Looking for a post-work tipple and eat, we settled upon the recently opened Izakaya Den, a new outpost from Simon Denton & Co. from Spring St’s Verge. Izakaya Den is modelled on a traditional Izakaya, being a casual pub-type eatery found in Japan.
Izakaya Den lurks beneath the Postal Hall at the corner of Russell St and Little Collins. After finding our way downstairs we were surprised to find a cavernous space with an industrial feel thanks to the exposed ceiling and hard surfaces.
The drinks list comprised an impressive array of sake together with a good selection of beer and wine. We ordered a bottle of Los Hermanos savagnin, one of the wines subject to a recent identity crisis (growers thought that the grape was a Spanish variety, albariño, where it was actually the French grape, savagnin).
The food offered at Izakaya Den was described to me as “Japanese tapas”, which really got my back up – the use of the term “tapas” to describe any small shared food is a pet hate of mine. Nonetheless, we chose a selection of plates to share as we quaffed our savagnin. The menu is divided into a number of sections, including small, grilled, hot, cold and vegetables. First up, we ordered grilled broad beans, potato croquettes, kingfish sashimi, crispy tofu and miso soup with sandcrab:
The stand-out was the kingfish sashimi (sorry, not pictured), it was fresh and zingy, served with daikon in a sesame oil sauce. The fresh grilled broadbeans and flavoursome miso were also great (though the miso was sans silken tofu, which is my favourite). Not as impressive were the potato croquettes (which were a little bland and served with a very faintly wasabi flavoured mayonnaise) and the crispy tofu (which was unpleasantly fridge-cold – though to be fair it came from the ‘cold’ section).
We had another look at the menu and ordered a couple more dishes (hampered somewhat by overzealous wait staff who kept asking if we wanted more before we had decided anything). This round we ordered chicken kaarage and fried sweetcorn, which was served with a green tea salt:
These two dishes were excellent. A real surprise was the sweetcorn, with the green tea salt adding an interesting element to the dish. Chicken kaarage is usually a winner in my book and Izakaya Den’s version was served hot and fresh, although a little dipping sauce or mayonnaise on the side would have elevated the dish.
Overall, a successful night out. As I was leaving I was a little disappointed to see a list of specials had been projected on to the wall at the front of the bar, which were not mentioned by to us by the wait staff. Nonetheless, I will be back, particularly to sample some food from the grill and some of the larger dishes.
114 Russell St
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Ph: (03) 9654 2997