Izakaya Samurai

October 21, 2015

It's a somewhat chilly spring evening and what better way to wind down on a Sunday than being able to eat good quality no-fuss Japanese izakaya-style food. It seemed many had the same idea as upon arriving it was quite a full house. Yuri (from SD Marketing) had kindly booked DT and I a table al fresco and a table indoors, we opted for the former so we could enjoy the fresh air and have better lighting for photography.
These large paper lanterns (chōchin) are traditional Japanese decorations characteristic of izakaya restaurants. An interesting tidbit that Yuri shared was that the Chinese character (kanji) on the white lanterns reads 'samurai' which was very fitting for the restaurant.

The seating indoors was also inviting as it had such a cosy and relaxed feel and a warm ambience. The lights emanated soft hues and created a beautiful glow to the restaurant which was quite mesmerising. The thoughtfully placed Japanese decorations were endearing (especially the kawaii cat statue).

An arrangement of sake bottles line the counter to create a beautiful transition from the dining area to the kitchen and you can catch glimpses of the chefs and waitstaff hard at work as you enjoy the food.

Sashimi counter
Patrons can feel assured that the sashimi served is fresh by having a clear display of the assorted seafood.

Touch screen menu
There were iPad menus present at each table which was super convenient as it allowed diners to leisurely order food as they went which took away the stress of deciding on all the dishes beforehand. The menu layout on the iPad itself was organised and the offerings at Izakaya Samurai were extensive. As the restaurant has a strong focus on being family-friendly, there were kids meal sets available with four to choose from (ranging in price from $6 - $12.80) so there was definitely something for everyone. Children 12 years and under are also eligible to receive a free drink on weekends.
Calpico Soda $4.20
I'm sure most readers would be familiar with the popular sweet Japanese drink, 'Calpis'.  I was met with a carbonated version and it was actually really delicious and refreshing. The aftertaste could be described closely to a fizzy version of Yakult which may or may not take your fancy.

Mango Soda $4.20
DT went with the mango soda which was refreshing as well albeit a little sickly sweet but as it was a soda, it was tolerable.

Beef and assorted ramen toppings

Shinya-san, the owner of Izakaya Samurai recommended the beef and tonkotsu shabu-shabu (hot pot). A portable gas cooker was used to keep our hot pot soup simmering away as we dipped the beef slices into it. 

Beef for the hotpot 
A good portion of beef to share between two people we did have trouble separating the meat though. 

Tonkotsu broth
The beauty of beef is that you only need to cook it very briefly otherwise you would risk it becoming tough and dry. The beef slices were quite tender and juicy although I did feel that a ponzu soy sauce or sesame sauce of some sort should have been provided as the beef, despite being cooked in the tonkotsu broth still lacked flavour. 

Toppings for ramen
The toppings consisted of a boiled egg, corn, bamboo shoots, pickled radish and finely chopped spring onion.

Ramen noodles
Shinya-san informed us that once we finished with the beef to proceed to place the ramen toppings and the noodles into the pot.

Ramen hot pot
The tasty broth, now infused with beef flavour was ready for the ramen noodles which were cooked beforehand so we only had to heat them up momentarily and it was ready to eat within minutes.

Mini ramen bowl
The soup turned out delicious, although a little too salty, the bamboo shoots would be the likely culprit for that. We ended up cooking the ramen for too long so it turned out a tad too soft for my liking however DT preferred them that way. Overall, the beef and ramen shabu-shabu set was the perfect remedy for a relatively cold evening and I enjoyed the somewhat DIY ramen experience. I do think that the price was somewhat steep ($35.80) for what was included in the set and it would be better value to go with the seafood hotpot instead which was around $25.

Tuna and salmon sashimi $17.80
Expertly cut slices of sashimi were presented in a beautiful Japanese serving bowl. One could easily tell that they were fresh due to their bright colour and glistening surface. When popped into the mouth they were soft and buttery in texture. My only gripe was the absence of wasabi to complement the sashimi.

