12 The Esplanade
St Kilda, VIC 3182
Sometimes I get an itch that only a meal at an izakaya will scratch. It usually happens when I feel the need to have something that feels a little bit like a treat, but at the same time don’t want to break the calorie bank. And although I’ve just about gone through the more popular izakayas in town, there’s still a couple left, and one of them is Ichi Ni Izakaya.
I don’t have any exact dates, but Ichi Ni Izakaya has sat on the prime strip of St Kilda’s esplanade for at least a good half dozen years, back in the days where a new izakaya can probably still be considered trailblazing. Despite the interim years however, the interior looks as good as ever, comprising of a generously-sized dining room with oriental prints and similarly themed furniture, as well as a bright sushi-bar-cum-open-kitchen.
The Sake Aburi Carpaccio ($16) made a decent start to our meal, with slices of seared salmon sashimi dressed liberally with mayo and tangy soy ponzu. The flavours were a little heavy handed, and I couldn’t gauge the quality of the fish over the seasonings (HRMMM), but I liked the addition of wakame, which gave each bite a more substantial toothsomeness. The dish itself may be a little pedestrian, but it tasted pretty good all up.
The Ebi Tempura ($8.5, 2pcs) was pretty much what it said on the packet, though I did find myself impressed with the sweetness of the prawns, as well as the creamy, tangy house tartare.
I was less happy with the Tori ($8, 2pcs); the two miniscule skewers of grilled chicken were leaning towards the dry side, and had no qualities to justify its price.
The Edamame Salad ($12) on the other hand just left me baffled. It was described as a tofu and edamame salad served with lemon and herb dressing; what I tasted was a garden salad dressed with pesto, the edamame and tofu added in almost as an afterthought. This would’ve tasted better even just with a simple sesame soy dressing.
The last savoury dish for the day was the Dragon Roll ($20, 8pcs). This was a straight-up inside-out tuna avocado roll, topped with a deluge of tobiko, mayo, and chilli sauce. I won’t deny that this was tasty, but I can’t help but remember the equally as delicious Waya Roll, which also happened to be almost twice the size for just over half the price.
I gave Ichi Ni one last chance with its dessert of Pina Colada ($12). Unfortunately this, like everything else, was just ok. The cheesecake-like pastry clearly just came out of the fridge, to be topped with a satisfactory garnish of candied pineapple and toasted coconut.
Ichi Ni may have been good in the early days, where the expectations were low, and they could get away with charging a premium for what was perceived to be the authentic Japanese experience. Mind you, these days you could probably still get away with the latter, but the customers have also become savvier. Anyone who has eaten more than the bare minimum of Japanese food will realise that not only is the food inauthentic, but also expensive, even in comparison to superior food available elsewhere. Clearly, I was not impressed with Ichi Ni Izakaya, or as Chris put it…
Rating: 11/20 – did not scratch the ich (yes, ich).
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.