Izakaya Yebisu

December 19, 2015

Izakaya Yebisu has always been an eye-catcher when visiting Regent Place Arcade for the purpose of grabbing a matcha drink from Chanoma or trying a new soft serve flavour from Aqua S. The bright and colourful signage reminded me of the sensory overload I was immediately hit with when I set foot along the busy streets of Shinjuku and Dotonbori and drowned in the memorable nightlife. I love that a bit of Japan's izakaya culture has made its way to Sydney and I was so delighted when Yuri from SDMG Marketing invited DT and I to try Izakaya Yebisu.

Bar area
One can choose to sit at the counter and really indulge in the bar atmosphere by being able to watch the waitstaff and chefs and enjoy delicious bar snacks and alcoholic beverages.

A spacious and modern design but with traditional Japanese elements incorporated throughout, I truly felt like I was transported to Japan momentarily for one night. 

I couldn't help but notice the gorgeous light fixtures which created a lovely and warm ambience albeit the lighting was still quite dim making it difficult to take good photos with my camera.

Sake trolley being wheeled to table
There was certainly an enjoyable and casual atmosphere and it was especially fun and exciting to see the sake trolley being brought out which was signified with a big ring of a bell and an exclamation in Japanese by the waitress.

Sake poured into the glass
When the sake cart came around we were told we could sample the sake on offer before making a decision. Not being a fan of alcohol DT took the reins and tried the sweeter variation. I tentatively took a sip and was surprised to find that it was quite pleasant on the tongue with a faint sweetness laced throughout. My lack of alcohol tolerance meant it was too strong for me to handle so DT had to finish it.

Order via touch screen
Like Izakaya Samurai which is part of the same group of restaurants, iPads are present at every table to make ordering convenient and you'll be able to see what you've ordered and the total cost so you can control your spending but at the same time the touch screen menu makes it easy to go overboard as all the pictured dishes were enticing and accessible by the press of a finger.

Sakura mocktail $6.80
My mocktail disappeared pretty quickly as it was so refreshing and the floral notes of sakura gave a unique dimension of sweetness to the beverage. DT remarked it tasted like Calpis and I would have to agree as it had a hint of milkiness to it that I also really enjoyed.

Special menu
A special menu board is available with a different board for each day of the week. As you can see it was super colourful and the dishes were handwritten on cute cut-out paper to make your dining experience even more quirky and fun. DT and I chose one special from the board which was the Salmon Belly Roll. 

Salmon belly roll $11.80
When it comes to sushi there's nothing I like more than aburi sushi as I'm not the fondest of sashimi because of its squishiness and raw taste. Aburi involves partially grilling the topside with a blow torch and I love the seared texture and flavour that comes from this technique. The aburi salmon belly was delightfully smokey and soft and so good with the drizzle of mayonnaise and bursts of plump salmon roe. The sushi roll itself was prepared well as the rice was soft but not overdone, seasoned with just enough vinegar and wrapped up fresh ripened cubes of avocado.

Pork belly $3.00 and shiitake mushroom stuffed with meat $4.30
The pork belly pieces had a bit of bite and chewiness to them so don't expect them to melt in the mouth. Otherwise they were quite tender from the fat and full of flavour. I preferred the other skewer as it was incredibly juicy from the shiitake mushrooms and matched well with the flavoursome minced meat balls. All the yakitori was served with a thick miso sauce that was sweet and salty and highly addictive.

Tamagoyaki $8.80
Tamagoyaki (literally 'grilled egg') is a Japanese-style omelette consisting of three simple ingredients: egg, sugar and soy sauce. Yuri highly recommended it to us so it was a must-try item. When it arrived to our table it was most elegantly presented with side garnishings of chopped shallots and grated radish. A portion of the rolled egg was cut up and turned upwards in order to showcase the intricate layers, cooking beautiful tamagoyaki is certainly an impressive skill as ensuring the egg is still soft and fluffy while concentrating on rolling the egg would be difficult to master. It was the most delicious tamagoyaki I have tried to date, a perfect balance of sweetness and saltiness assaulted my tastebuds and the egg was incredibly fluffy and creamy. Tamagoyaki was never a favourite dish of mine as usually it tends to be on the sweeter side but the one at Yebisu has no doubt changed my mind about it.