Eggplant with sweet miso $8.80
It may not sound like the most appealing or exciting item on their huge menu but who knew that a large piece of grilled eggplant slathered with sweet miso paste could taste so amazing. I'll admit that I  struggled to cut up the eggplant with the plastic spoon provided especially where the eggplant skin was involved. In terms of taste and texture, the eggplant flesh was extremely soft and creamy and the sweet miso paste was the best combination of savoury and sweet, definitely more on the sweet side though however it was the perfect match with the grilled eggplant. 

Grilled seafood tacos (2 pieces) $8.80
We were perusing the menu near the end of our dinner and happened upon this, the sound of grilled seafood in a taco was definitely intriguing. I recalled Yuri mentioning that it was good so we decided to try it and I was glad we did. The presentation was lovely, with cute little taco shells holding a mix of seared salmon and scallop pieces. The taco itself was wonderfully crisp against the melt-in-your mouth seared seafood and I would love to know what sauce was used because the flavours were absolutely addictive. 

Ice cream with daifuku $3.80
Daifuku is a Japanese dessert comprising of a rounded ball of ice cream securely wrapped in a thin mochi (rice cake) skin. The mochi skin was incredibly stretchy which did cause some difficulty for  cutting up with our fork and we'll admit it became a little messy. Despite that, I really loved the texture of the mochi, as it had just the right amount of chewiness and I enjoyed the contrast in texture with the cold and creamy vanilla ice cream. 

Green tea tiramisu with vanilla ice cream $6.20
I haven't had many opportunities to try green tea tiramisu except for one occasion at Chef's Palette located in Strathfield which got its little share of Insta fame. I can confidently say that the one I had at Izakaya Samurai was significantly better. The green tea sponge was amazingly moist and the green tea flavour itself was much more pronounced which should be commended on as many green tea desserts I have tried fail to deliver that matcha hit. The mascarpone cream was not heavily sweetened and light and airy in texture. The scoop of vanilla ice cream wasn't necessary though and I would have happily polished off the cake without it especially since the ice cream was somewhat icy.

Kids play area
Shinya-san, the owner of Izakaya Samurai is also dedicated to creating a kid-friendly restaurant so families can rest assured when dining there that their young children can be kept in a secure area and be entertained by the toys available. It's indeed a very thoughtful gesture and one that I'm sure many families can appreciate.

Izakaya Samurai is a lovely place to relax with family or friends over good quality Japanese food and drinks. Not to mention, the service was excellent as Shinya-san and the staff were very friendly and accommodating.

A happy hour menu consisting of two set meals is available at the restaurant from Mondays to Thursdays between 5:30pm and 7:00pm.

The $5 set gets you a choice of one drink: Sapporo beer, house red or white wine, house Japanese sake (extra $3) and a choice of one dishedamame, lotus root chips, chips, chicken nuggets, seaweed salad, gyoza or takoyaki

The $9.80 set would be a good choice for those feeling a bit more famished with the same selection of drinks and a choice of one dish: sashimi, tender beef skirt steak, chicken karaage with Japanese kimchi and mayo, pork loin or mixed croquettes. 

The sets are great value for money, making Izakaya Samurai the perfect stop for those who have just finished work and in dire need of a quick and affordable bite. 

Washoku Lovers members benefits
Washoku Lovers members can enjoy exclusive discounts and rewards at selected Japanese restaurants which display the Washoku Lovers sticker. At Izakaya Samurai, you can score a Suntory Malt for $5 (valued at $8.80) or a small glass of Japanese Sake Ippin for $5 (valued at $9.50) or a free soft drink. Izakaya is loosely defined as a place for eating and drinking and typically specialise in bar snacks that pair excellently with an alcoholic beverage, so it's even better that they are offered at a discounted price for Washoku Lovers members. If you are not one for alcohol like myself then the free soft drink may be your cup of tea.

Washoku Lovers is a fantastic program in general for discovering authentic Japanese restaurants and it doesn't matter whether you are looking for cheap, moderate or more premium dining as there are many partnered restaurants to choose from.

To become a member head on over to the website: Washoku Lovers

Thank you to Yuri from SDMG Marketing and Shinya-san, owner of Izakaya Samurai for inviting us to dine as guests

Izakaya Samurai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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  1. It's been a while since I visited this place and I miss the green tea tiramisu so so much :D YUM

    1. Thanks for dropping by, that green tea tiramisu was surprisingly good you should definitely go back :)