- Firstly, it is really hard to find;
- Secondly it is really popular (once you actually find the inconspicuous doorway on Russell Street that leads down to the restaurant that is) so get there EARLY;
- Thirdly it's quite dark so bring you big-gun camera if you plan to take photos;
- Lastly however, and most importantly, the food is epically yummy so don't pig out at Crazy Wing just three hours before you're planning dinner here like we did. Oops.
Lucky for me I had the first two points under control as I'd done quite a bit of reading on this cooler than cool Japanese Izakaya bar in preparation for my Melbourne eating fest. Most importantly they were actually going to be open over the Easter/Anzac Day long weekend.
We're given a seat at the bar - right in front of the red-hot grill, so tonight we're treated to dinner and a show! It's a great spot as we get to watch the chefs as the buzz around all night.
Despite the freezing Melbourne weather outside our seat at the grill warms me up instantly. In fact it's possibly a little too hot as within seconds my face is red and I've stripped off my scarf and coat. I need a cooling drink ASAP! The Boy opts for a beer, but the Lubiled High Tea ($12 for a non-alcoholic version, referred to as "for your health" on the menu as opposed to a "spiked" version) takes my fancy. It's a cooling mix of red grapefruit, fresh orange, cold oolong tea and sparkling blood orange. I savour every last drop and even crunch on the ice-cubes once the drink has been emptied from the glass.
As we'd had a late lunch we decide to just order a few small plates to share. Although looking through the photos now our late lunch hasn't hindered our ability to eat deep fried food. Don't judge!
We kick things off with a healthy option though. The Special Daikon Salad ($8.00) is a simple dish of grated daikon, a few cherry tomato halves, some micro herbs doused in a fresh and zesty tasting dressing. It's a light counterbalance to the deep-fried fest that is headed our way.
The Den Fried Chicken ($10.00) is as simple and as delectable as the name suggests and the Crispy Cocktail Potato with Anchovy Butter ($6.00) surprises and delights us with his unexpected 'fancy' presentation and moreish taste. This is no potato croquette my friends - it is a creamy, crispy ball of heaven on a plate!
The Sweet Corn Kaki-age ($7.00) is something neither of us had heard of before and curiosity dictates we order it. The sweet corn is still juicy despite its brief stint in the deep fryer and the Wasabi Salt is an interesting addition to the dish - and totally delicious.
We end the meal on a more healthy note with one of the evenings specials, Grilled Chicken Spare Ribs with Wasabi and Dried Nori ($9.00). We were skeptical at how large, and how much meat, a chicken spare rib would contain, but we were presented with plump chicken pieces dotted with landmines of Wasabi.
Izakaya Den is at 114 Russell Street, Melbourne (on the corner of Little Collins Street).