398-400 Bridge Rd
Richmond, VIC 3121
As the first izakaya I’ve ever been to, Maedaya will always hold a special place in my heart and stomach. And though I’m currently unemployed, Chris is a lovely person, and still takes me out for lovely dinners. What a sweetheart.
As a Melbourne favourite, not much has changed about this Japanese drinking hole. Sure, they’ve bought out the space next door and filled it with cosy booths, and sure, the enormous A2 menu has been transcribed over to an iPad ordering system. But the basics remain the same – a huge variety of Japanese drinking food accompanied by cheap cocktails and Asian liquors.
|Maedaya Tsukune Set ($11)|
Though now a feature of at least one other izakaya around town, the grill is still one of Maedaya’s drawcards. The sizzling and flames are as good as a show, and we ordered the Maedaya Tsukune Set ($11) right off the hot coals. The five skewers of minced chicken balls, dipped in a sweet soy marinade, were savoury and flavoursome, and garnished with a variety of toppings. The spicy mayo was the unanimous favourite, though we were also fond of the ground black pepper. The rest (garlic, chilli, wasabi mayo) were less memorable, but were just as tasty and perfect with a drink.
|Inari Kushi ($2.8)|
And a lone Inari Kushi ($2.8). The sheets of tofu were rolled up and basted with soy and flakes of chilli, its vegetarian sweetness a contrast to the meaty chicken skewers.
|Takoyaki ($5.5, 6pcs)|
When I went to Japan, I ate Takoyaki ($5.5, 6pcs) whenever I could get them, even if I’d just had a meal. And whilst I’ve yet to find some in Australia that are just as good, these certainly hit the spot. Crisp on the outside with a gooey, creamy centre and chewy octopus pieces, these are definitely some of the better takoyaki I’ve had outside of Japan.
|Yaki Buta ($8.5)|
We soon found that ordering at Maedaya is a bit of an ordeal. There are so many dishes but so little stomach! The Yaki Buta ($8.5) however was a good decision, the thin slices of grilled pork belly falling apart even as we picked them up, before melting completely in the mouth with a burst of gingery soy and caramelised fatty edges.
|Salt and Pepper Squid Salad ($8.5, regular)|
The Salt and Pepper Squid Salad ($8.5, regular) was a slightly healthier option after our last few dishes. Though nothing special, the quality of this dish was a treat. Doused in sweet chilli sauce, the pieces of calamari were fresh and springy, and the bed of garden salad was crunchy and sprightly, doused in a moreish sesame dressing.
|Agedashi Tofu ($6)|
I am proud to say that I’ve more or less made a full convert of Chris when it comes to tofu, and his favourite rendition would be Agedashi Tofu ($6). The clean broth of this version lacked the strong umami that I like, but the tofu itself was silken and wobbly in its batter, and generally rather lovely.
|Yakibuta Rice ($5)|
Having eyed it a couple times throughout our meal, we succumbed and got a plate of Yakibuta Rice ($5) and I have to say, it leaves fried rice for dead. The mound of rice was sticky and rich, having been infused with the cooking juices of the pork belly served on top. The slivers of ginger added lightness; this was essentially the perfect one-bowl meal.
|Ika Sansai ($3)|
And I insisted on some Ika Sansai ($3) to go with the rice, even though we really didn’t need it. Still, what’s not to like about chewy pieces of octopus and veggies marinated in a sweet chilli paste?
We had over-ordered, leaving ourselves with no room for Maedaya’s signature cheesecake. The bottom line when it comes to Maedaya is simple yet tasty drinking food, served at knockdown prices – our meal only came to $50! Surely that’s more than enough reason as to why the wait time is an hour at 7pm on a Sunday night.
Rating: 14.5/20 – because it’s worth it.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.