Name: Izakaya Den
114 Russell St
Melbourne 3000 VIC
Average price: Entree: $10-$15, Mains: $15-$33, Dessert: $5-$12
We ordered: Sweet Corn Kaki Age - $7
We ordered two servings of this as I had heard many good reviews. I am glad we did as I could easily have eaten two plates of these. The fritters had the perfect amount of corn-to-batter ratio and were wonderfully crispy with sweet, juicy corn kernels. What elevated this dish from good to yum though was the green tea salt- there should have been more! There simply wasn't enough to properly season each fritter with.
Greens, fried bean curd and dashi - $10
There was a touch too much broth for my liking as it made the dish more akin to a soup, but I wasn't given a spoon. The dish was salty and savoury and overall pleasant enough.
Mr.M ordered these, he said they were ok, but nothing special.
Dessert: Black sesame brulee - $10
I am not sure whether this was a win for me...The texture of the custard and the crack of the brulee top were great, but the black sesame flavour in a creme brulee was odd for me, I'm not sure why. The others seemed to enjoy it.
Cost: Around $40? for three savoury and one sweet dish.
Service: Good. Despite having no pen or paper the waiters got all of our orders correct and the food came out fairly quickly. Our water was never topped up though. Before eating you are given a warm hand towel to wipe your hand which is a nice touch seeing as though some of the food is made to be eaten with fingers. The menus are written on wound up scrolls and water is served in plastic cups with Japanese anime figures.
Atmosphere: Hard to find hole in the wall. From the outside there isn't much in terms of obvious signage to inform you that down two flights of stairs in a cavernous nook wedged between two buildings is a restaurant. The tiny corridor is taken up largely by the bar with some sofas and wooden crates acting as tables in the front half, with some actual tables in the back. It is a very tiny space, very dark and you are very close to your fellow diners. As they didn't take bookings for small groups the only space we could get was sitting on some crates with one wooden box as our table. As you can imagine it was quite awkward to eat as we were all juggling plates and cups as there wasn't enough space for three on the crate. Forget about finding a place to put your handbag. The noise level was also quite loud.
Parking: Ok - street parking is very limited but there are always underground Paid carparks.
Hours: Tue-Fri noon-2pm
Would I return: No. The food was decent but I felt too claustrophobic in the cramped interior to be able to enjoy myself and the food properly.