[tweetmeme] Izakaya Den is Melbourne’s latest Izakaya offering in what was a busy year for the Japanese pub. The trend also saw the launch of the previously reviewed Ichi Ni, early in 2009, amongst others.
For the uninitiated an Izakaya is basically a Japanese tavern where, traditionally men, went to drink sake and beer and snack on small accompanying meals. Izakaya can be loosely translated as “sit-down sake shop” with ‘i’ meaning ‘to-sit’ and ‘sakaya’ meaning ‘sake shop’. But enough of the Japanese lesson.
Izakaya Den oozes cool. With a basement location, food and drink specials tastefully projected onto the long white wall and a low-key soundtrack effortlessly gliding throughout the space, I was impressed before I even tasted a single morsel. Still, I wasn’t there for the décor, I was there for the food.
I started with the hilariously named “Happy Time” Orion Draft Beer which was easy drinking and perfect for the food that was to follow. And did the food follow. We were happily guided by our host who steered us towards tuna tataki, pork belly, vegetables and jumbo quail with sansho pepper.
The tuna was partly ordered as a recommendation from @jetsettingjoyce who should be taken very seriously when handing out advice. It was amazing, perfectly sealed, fresh as if just plucked from the ocean and served in 6 portions atop a dollop of wasabi mayo. The pork belly was everything it should be, moist and very tender, the vegetables were well portioned and the quail was very tasty indeed. A great start to the evening.
Happy, but with more space to further explore the menu, we ordered another round of drinks and 3 more dishes. Round 2 saw a special of salted trout belly, little deep-fried chicken morsels and stir fried Japanese mushrooms. If I wasn’t convinced after the first few dishes, round 2 had me reaching for nearest tip jar. The trout belly was a flavour explosion. Salty, fishy, moist yet crisp, this dish should be taken off of the specials board and given a place on the permanent menu. The chicken was tasty, although maybe a little salty and the Japanese mushrooms were extremely well cooked and packed full of flavour.
So what is my final thought? Well after eating at Ichi Ni I was a little sceptical of the Izakaya format. It seemed to a certain extent a clever way of charging a premium for small portions by bamboozling us with a trend. Not so at Izakaya Den. Although the portions are bite-size and the format follows the Izakaya trend explosion, I get the feeling that the only bamboozling this place does, is with the quality of their dishes.
114 Russell Street
p 03 9654 2977