830 Glenferrie Rd
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
Hawthorn, VIC 3122
I’ve worked out the secret to the perfect izakaya experience – do it like the Japanese. Izakaya dining, though satisfying, can rack up quite the bill. So instead of filling up on nothing but nibbles, spend an hour or two snacking on sashimi and fried chicken and sipping on sake, before finishing up with a hearty rice or noodle dish.
|Chris giving me what I hope is an inadvertent evil eye|
As far as I can work out, Izakaya Jiro is relatively new addition that appeared quietly amongst the strip or restaurants along Glenferrie Road, and seems like the real deal. The modestly-sized restaurant is a snug cross between the cluttered comfort of a Japanese izakaya, and the languid warmth of a tapas bar. Service is unobtrusive but in true Japanese fashion, endlessly attentive and welcoming.
|Hakutsuru Mini Glass ($10, 120mL)|
Sake may be the classic Japanese tipple, but I am substantially more partial to umeshu, a liqueur made from steeping plums in alcohol and sugar. The Hakutsuru Mini Glass ($10, 120mL), served on the rocks, was delicately invigorating. The flaxen liquid was a harmonious balance of sweet and sour, with a dainty fruitiness.
|Renkon Chips ($4)|
Most people START their meal with Renkon Chips ($4), but I actually ordered it as the finale, when the sight of plate after plate of crispy lotus root slices coming out of the kitchen became too much. This was a horrible yet fantastic decision – whilst the crunchy chips made for a delicious snack, they were very substantial, nudging out any room in my stomach for dessert (well not quite; we did manage to fit in a kiddie-sized serving of cold rock afterwards).
|Takoyaki ($6, 5 pieces)|
Of course I ordered the Takoyaki ($6, 5 pieces), how could I not? Whilst still not as good as Japan, these were the best I’ve had in Melbourne, hands down. They were crisp with a hot, smooth center, a large piece of octopus hidden in the middle, and garnished lightly with all the trimmings.
|Agedashi Tofu ($6, 4 pieces)|
Compared to the takoyaki, the Agedashi Tofu ($6, 4 pieces) could’ve been a lot crunchier. That aside though, the dashi broth the quivery cubes of tofu sat in was a subtle shade of umami, and was overall a reliable rendition of a classic.
|Butabara ($3.5ea)/Tsukune ($2.8ea)/Gyu Tongue ($3.8ea)|
Like Maedaya, Izakaya Jiro has a dedicated charcoal grill, where skewers are made to order. We indulged in the Tsukune ($2.8ea), Gyu Tongue ($3.8ea), and Butabara ($3.5ea), which though diminutive, were jammed with flavour. The tsukune were little balls of chicken mince generously seasoned with ginger; the folds of beef tongue were immaculately chewy and smoky; and the small pieces of pork belly with its charred, fatty edges tasted even better than bacon.
|Beef Yakisoba ($12.8)|
And in true Japanese fashion, we finished the meal with a plate of Beef Yakisoba ($12.8). Hot off the grill, the noodles were tossed in a mixture of tender beef slices and fresh vegetables, topped with swaying bonito flakes. They were a bit lack-lustre after the selection of snacks we had just consumed, but made for a generous filler to end the meal with.
I feel like a good izakaya is always more than the sum of its parts, and this is certainly the case here. Not to say that the food or service was mediocre, but when put together, it turned something good into something great. As we’ve only touched upon a small portion of the menu (and umeshus), I’m keen to come back. Izakaya Jiro has it going on.
Rating: 16/20 – jiro-sama
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.