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I've talked about Izakayas before in earlier posts - they are basically a Japanese version of a pub. People join to enjoy beer and some grilled nibbles whilst they talk away their gripes from work, stresses from home and so on with their mates. There are just a ton of izakayas in Japan, and you can find them at any corner of the city and surrounds. But lets move away from Japan this time and have a look at what is available here in Sydney.
There are a few great Japanese restaurants in Sydney that are owned and run by Japanese owners. Of which there are probably just a handful of restaurants with the izakaya theme. Yebisu Izakaya is a themed restaurant you can find right in the heart of Town Hall. There is usually a queue during both lunch and dinner periods, and usually it is around 15-20 minute wait until you are seated to your table. The restaurant is divided into two main sections - a dining table area and a counter table. You probably won't be given a choice due to the long queues, but no matter where you are seated, there is an iPad for you to see the menu and order your food.
The menu itself ha s a wide selection of Japanese cuisines, ranging from the grilled items, sushi, salads, ramen, rice, udon, and daily specials which a waitress will guide you through after you are seated. The drinks menu also has quite a selection with specialty mocktails being a popular option to quench away your long day of stress.
Izakayas are mainly known for nibbling food such as skewers, and so on this occasion I went ahead and ordered a whole selection of skewers that can be commonly found in many izakayas in Japan. I ordered 4 types of skewers - Wagyu beef, Chicken thigh, Chicken heart and Chiken skin. All skewers can be ordered with your choice of seasoning - salt, curry salt or plain. For all options, I went for the salt as this brings all the skewers to life. The beef skewer was extremely juicy with a buttery taste. The chicken thigh is as expected, another juicy and tender piece of meat that has a strong char-grill flavour to it. The interesting options that you may hesitate - the chicken heart was extremely wonderful with a different kind of tenderness that melts in your mouth. And lastly, the chicken skin was crispy and fatty that is further enhanced and greatly contrasted with the sea salt seasoning - a must try for everyone!.
In addition to the skewers, my partner Phuong had ordered te daily special meal - the grilled Hooke white fish. This fish, unlike other common white fishes, has a great natural sweetness to its meat, that is also very tender and perfectly cooked. I'm not entirely sure if this is something that is available all the time as it is on the special menu, but if you do cross by this on their menu, have a go together with a bowl of rice and you will be very satisfied.
We weren't quite full with the skewers and the fish, so we ordered another dish, the wagyu beef tataki, which is a Japanese version of a beef carpaccio. The meat is extremely flavourful and sings together with the vinaigrette and onions and is a very refreshing dish. Towards the end of the meal, we saw a rare ice cream on the menu - the black sesame ice cream. And so we could not resists but order this to finish off our night.
This black sesame ice cream is a very light and refreshing scoop, with a sweetness that is well balanced. I've tried other black sesame ice creams before and they were much more darker in colour and stronger in sesame flavour (which is what I prefer) but this one may be suitable for the rest of you who prefers something closer to a traditional ice cream. This black sesame ice cream is mainly a vanilla ice cream are with black sesame bits infused and it gives a good level of "kindness" to refresh your mouth after eating grilled food.
Overall, the experience we had here in Yebisu Izakaya was very pleasant. We visited on a Saturday night and it was extremely crowded and noisy, but yet again, this is exactly what you would expect in izakayas in Japan as well so at least you get a good taste of the atmosphere. Speaking of the atmosphere, there is a lot of decorations in and outside of the restaurant that adds to the feel of downtown Japan, with its bright light signage hung up at the entrance of the restaurant. Other restaurants around have also spent a lot of effort in exterior decorations, so you get a good feel as you walk into the building. Though it can get a little pricey as you add more items to your list, if you're in Sydney and you crave for Japanese food, this is a must try restaurant
Address: 10/501 George Street, Sydney NSW 2000
Opening Hours: 12PM - 12AM
Average Send: $30 - $70
Access: 1 minute walk from Town Hall station
Born in Japan, brought up in Hong Kong and currently living in Sydney, Australia.
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