Izakaya Den

It’s a little embarassing to admit that it took me ages to find Izakaya Den. Hey, I was overseas when it opened and I missed all the hype (and directions).  I knew generally where it was but MTV and I kept on walking past the discreet door which leads down a set of stairs to the basement restaurant. Of course once I made it down there I discovered the place was packed with hordes of people and there was a queue for a table, clearly everyone else had managed to find their way there pretty easily.

Pork belly 

The underground space is dominated by a long bar which you can eat at for a front row view of the kitchen and bar action.  The menu is theatrically presented in rolled scrolls and is probably best described as a Western take on Japanese food.   It could all go horribly wrong in inexperienced hands, but here the result is vibrant and interesting thanks to the combined talents of Miyuki Nakahara, Takashi Omi and Simon Denton.   Izakaya does equal drinking den in Japan so I should mention the lengthy beer list and impressive range of sakes direct from Japan.  We were boring though and just drank Asahi.


To start, delicate kingfish sashimi ($18) which was sparkling fresh and a real highlight of the meal.  It’s all about the quality of the fish and this was quality.  Steamed eggplant with minced chicken and chilli miso ($16) offered a new interpretation of one of my all time favourite dishes Nasu Dengaku.  The dish had a strong, rich flavour and was lovely and silky but it lacked a bit of texture.   From the grill I loved the pork belly ($19) which had a great charred flavour and was served simply with spring onions and some lemon and salt on the side cut through the fattiness of the pork.

Salted caramel fondue

The best part of the meal was the end thanks to the brilliant salted caramel fondue ($16) for dessert.  The sticky sauce came with frozen grapes and squares of brioche for dipping.  It was pure genius and I am busily trying to work out whether I can justify buying a fondue for my kitchen so I can recreate the dish.   While it may have been a little embarassing wandering up and down Russell street, I’m glad I finally found Izakaya Den, it’s an underground sensation.

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Details: Izakaya Den, Basement, 114 Russell Street, Melbourne 3000 (Ph 03 9654 2977)  No bookings except if you are a group of 5 or 20.
Damage: Pricey

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  1. Nasu dengaku is one of my faves too – the addition of minced chicken sounds like a good’un

  2. I’m surprised you haven’t been here. One of our favourite places in the city…and one of the somewhat hyped places worth visiting. Our dessert pick is the figi apple millefueille – perfect end with chilled sake. 🙂

  3. I totally couldn’t find it either. But it’s so busy that it seems like everyone else has! 😛

  4. Katy – I know I can’t help but order it if I see it on a menu.

    Andi – Me too

    MoMo and Coco – Well looks like I will have to go back and try that, although I did love the salted caramel sundae

    Lorraine – I know I felt a bit useless when I saw so many people were in there. I am a little too reliant on Google Maps sometimes.

  5. I think the kingfish sashimi and the salted caramel fondue alone are worth the flight Down Under!!

  6. Do they have menus that can be shared among a group?

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