Monday, August 20, 2012

Izakaya Den @ Melbourne CBD

8 months into our Melbourne adventure and we are still on the hunt for a convenient place where we can eat good Japanese cuisine without busting our wallets. While Izakaya Den does not exactly fall under that category, we couldn't resist detouring from our plan and giving this place a go when we learnt of their secretive entrance and underground venue.

Some have struggled with finding the entrance but the easiest way to find this place is find the number "114" sign along Russell Street and walk down half a flight of wide stairs. The glass door on the left will lead you into a narrow open kitchen restaurant / bar. If you walk straight down to the boutique, you have walked down a little too far.

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The menu is not huge, couple of entrees, couple of sashimi, couple of char grill and non char grill dishes and couple of desserts. Matter of fact, their drinks menu has way more options compared to what you can eat.

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If you think that Asahi is the only Japanese beer, you haven't seen what is out there in terms of Japanese beers. One of the nicer ones I have had is Yebisu but I was kind of upset when my friend told me that the beer sells for a hundred yen (approx AUD1.50) because I paid 10 bucks for this.  

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With any Japanese restaurant, izakaya style or not, ordering sashimi is a must (unless you sense that the quality is questionable). However for $16, the portion was rather miserable, with really thin slices of salmon done more like a cerviche with a yuzu dressing. Tasted good but definitely not value for money.

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The corn kaki-age are legendary and it deserves the applause even though it is $8 for 3 fritters (thinking about it, I should be able to get 5 stalks of corn with spare change). However, to get them  in the form of a delicious piece of deep fried corn batter, that's priceless. Made perfect with some green tea salt.

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Deep frying seems to be their speciality as their chicken karaage was just as good too. While the Wife noted the colour of the meat being a little darker than usual when she bit into one piece, I am giving them the benefit of the doubt and say it was due to marination and the use of thigh meat. 

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Go to the meat section and you will see a lot of premium breeds on offer. For pork, it is non other than the kurobuta, aka the berkshire or meat from the black pig. It is meant to be as marbled as the beef equivalent of wagyu. This was slow braised and grilled, eaten simply as it is with some spring onion and salt. For almost 20 dollars, it again seemed to be a little on the pricey side. 

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I have always loved ox tongue, especially during a good session of Korean barbeque. This was again grilled and topped with a spring onion dressing that matched it beautifully. 

At this point, we realised that we had probably breached the 50 dollar mark per person and was nowhere full, after all it was all delicate items with no carbs to fill. Instead of ordering some carbs, we might as well go down the path of a meat eater and ordered another meat dish. 

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Another premium meat on offer, the wagyu and specifically the Sher Wagyu, a breed that is reared in Victoria. Graded at 7, the Porterhouse was melt in your mouth and just simply beautiful with a little pickled cauliflower. Worthy of a price tag of $33.

Overall, some people might say the place is more of a drinking hole, some might say the preparation of food is too simple to warrant the hefty price tag but we say simple cooking is part of Japanese cuisine and we appreciated every single dish we had.

However at just under 70 dollars per pax, it is a nice to have meal opposed to a place that we can visit frequently. 

Address and contact details:

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon

Verdict: 4 stars out of 5 stars. While value for money is not exactly their forte, this place is worth a visit for its secretive entrance and underground location, the beautiful grilled meats and of course, the corn fritters. 

13 comments:

Bangsar-bAbE said...

Kurobata and Sher Wagyu...you're a lucky man! :)

10 bucks for beer?? -_-

Cindy said...

green tea salt?does it come in green color?

eiling lim said...

i'm sure the air ticket to japan to drink yebisu will cost more than 10 bucks.

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

eiling: but but i can even bathe in it once im there!

cindy: if you look carefully at the picture, you will see the salt and yes, its green!

bbabe: well i have to pay, i be lucky if it was free hahah!

Pureglutton said...

Aha...is this the underground place we had lunch? If so, then u must have taken those photos soooo furtively eh! I still recall that curt remark of "no photos" from the waitress!
The beef looks awesome, man!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

pureglutton: no this is the another underground place, casual and more of a bar although prices are just as steep!

missyblurkit said...

$16 for the salmon sashimi seems on the high side...but I supposed in Malaysia after conversion, that's probably the price we're paying too for some decent cuts.

Ciki said...

good Lord.. soooo expensive can die lor. The portions look small. and why did they do the sashimi like ceviche. If i wanted ceviche i'd go to a Peruvian restaurant , not Jap!

msihua said...

I don't think you can ever have Japanese without busting your wallet :( Try Gypsy and Pig! It's awesome!

"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

msihua: well going to give gypsy and pig a try!

ciki: wait till you see the branded restaurants like nobu..you will cry when you see the prices and all the ceviche they have on the menu!

Winston said...

Izakaya!!! I've only been there once but remember feeling so conflicted about it. My friends and I (all students) went and though we were enjoying the food a lot, we just couldn't feel anywhere close to full no matter how much we ordered! And like you, we started being more aware everytime we hit another $50 mark in the table but still hungry. We liked it but was still so hungry after (even though we ordered a fair bit) so we went straight to Gami and GORGED after hahaha... I guess Izakaya was a good "appetiser" for us LOL! No regrets cuz it was good =)

Winston said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
"Joe" who is constantly craving said...

winston: haha well i believe the definition of izakaya is a place for alcohol and food..unfortunately not the other way around! although i don't think i was that hungry to have gone to gami for a 2nd round!