I must warn you that the place is not the easiest to find. Its at 114 Russell Street. Head for the corner of Lt Collins and Russell. The easiesit landmark is the good ole James Squire / Portland Hotel pubs. Izikaya s directly opposite. You need to go down the stairs like your heading to Chiodo but veer left and you're met with a glass door. Push through and you're in Izikaya's long foyer. There is signage but its a kind of cyber metal tooling and the embossed and grooved pattern is of the same brushed metal background so its not easy to read. This of course either irritates the shit out of you or heightens the experience.
Go down the stairs and turn left
They don't take small bookings so its best to get their early or prepare to wait. If you do have a large table be warned that they have 2 seatings - 6-8 and 8 through to closing. So best to book for the second seating. We were so relieved to have scored a table for 5 (thank you Simon Denton). Even if I was stuck in the aisle which is fine. There is enough room even though it doesn't look it. Oh and if you're a little claustrophobic, then maybe this is not the plcae for you. Its kind of a modernistic bunker with no windows. Be warned. But the food and drinks list is well worth the pain and effort. Believe me!!!
it kinda of felt like I was in LA (hi D!!)
Melbourne Gastronome has a well researched expose on the Izikaya phenomenon in Melbourne. Izikayas are basically snack bars ... i.e. drinking spots that serve food. They are generally on the lower end of the foodie price scale, but Izikaya Den's prices are not exactly for the frugal diner ... so go in a big group so that it works out cheaper.
Just as an indication, we were a table of five, we had 2 bottles of mid-priced wine, 3 long necks of Japanese beer, 8 sampling plates and 2 lots of Green Tea fondue - which ended up costing about $63 per head.
Unfortunately my photos suck, so I may have to pilfer from J who was taking great pics with a fancy camera. And I can't remember exact menu descriptions so I'm going to have to wing this. Also I may have missed out on pics in the excitement of it all.
Our first dish was tuna sashimi partly seared on some kind of radish combo sauce. This was the first of many culinary orgasmic moments to follow.
This was followed by kingfish sashimi. The coriander garnish actually worked on this. Kingfish has a beautiful silky texture and this tasted so fresh. And the hint of coriander at the end was just perfect.
We then had a plate of grilled fish served with this amazing plum (preserved I think) sauce. I can't remember what the fish was but it was smoky and moist, and the plum sauce was to die for.
As you can see from the photo below this is the dregs of a dish of which the main component escapes my memory. What was so amazing was the little pile of blackened seaweed which you can see D ho-ing into in the pic. It was like eating truffle in the sense that the flavours changed and got stronger with each successive mouthful. This is what gets gourmands off!!
The next dish (bar the one we didn't take a photo of) was a bit of an adventure. I was extremely impressed that our partners-in-culinary-crime were so willing to take a risk on something me and M would ordinarily not blink an eye at. M had read about this dish in Gourmet Traveller and it was thanks to her heads up that we ordered the Char-grilled Kingfish Head:
We attacked this with almost obscene gusto although M seemed to think I wasn't getting enough and kept plying me with cheek meat. We did baulk at consuming the eye and Simon only gave us a 7 out of 10 for our efforts. Still this was seafood at its best. Lightly grilled succulent white meat. Whip the gag reflex into submission and give this one a go!!
After an extremely brief period of respite, we ordered our 2nd bottle of Maddens Rise Viognier 2006 from the Yarra Valley (hunt this down immediately!!) and a few more sampling plates.
We had salmon roll (we ordered a second lot almost straightaway - D and salmon - like a tiger with fresh kill!!
Pork belly cooked to perfection - although if you're not a fan of pork flavour give this one a miss.
And Wagyu Breseola (air-cured) with Daikon fettucine - I could have eaten a whole bowl of Daikon fettucine, The sauce was divine and included Walnuts (the staff here are really knowledgeable about the food they serve) - so nut allergists beware. I think this was my favourite dish of the night followed closely by the lightly seared tuna.
Now WF has been to Izikaya Den and she insisited that I orderd the Green Tea and chocolate fondue. I kept dropping this as a catchphrase throughout the night so when D, J and I went up for a "breath of fresh air", M and M mindly ordered two lots.
And, like WF, I will also insist that if you go, you need to order this to round off your meal. The chocolate and green tea concoction is sex in a bowl! AND they serve you with not only the fondue forks but a teaspoon each to drink up the sauce with - now that is what I call service!!
And as I come to the end of this post, I am a little saddened that these nights do not occur more often as our dear old friends live in another state. I am insanely jealous of D's friday night suppers and would love to be at a meal where M's husband is in charge of ordering. And although we are still new friends to J, I'm absolutely certain he would have me in stitches over a good bottle of wine and some wonderfully rancid cheese ... well you can't have everything in life ... but you could pretend of an evening at Izikaya Den.
A Night Cap at Hairy Canary's:
dan cope wrote:
I know.. we want to come back..
dan cope wrote:
we shall post on fb xxxxxxx