Mentai chicken meat ball $4.80
Izakaya Yebisu dish up excellent chicken meat balls. Each one was plump, bursting with juiciness and flavour and only left me wanting more. The mentaiko (marinated roe) paste was quite nice and paired well with them. It did have a distinctive fishy aroma which may be off-putting.

Chicken wing $3.80
The skewered charred chicken wing seasoned with curry salt did not disappoint with skin so crispy and hot that the layer of fat melted in the mouth. For all the skewers there were three options for seasoning/flavouring: teriyaki sauce, salt and curry salt. Curry salt was definitely our favourite and we opted it for most of the yakitori. It provided additional flavour to the delicious succulent chicken and added some heat.

Chicken meat ball with poached egg $4.80
The poached egg was served to us in its own bowl and the yolk was veiled by silky egg white but not for long once we smothered the chicken meat ball with it. The minced chicken was delicious and juicy with an appreciable texture and well-seasoned. Actually, we could have done without the poached egg but I was suckered into trying something a little out of the ordinary. It didn't add much to the meat ball and if anything made it more moist which was a good thing and also made for an interesting photo.

Okonomiyaki $17.80
Okonomiyaki is one of my top favourite foods from Japan and if I had to assign a ranking, ramen would take the number one spot followed by okonomiyaki. This popular Japanese pancake is commonly made of shredded cabbage, grated yam, flour, eggs and water or dashi. A variety of ingredients can be further added such as sliced pork belly and seafood. Topped with okonomiyaki sauce and lots of mayonnaise, bonito and aonori flakes, it's the most awesome savoury pancake you can have. Izakaya Yebisu's okonomiyaki was visually promising but taste-wise it was really average. It was over-grilled as the exterior was too crisp which made it hard to tear through with chopsticks and the cooked batter was somewhat dry. There was also a handful too many bean sprouts scattered on the hot plate and only served to overwhelm what was supposed to be a pancake with creamy soft innards melded with sweet and salty flavours. For a hefty price of $17.80 we only received what looked like half an okonomiyaki and the other half I can guess probably went to another table who had ordered the same dish. While the prices in general at Yebisu were quite high there was a severe lack of value for this particular dish. 

Tempura ice cream $2 with Washoku Lovers member card
Yuri especially requested that we try the tempura ice cream which was a bargain at $2. You do need to be a Washoku Lovers member and show your card to be able to order it but membership is free. I mistakenly agreed for the tempura ice cream to come out straight away so by the time it arrived DT and I were only midway through the okonomiyaki. Crispy tempura batter still slightly warm provided a nice contrast to the cold vanilla ice cream of which ours was sadly melted. I'm sure it would have tasted even better had we got to it sooner. The chocolate drizzle completed the sweet creation and I found myself scooping up the chocolate sauce on the sides of the plate with the left over tempura and ice cream.

Chicken heart $3.20
This was the last thing we ordered and I would have never ordered this had one of my co-workers not recommended it. My past experiences with chicken heart rendered it as completely tasteless and unappetisingly chewy and I've steered clear of it ever since. If you find yourself debating whether to order it not, take the plunge and order it. Chewy it was but that chewiness also came with bursts of flavour and hence easily went down. Thanks to Yebisu I've been convinced that this organ is very much edible and with a flavoursome marinade can be transformed into something very delicious.

Izakaya Yebisu would be the perfect venue for a night out with a group, big or small or a fun casual date night. With such an extensive range of food and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages available there's sure to be something for everyone and there's plenty of opportunity to share and try a bit of everything. Take advantage of the sake trolley which is carted around for the night and try the sake on offer. It is on the expensive side though so the bill will easily add up. The portion sizes are also relatively small so it's probably not the best place to go if you want to leave with a full belly without breaking the bank. What it delivers is an authentic izakaya experience with delicious yakitori. Definitely try the tamagoyaki too and the tempura fried ice cream. 

Become a Washoku Lovers member and you'll be on your way to discovering old and new Japanese eats while being able to claim discounts, freebies and/or exclusive menu items like the tempura ice cream.

DT and I dined as guests of Izakaya Yebisu with many thanks to Yuri from SDMG Marketing for the invitation

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

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