Wednesday, 20 November 2013

Izakaya Hachibeh

143-145 Bourke St 
Melbourne, VIC 

Alcohol is not my thing. To me, you just can’t win with it. Not only does it make me uncomfortably warm around the collar and embarrassingly red in the face, it also takes up precious calories and money that I could be spending on food instead. 

Japanese bars, aka izakayas, are a different story altogether. With a heavy focus on a wide selection of nibbles to go with alcohol, Friday night drinks suddenly became much more interesting. And whilst I don’t know how it took so long, I’m glad I’m finally at Izakaya Hachibeh with Daniel for some post-study sustenance.

Upon stepping inside, Izakaya Hachibeh seemed like the real deal. Spread over two floors, the homely restaurant had all the trimmings – bottles of sake, j-pop playing in the background, and a sushi bar centrepiece. The staff are unfailingly polite, greeting new customers warmly, and calling out to the regulars in Japanese.

Miso Soup ($3.8)

Being a ridiculously cold day (despite it being pretty much November), we started off with bowls of Miso Soup ($3.8) to warm our stomachs. In contrast to your usual earthen brews, this was a mellow bowl of soup with a gentle hint of umami, and plenty of seaweed and tofu.

Aside from miso soup, Daniel also had a carafe of Ukkari Hachibeh Sake ($10), served hot, to warm him right down to his fingertips. I had a small taste and it was sweet and smooth, heating a trail into the stomach. And why no photo? Because they all turned out blurry, that’s why. 

Takoyaki ($9.6 for 10)

Sharing a mutual love for Takoyaki ($9.6 for 10), it was one of the first entrees we decided on. These little doughy balls of goodness weren’t quite as spectacular as you’d find in Japan, and I personally prefer them slathered in mayo and bonito flakes. However, they were still some of the better ones I’ve had in Melbourne, with a creamy center and ample amounts of chewy octopus pieces.

Tuna Rolls ($8.6, 6 pieces)

We also ordered a plate of Tuna Rolls ($8.6, 6 pieces), which were the only disappointment for the night. The serving size was tiny for the price, and the tuna, whilst not of that disgusting mushy texture you get with old tuna, was only of adequate freshness. All in all it dulled the ache for sushi but no more.

Gyutan Shioyaki ($8.2)

I’m really glad we ordered the Gyutan Shioyaki ($8.2), because it was the best dish of the night. The ox tongue was sliced thin and simply grilled with salt and pepper for a miraculous result. Each piece was slightly chewy but still melted in the mouth with an indulgent fattiness and smoky aroma. Daniel, who only agreed to order this because I wanted it, eyed me balefully as I called dibs on the last piece. 

Katsu Curry ($14.5)

To pad out the small dishes, we shared a bowl of Katsu Curry ($14.5), which was a generous and solid rendition of the dish. The pork cutlet was pleasingly lean, and retained its crunch very well. And the curry, whilst mild, was authentic in flavours, and heartily spruced up with large chunks of potato and carrot.

We left Izakaya Hachibeh nostalgic for Japan, but full and happy. The food is good but not magnificent, and it’d be easy to rack up a huge bill in the span of one night as the portions (barring the curry) are quite small. Nevertheless, having such a good variety of food and a great vibe, it really is hard to be too annoyed. With a huge menu of over 200 food items and almost as many drinks, Izakaya Hachibeh really brings some of the authentic Japanese bar experience to Australia.

Rating: 14/20 – japan dreams.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit. 

Izakaya Hachibeh on Urbanspoon

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