114 Russell St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
It’s been a while. The last time I was Izakaya Den was a whole two and a half years ago, to celebrate Chris and my 3rd anniversary. And whilst many things have changed since then, stepping into Izakaya Den felt like stepping backwards in time. Pushing open the dark curtains at the entrance, everything was the same, from the bar running the entire length of the restaurant, to the fashionable underground vibe.
We whetted our appetites with a plate of Crumbed Flat Mushroom ‘Kara-Age’, Nori ($11). Underneath the golden coating of crumbs were beautifully ripe and juicy pieces of mushroom that oozed with earthy sweetness.
Chris has finally been converted over to tofu, so he had no qualms about trying the Agedashi Tofu, Quinoa, and Tomato ($11). This was an unusual take on the classic, the tender silken tofu embossed with kernels of fried quinoa. Each piece of tofu was garnished with a slice of cherry tomato and though tasty, I found that neither the quinoa nor the tomato added much to the classic Japanese snack.
Conversely, the Ox Tongue, Spring Onion ($16) was served very traditionally, the smoky, chewy slices dressed lightly with ponzu, plenty of sesame oil, and pinches of minced scallion. It was bar food at its classiest, and fantastic with a bowl of Steamed Rice ($3)
And of course, we couldn’t leave without a plate of the signature Den Fried Chicken ($12). Coated with spices, it was eternally perfect, especially with the thick garlic aioli.
Izakaya Den was unusually subdued when we visited, despite it being 6pm on a Friday night. Maybe Melbourne has figured out what I finally realised – that Izakaya Den is good but not amazing, and horrifically overpriced, even for Melbourne. It’s disappointing to have my fond memories shattered but hey, at least now I know.
Rating: 13/20 – deal-breaker.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.