The Japanese food scene has never been lacking in Melbourne so when people rave about a place it must be doing something special. We decided to see what all the fuss was about. Izakaya Den
is located in the basement but the settings is high ceiling, modern vibe reminiscent of warehouse revivals in NYC.
And now I sound like a snob...okay so back to the food.
We started with something light - a warm blend of spinach and fried bean curd skin in a mild dashi soup. Not exactly a palette opener but it was very soothing. Those who might be worried about this dish been oily because of the fried bean curds need not worry as there is very minimal oil.
The menus were provided in little scrolls with the English menu on one side and the Japanese version on the other.
It is hard for me to go through a menu with gyu tongue (ox tongue) without ordering it and was I not disappointed. This was oily but balanced out nicely with the minced spring onions dispersed over the thinly cut grilled, juicy, soft and yet slightly chewy tongue. A French friend of mine recently noted that he did not understand why people eat ox tongue because it made him feel like he was Frenching the ox…food for thought?
The salad was a pretty standard salad apart from the delicious sweet grilled unagi (eel) and speckled with pinenuts. The crisps on top added extra texture but not really flavour.
We also ordered a special for the day which was the freshly made udon. This came with a simple broth which helped ensure the focus was on the udon itself. Frequent travellers of Japan may not be satisfied but this has to be the best udon I have had in Melbourne. The noodles came piping hot, the udon was cooked through so no hard center but it still had that Q factor
that is the sole goal of achievement for master noodle makers. If you ever stop by Izakaya Den and this is available on the specials I would definitely order it.
We couldn’t really decide on the desserts so went all out and got a few small items to share. There was the black sesame crème brulee which although creamy and had a decent toffee top did not have as strong a seasame flavour as ones I’ve previously had at Kenzan. The strawberry macaron had nice little pieds but did not rise very high and was unfortuantley an inferior species to Café Vue’s
. *Side note- recent visit to Café Vue also suggests the quality of their macarons had also deteriorated. I’m hoping this was a once off bad batch…but if that was true it was very bad form for them to sell second rate macarons.*
The ice cream and traditional Japanese dessert (wagashi) were the only redeeming desserts. The ice cream is houjicha flavoured or roasted green tea and was accompanied by a slices of sweet potato chip. Houjicha tastes half way between green tea and Chinese black tea making this a nice variation to the standard green tea ice creams normally served at most Japanese restauraunts
Overall I was impressed with the standard of food at Izakaya Den. Definitely worth a revisit especially to see what cocktails they provide to fit into the grungy Japanese tapas scene much better.
Food: Modern Japanese tapas.
Must try: Udon special if it is available and gyu tongue.
Setting: Cool warehouse bar.
Service: Fast and ready but never hovering.
Damage: A little on the expensive side to go on a weekly night out but good value for money.
Hot chocolate: Not on menu.
Visit if: going on a date.
114 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Labels: Australia, Bean curd, Crème brûlée, Dinner, Eat, Eel, Izakaya Den, Japanese, Melbourne, Ox tongue, Salad, Udon, Unagi