A Japanese restaurant complete with its own ski gondala? Welcome to Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya. The three year refit of Fitzroy’s Old Colonial Inn is now complete and Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is just one part of this quirky five storey venue on Brunswick Street.
Up top there’s The Upside Rooftop bar. Mr MTV and I headed there with our friends Hugh and Hannah for a pre dinner drink. There’s no views from here so Naked for Satan still wins as the best rooftop bar in Fitzroy but it’s a cool fitout with lots of angled wood panelling along the sloping roof that opens out onto the sky.
Back downstairs at Ichi Ni Nana the front part of the restaurant is divided into booth seating with low hanging light shades made from what looks to be colourful Japanese lanterns. Past the sushi station its all black lacquer and lush greenery and if you’re a group of six you can book the gondola to really maximise the Japanese ski resort vibe.
Just like many place in Japan the menu includes photos which is handy as service is still pretty shaky at this early stage. It’s a similar menu to Ichi Ni Na in St Kilda which is owned by the same crowd and has the same annoyingly titled “Japanese tapas” section. We had to spend a lot of time asking for drinks and checking if what we had ordered was actually turning up but this may just be initial teething problems given Ichi Ni Nana has just opened. In Japan an Izakaya is a drinking house and that’s certainly the emphasis here with the best dishes to order the sort that go well with beer: think gyoza and yakitori. The pork gyoza ($14) have nicely tanned bottoms while both the chicken and beef yakitori come cooked until the meat is just the right side of tender with a smoky flavour from the grill.
The sushi and sashimi at Ichi Na Na Izakaya is solid without being extraordinary. The kingfish ($8), tuna ($8) and salmon ($8) are fresh and beautifully plated but sashimi fanatics should go elsewhere to get their fix. Similarly the prawn tempura ($8) was heavily battered. We worked our way through a lot of the menu and highlights included the fried lotus root ($6.50) to start which is dusted with enough sichimi salt to make them totally addictive when teamed with an avocado salsa. The grilled lamb cutlets ($32 for four) are also moreish thanks to a miso marinade and our waitress said they are already a top seller.
If you want a real Japanese experience with seriously good sushi go to Minamishima or Kappo instead. But if you’re up for a buzzing atmosphere and the sort of food that goes well with plenty of drinks then Ichi Ni Nana is a good option.