• Izakaya Den

114 Russell St
Melbourne 3000
03 9654 2977

In the basement of 114 Russell Street, Izakaya Den is like, well, a den.  But it’s long and narrow floor plan was unexpected, creating an interesting atmosphere with everything neatly complied to save space.  The staff, layout and details, make Izakaya Den’s atmosphere pleasant and authentically Japanese.

The streamlined bar incorporates the kitchen with stoves and sinks set-up under the rows of Japanese drinks.  A single line of tables is set up against the opposing wall.  We asked for a table for five and the waiter expertly placed the extra chair near the kitchen opening so people still had room to pass through.

I had been meaning to visit Izakaya Den for some time hearing about great food, and later, a limited menu.  Yesterday showed two lunch menus, both set, one at $18 and one at $28 each with a choice from four mains plus tofu, salad, rice, miso, and accompanying vegetables.  Reading the options projected on the wall in a trendy font, I was glad to see vegetarian dishes in both.

I ordered the $18 lunch with sautéed mushroom and a vegetarian version of miso (without fish based dashi sauce).  We began with a soft tofu, cold and lightly sauced.  This dish led us to discuss whether tofu was delicious or disgusting.  In this case, I went with the former.

Next was a mixed green salad.  The salad leaves were nothing special but the dressing made the dish bringing tangy and spicy flavours which I really enjoyed.

Of all the mains, the mushrooms were the most generous in serving size.  They had brought together an eclectic mix of mushrooms (chewy, crunchy, soft) in a subtle Japanese sauce.  There was also a couple of tofu pieces thrown in.  Lightly cooked through without too much oil, the mushrooms had the healthy feel for which simple, Japanese food is known.

The extra vegetables included lightly tempuraed okra, and what we thought were daikon and watercress (maybe).   They provided interesting accompaniments to an already delicious meal.

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