles which come with warning labels. Talking about cheekiness! By doing so, the smoke adds a woody fragrance to the whisky and the ginger body raised it a notch higher. I also appreciated the pairing of this drink with the complimentary "The Nest" (hot melted Parmigiano - reggaino and Mozzarella with free range chicken eggs)($28). Not too many places do whisky pairing with cheese, so this new combination was a treat for me.

I thoroughly enjoyed the kick from the Fort Signature Spicy Handroll - tears came rolling down my eyes, and you could only imagine the spiciness level of the marinated tuna. The accompanying prosecco with lavender membrane balls was magic. The lavender membrane balls which initially sank to the bottom was seen floating with the bubbles from the sparkling Italian wine. As you sip, the balls burst one by one, with lavender liquid coming out and mixing with the tangy alcohol. Such a dramatic symphony of tastes! This drink was concocted by Francesca, a protege of Ethan. According to her, the membrane balls took numerous attempts to be made successfully , only in an Eureka moment, did she discover the key to making them intact and float. I believe this to be just one of the countless experiments done here at Fort by MI.

As Christmas rounds the corner, Ethan and his team have also come up with a festive set ($38) which comprises of a Sous-vide Turkey main course and a lavender creme brulee with martell cordon bleu dessert. Top up an additional $20, and 2 cocktail pairing will be included. One of the cocktails was the cranberry red berry wine which I thought was a perfect accompaniment to turkey. Arranging the ingredients and incorporating cranberry into the alcohol instead of the sauce, the results have a profound effect on the tastebuds.

Ethan Leslie Leong also was probably the most charismatic and inventive mixologist I've ever encountered. I do like his flamboyance and his visionary approach to making things more unique. The man was somehow a reflection of himself, like his food and drinks, down to the nitty gritty like his selection of table ware. Details after details equate to surprise after surprise.

Fort by Maison Ikkoku is currently serving their 12-course Omakase for just $68++ per person.

Fort by Maison Ikkoku
Pinacotheque De Paris
5 Cox Terrace
Fort Canning Hill
t: 6336 0507

Operating Hours:
Daily: 4pm - late

Written and Photographed by RamenKing2015, a foodie, who more often than not, is mesmerized by wanderlust and overcome by a sense of purpose to unveil cultural mysteries. Follow his journey here.

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