Friday, 14 May 2010


114 Russell St, Melbourne - ph: (03) 9654 2977

Come here for: meticulously crafted Japanese food and to impress on a first date

Don't come here: if you are really hungry and dining on a budget; portions are tiny and don't come cheap

I've been looking forward to coming to this restaurant for a while, so when my friend asked where we could go for dinner in the city, I immediately suggested Isakaya Den. I had already been there before for a quick dinner and loved the food, but had to rush out and didn't get to enjoy the atmosphere properly.

It's easy to get more seduced by the venue than by the food itself. Like any other cool restaurant in Melbourne, you could walk past the door without ever realising it is there. When you do find it, walk down the stairs to the basement level where a barely lit, long aisle of tall tables stand, decorated with of Sapporo beer and sake bottles.

We sat at the bar and got to see all the kitchen action first hand. The chef worked with amazing precision to assemble beautifully crafted little portions of fish, meat and vegetables. Everything looked millimetrically aligned and perfect.

Each of us ordered 2 dishes. My friend chose the duck breat and pork belly.

Duck breast with soy pomegranate ($15)

I tried the duck and it was delicious; juicy, really soft meat accompanied by sweet pomegranate dressing. Really light and tasty. Not a big fan of pork belly, but my friend loved the dish. She said it reminded her of Chinese-style pork belly, but with Japanese spices.

Kurobuta pork belly ($15)

I chose on of the vegetable dishes of beetroot and mushrooms and their version of the super traditional miso soup - served with pippies here.

Beetroot with button mushroom ($11)

Both dishes were delicious. The beetroot was incredibly soft and its sweetness contrasted really well with the soy infused mushrooms. Miso was also very flavorsome, but without any of its elements overpowering each other. The pippies were an interesting addition - like a Japanese version of a seafood chowder.

Miso soup with pippies ($10)

As you can see in the pictures, the portions are really small, so my friend was happy to finish off with dessert (I chose to go with a small bottle of sake instead :). The picture here doesn't do justice to this dessert. It was almost too cute to eat!

There was actually no millefeuille pastry in it at all; the title only alluding to its layered form. There was no need for any dough either; stacks of caramelised apple and apple sorbet proved to be a deliciously refreshing combination, specially when highlighted by the mint.

Fuji apple millefeuille ($10)

We both really enjoyed our meals. The only disappointing thing was how small the servings were. Even though I'm not a big eater, I was still a bit hungry when I got back home. Could have easily ordered another dish.

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon


  1. It's great when there's the option to sit at the bar and witness the craziness of the kitchen. Maybe you could have sneakily grabbed some extra food while they weren't looking to fill you up ;)

    Would love to try the beetroot dish!

  2. AWESOME dishes that you failed to try:

    tuna tataki

    ox tongue <-- damn good

    sweet corn

    den chicken

    kingfish head

    Baked fish with miso + ginger

    fried wild rice

    green tea fondue

    ginger creme brulee