Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Izakaya Den Review @ Russell Street, Melbourne

After the Taste of Melbourne this year, a bunch of bloggers and twitterers decided to pay a visit to Izakaya Den as they performed so well in the event.

The wonderful ingénue (she might choke on this a bit, so I'll add, for good measure, chotto!) author behind the blog of Blah Blog Blah did really well in organising the get together (given that I have never met her prior to this [face-to-face I mean]).

Together with a few others from blogs such as I Eat Therefore I Am, Jeroxie, Off the Spork and essJay Eats, we made a Motley Crue of food enthusiasts ready to tackle on this new frontier (okay, we had a little bit to drink prior to dinner... just a tiny bit!)

We were brought to our stone table (there's only one giant stone table for groups of 5-20, so booking is definitely recommended; any other group size, you'll just have to walk in and try your luck for a seating!)

Luckily for us, our organiser had pre-booked our table weeks in advance (I think it was 2 months, but my memory is like a sieve!)

The food and drinks menu were rolled up and awaiting us to smooth our hands over them. The specials were displayed via a projector onto the wall (alternating between that [the specials] and a cool pixelisation of some anime character)

The teams (as we were now split for drinks and food) readily put in orders for Sake and other beverages (I quite enjoyed my Sake Mojito!) 

If memory serves me, we started with the Special sake - warm (2 bottles of 400ml) at $49 each, which was described on the menu as having a "lovely texture, good for spring"! Once we were done with that, the Drinks team ordered another 2 bottles of Sake from the paper menu (the name eludes me)...
The Food team did really well on the night (as did the Drinks team) and ordered a few delicious appetizers to start with.

We had the Kingfish sashimi with an Asian style dressing $17

Then we had the delicious Den fried chicken $10 (we put in another order of this as it was soooooo good)

Next on our taste test was the Eggplant and tofu 'dengaku', which was good, but wasn't anything special. I prefer the Nasu Dengaku from Izakaya Chuji (yeah, I said it!)

A few others who missed out on this dish at the Taste of Melbourne ordered this. And I couldn't say that I was complaining!

Spicy tuna tataki with garlic soy $18

And we just couldn't resist our curiosity with this dish, Special fried black rice $10. This tasted quite similar to a cross between normal rice and sushi-grade rice... it had a very robust taste (not as sweet as white rice, but a more earthy tone similar to brown rice)

The winner for us (there were a few, but this stood out) was the Sweet corn 'kaki age' $7... priced at $10 at the Taste of Melbourne, I wasn't too happy about paying that much for sweet corn... but on second taste.. it was actually quite worth it!

The order of the Ox tongue with spring onion $14 also had a resounding nod from everyone (not being able to eat meat of any kind from a cow, I wasn't able to try this)

From the specials board (for lack of a better term), we had the Wagyu Tataki with wasabi cream $16.

Everyone was raving about the wagyu and the wasabi cream! I didn't have a taste but I had it described to me!

From the main menu, we also had the Octopus, pickled cucumber and wakame $7

Also from the special's, we had 2 servings of the Grilled chicken spare ribs, wasabi and dry nori $9, I can still taste it... delicious!

The Lamb ribs with red miso $14 were so superb that we ordered 4 serves of it! It was just delicious. Perfectly char-grilled, it was pure bliss to be gnawing on some good bones :P I had extra pieces as I didn't get to try the Ox tongue or the wagyu :) A perfect trade!!!

And we couldn't leave before we had any of their desserts!

So as a team (chotto!!!), we decided to order nearly one of everything on the menu (bar the ice-creams and cheeses).

So from the top (going clockwise), we had the Dark Chocolate and yuzu fondue (for 2) $14, Fuji apple Millefeulle $10, White sesame mousse, tapioca $10 and the Ginger Creme Brulee $10

In terms of taste, everything apart from the fondue was excellent. I'm not sure why, but the dark chocolate sauce clashed horribly (in my opinion) with the citrus-y taste of the yuzu... resulting in a terribly mixture!

A blurry shot of the anonymous team!

We spent around $60 each (I was mathematically and mentally challenged in my calculation here) and it was well worth it. Great group of people (who allowed me to be myself and take photos at every opportunity, with flash!), great drinks and great food.

I had a really awesome night... service was good... the wait staff were polite... although they did forget our White Asparagus order...

Would I come back? Definitely. And will be bringing a few others in tow as well.

The entrance is a bit ubiquitous and hard to find, but once you do, just go through the blowing black curtains and follow the sound of incessant chatter to a land down under :)

*Disclaimer: All food ratings are purely based on my own experiences and how I feel about the service, food and quality

Food/ Cuisine: Japanese
Dining Style: Restaurant (Izakaya)
Overall Food Rating (Based on the Dining style): 7.5/10
Restaurant ambiance: 7/10 (long and narrow, not quite at all what you think a Japanese restaurant looks like)
Service/ Attitude: 7/10 (apart from the mysterious missing order of White Asparagus, which they apologised for and we cancelled, all was good)
Value for money: 7/10

114 Russell Street
Melbourne VIC 3000

Tel:(03) 9654 2977

Izakaya Den is open for 
Lunch - Monday to Friday from 12-2.30pm
Nights - Monday to Saturday from 5.30pm (Kitchen open until Midnight)
Booking is essential for large groups (5-20 pax)

How to get there:

View Larger Map

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon


  1. Whoa. I wish I was a food blogger...

    Looks fantastic. I shall have to pay it a visit!

  2. woWz, a burn in the pocket =P. although i'm no more innocent of doing that lately at spice temple =)

  3. Aaaand this place remains on my Melbourne list! It's growing and growing :)

  4. Ingenue! #chotto!

    Fab write of of a really fun night. And now I'm hankering after the corn... Will also make a point of checking out Chuji for the eggplant - thanks for the tip.

  5. I shall be back too! I don't think we drank enough... :P

  6. Phwoar! Look at all of that food. It looks fantastic and I am really intrigued by the corn dish now! :)

  7. Chotto!!!!

    I'm reminiscing about how great the food was. We should definitely go back and order the other half of the menu that we didn't get to try this time.

  8. Sometimes a nice treat like this is worth it. Sounds yummy over all.

  9. Good review! The prices are actually not as bad as I thought it would be. Look forward to checking it out!

  10. Evan: You just have to love food :)

    Almost always ravenous: Considering the amount of food we ate, this was waaaaayyyy better than Spice Temple :P

    Conor: The list just keeps getting longer!

    Injera: CHOTTO!

    Penny: Yeah we're thinking of going back too!

    Lorraine: The more the merrier!

    Thanh: I just want fried chicken...

    Evelyne: It was an awesome treat :)

    Kim: Yayy!!!

  11. I've yet to go but I had a sample of the food at Taste of Melbourne too and it's on my list of places to visit! The prices seem decent too!

  12. What is the US dollar doing there?!

  13. Haha, that was my US dollar Michelle. I just happened to have it in my wallet from my trip to the US. I even exchanged my US 1 dollar for Singaporean 2 dollar with Agnes, who had that in her wallet after her trip to England coming home via Singapore.

  14. Looks delightful! Would love to go try it out one day... though probably for a special occasion of sorts because it's a bit out of my regular dinner price range ^^'

  15. April: You should go!!!

    Michelle: What Thanh said :P

    Ames4eva: It's actually only slightly more expensive than other Jap places... take out the alcohol and it'll be decent :)

  16. Oh! Hahaha. Chotto. I had completely forgotten about that. And about the US dollar! And I agree with Penny - we definitely didn't drink enough. We need to go again and do better. ;)

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