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One Venue, Three Vibes: White Shades Redefines The Cocktail Date Night!

Bring your first date here and it would feel like you guys had already went on three dates in one evening. And hey, even if the date doesn't go as planned, at least the drinks, food and gelato won't disappoint!

 

 

For all the First World Problems one might grumble about Singapore, its bar scene is undeniably vibrant and world-class, an ever-changing organism with new concepts springing up every so often.

The 4-storey White Shades that recently opened on Boon Tat Street is one of the most ambitious new projects yet, and is opened by Bai Jia Wei, one of the brains behind Stay Gold Flamingo. That’s the award-winning bar that's already made a name for itself, including at this year's Asia's 50 Best Bars awards.

 

 

Now, while the accolades of its owner might lure many in, it's the 4-storey multi-concept design of White Shades that caught my attention because you don’t often see something like this in this tiny city state. Each level offers a distinct theme and experience.

 

 

Stepping into the building, I immediately realised that this place is perfect for first dates. With 3 vastly distinct themes and 3 menus, both you and your partner get to embark on a mini bar-hop adventure without ever leaving the building!

 

 

Ground Floor: Dessert

The ground floor is a delightful, unpretentious touch. With a high ceiling to dampen noise and a soft colour palate, this makes for a very comfortable and casual aesthetic that anyone wandering in would assume this is purely a high-end ice cream parlour.

 

 

It has a selection of 12 unique ice creams on the menu, four of which are alcoholic, the term “boozy indulgence" was given an entirely new, creamy spin. These are paired with slate-coloured salty, lightly spicy “juniper cones” that have an intoxicating fragrance.

 

 

I tasted a sample of the Black Tears Rum gelato which carried a subtle bittersweet spiced note of the Cuban rum it’s made with. But what got me excited was the brightly coloured menu of low-ABV tea-based cocktails. As a big Suntory whisky fan, it was non-negotiable that I got myself a Kakubin Lapsang cocktail. This is made with Suntory’s iconic highball star – the Kakubin whisky, Lapsang Souchong black tea and jasmine flowers.

 

 

This is a really refreshing and balanced, with a piney, smoky touch of the Lapsang Souchong, clean honeyed florals, complimented with very smooth Japanese whisky. It’s flavourful but not too sweet. But coming in at just 2.8% ABV, this is practically a non-alcohol so don’t expect to end the night with just this one!

Second Floor: Cocktails and R&B

And so I ascended to the second floor and stepped into a different realm, one which comes closer to what you would expect at an upscale cocktail lounge. The room is draped in darker tones and accented with a polished marble bar counter. This room offers a much more intimate setting with your companion, with a carefully curated playlist of mellow R&B tunes in the background. I had a chance to speak with the founder, Jia Wei, for a bit and he pointed out that the music volume was intentional – loud enough to set the mood but subdued enough to let intimate conversations flow.

 

 

And speaking of the ambiance, I couldn't help but notice two walls adorned with exquisitely designed Hermès scarves from Jia Wei’s collection, adding a touch of elegance to the space.

This second floor is where we can access the full mixology and culinary talent of the White Shades team (which is why I recommend heading straight for the second floor if you only have so much time).

 

 

Diving into their cocktail offerings, my companions and I first tasted the Bomber J which comes with a large clear piece of ice and a toasted marshmallow for garnish. This has Suntory World Whisky Ao at its base, and is the most alcoholic robust drink of the night. Enhanced with toasted rice syrup and hinoki bitters, it brought forth a warm, vanillic, creamy richness, the prominent note of toasted rice and Rice Krispies really elevating this clean and malty whisky cocktail. This is easily my favourite as a single malt lover. It’s incredibly flavourful and robust, but it also isn’t too sweet and cloying.

 

 

Next up, we had the Savi Gallopping. Word of caution, this one’s a fiery fiesta, and resembled an alcoholic version of the Sangrita – a kind of spicy, tomato and paprika-based chaser for tequila that people drink in Mexico. It has Codigo Blanco as its base, with paprika and lime introducing a zesty twist, and then a finish of plums. If this wasn’t enough, the bartender would serve this in a glass chamber and blowtorch some wood chips on the top of the glass chamber, blanketing this in a thick layer of aromatic temple incense smoke.

 

 

As the mini spectacle unfolded before our eyes, my drinking partner made an observation that every cocktail here are priced the same at S$25. So if you’re looking to be a conspicuous consumer and impress your date without spending an extra dollar, definitely order this Savi Gallopping. Jokes aside, while I found this very intriguing and I personally have an addiction for spicy foods, steer clear of this drink if you have even a doubt about your spice tolerance.

