Obvious puns aside, I have been meaning to get to Ichi Ni for some time. The Japanese pub with food has been recommended with mixed results. Waiting to add my two cents worth, I thought I should stroll on in and give the place the once over.
The first thing that struck me about Ichi Ni is how well decorated the place is. Dark and moody with enough Japanese paraphernalia to get you in the mood without thinking, “themed restaurant”. Being a lovely Melbourne afternoon however, we took the alfresco option and opted to sit amongst the plants in the outdoor ‘garden’.
I had heard from a number of people that the best way to enjoy Ichi Ni is through the bottom of a beer glass, so my first task was to select one of the many Japanese beers on the menu. I went with a Kinsachi Blue Pilsner which at $15.50 a pop for 375ml, meant I was probably only going to have one. Thankfully it was lovely.
With the beer in order it was onto the food. We decided to go with the share option and I was rather amused that the menu described this as Japanese Tapas. I mean surely the Japanese have there own word for share plates, don’t they?
We chose tempura vegetables, wagyu skewers, crumbed pork belly and gyoza to start with. The tempura veg was lovely, lightly battered and very fresh it was accompanied with a Japanese mayonnaise that I simply must get the recipe for. Really very good. The wagyu skewers at $18.00 aren’t cheap, however they were expertly cooked and very succulent.
The gyoza were light and very well cooked yet lacked any real flavour. This was mildly disappointing as I had been looking forward to this dish. The pork belly, crumbed with onion slices then fried and served with lashings of mayo, was tasty although somewhat dry. Probably my only criticism here was that the onion somewhat overpowered the pork belly. Leaving me to think only of onion rings after a few bites.
With my glass, and belly, still empty it was onto more beer and a couple more dishes (I must stress that there were 3 of us eating. I like my food, but I don’t make it a habit to eat like a giant lizard, set loose in Tokyo).
Seconds saw a cheaper Echigo Premium Rejio ordered, along with some soft shell crab and California rolls and a small sashimi plate. I was a little disappointed with the rolls. If I closed my eyes whilst eating, I could have been forgiven for thinking I was on Swanston street, chowing down on one of the many generic options. My disappointment was met with joy however when I tasted the supremely fresh sashimi plate. Loaded with beautiful slices of salmon, king fish and two types of tuna, one bluefin, this really was my preferred dish.
Lunch was finished with a shared portion of pumpkin ice cream and more St Kilda sunshine. A fitting end to a reasonably decent afternoon.
So all things considered, Ichi Ni provides a good option for a few beers and bite to eat this summer. The food won’t blow you away, however if it’s a few casual beers you’re after, with some food to line your stomach, Ichi Ni should certainly be given a go.
It would also be remiss of me to not mention the spectacular views on offer here. Perfect for watching Godzilla do battle with Mothra (I just couldn’t let that go).
12 The Esplanade, St Kilda.
Ph (03) 9534 1212