 

 

The third cocktail is the elaborately crafted Golden. When you mix Johnnie Walker Black with caramelised banana and pineapple, you get a straightforward honeyed and tropical drink. But the inclusion of brown butter took it to a whole new level. This drink was tropical on one hand, with the banana, pineapple and Scotch dancing on the palate, but the brown butter introducing a warm, buttery, toffee-like depth. I’d describe this as something like a Scotched-up and caramelised Pina Colada alternative.

 

 

The final cocktail of the evening was the White, with a base of crisp Belvedere vodka but with Shiroi Chardonnay and umeshu that add a beautiful grape-like and milky edge. The Shiroi Chardonnay notes really stand out, reminiscent of Japanese Kyoho grapes, but there was also a more familiar, nostalgic sweet yoghurt tang that reminds me of Yakult. Rounding off the drink's profile is a toasted sesame crisp added as garnish.

These cocktails are all done well in their own distinctive contrasting ways, so it's impossible to rank them definitively. In terms of my personal preference as a heavy whisky drinker, the Bomber J naturally resonated with me the most. The essence of Suntory Ao whisky made it an instant classic in my books. It's the kind of cocktail that feels both comforting and invigorating, one I'd happily indulge in repeatedly throughout the night without ever feeling weary of its taste.

The White, with its delightful Yakult-forward profile, is a close runner-up for me. There's something about the familiar tang of Yakult combined with the elegant Shiroi Chardonnay notes that kept drawing me in. It's a drink that both reminds me of childhood memories and introduces something new with every sip.

The Golden, with its unapologetically tropical and sweet character, would undoubtedly be a hit among those with a sweet tooth. I find it enjoyable, but a little too sweet for an extended session. The Savi Galloping – which should just be renamed the Savi Burning – is not for everyone, but for those who really love spice, or seasoned drinkers familiar with spicy Mexican cocktails. If you’re someone like this, it's an absolute must-try. Its robust smokiness and no-holds-barred spiciness, is a testament to White Shades' audacity in cocktail-crafting.

 

 

White Shades' dining menu is also not to be missed. This isn’t typical bar grub, but restaurant-quality dishes that would more than satisfy your friend who does not drink.

The standout dish for everyone was undoubtedly the Clams with Miso Butter. Now, I've had my share of la-la (thin-shelled clams), but this dish is on another level. They’re served in a rich umami buttery gravy, of which each spoonful is a rich savory hug. The toasted bread that came alongside was perfect for soaking up that irresistible gravy. I'm no food critic, but I'll go out on a limb to say this: that dish alone makes a trip to White Shades worth it.

Worthy culinary mentions include the Beef Tatare with Sambah Matah – which is essentially beef tatare but integrated with a fresh sambal chili paste paired with fried wanton skins that edge out typical tatares served with boring potato chips.

 

 

Rooftop Bar Coming Soon...

Let’s talk about the promised rooftop bar at White Shades. Honestly, I felt a bit like a kid pressing their face against a candy store window, but the store's closed. Yup, I was that eager to experience the full trifecta at White Shades. But alas, the rooftop isn't open to the public just yet. Talk about building suspense!

 

This isn’t actually the rooftop, but the alfresco area on the second floor. Just listen to my vivid descriptions and use your imagination for now (Source: Justin Lee)

 

From what I've heard, the rooftop promises to be the cherry on top of the White Shades experience. Imagine live music serenading you as you sip on affordably-priced draft beers and cocktails, all while soaking in a picturesque view of Singapore's downtown. And with everything priced under S$20, it's like the universe finally giving us all a wink and saying, "Go on, have some fun in the CBD without burning a hole in your pocket."

For now, that rooftop remains a delightful mystery. I guess it's a good excuse for me to make a return trip to White Shades.

To sum it all up: If you're thinking of an ideal spot for that first date (or a fifth, or a fifteenth, no judgements here!), White Shades should top your list. Three unique concepts under one roof, fantastic cocktails, top notch food, ice cream and the promise of rooftop revelry. Like I said, bring your first date here and it would feel like you guys had already went on three dates in one evening. And hey, even if the date doesn't go as planned, at least the drinks, food and gelato won't disappoint!

So go on, make that reservation. And who knows? Maybe I'll be chilling on that rooftop, drink in hand, living my best life. You just wouldn’t know which fella is me.

Kanpai!

@CharsiuCharlie