• En Izakaya (Balaclava)

Hidden along the quieter end of Carlisle Street in Balaclava, this Japanese eatery could easily be missed. Promoting itself as modern Japanese, En Izakaya may not be traditional, but it is authentic.

The décor is sleek with touches of Japanese wood features to make you feel right at home in a real ryokan. The lunch time I was there, the service strengthened this, with a single woman serving with grace and politeness.

There is a section dedicated to vegetarian food, and specials as well, but at lunch time, it is hard to go past the value and variety of the lunch set. This includes dumplings, tofu and eggplant, and soba noodle salad. Each lunch set also comes with miso soup, rice and salad.

The soup was strongly flavoured with miso with fresh spring onions, silken tofu and seaweed, all served hot.

The tofu had been battered and fried like agedashi tofu, but instead was served with a generous topping of sweet miso with sesame and long spring onion strands as garnish. The eggplant was served grilled, then topped with the same sweet miso.

The dumplings were very innovative but delicious. Mashed sweet potato and re-hydated shitake mushrooms were the filling. These had been encased in dumpling skins, then battered and deep fried. They looked like falafels but tasted unique.

The salads had different dressings, but similar vegetables. The soba salad was served at room temperature with a nutty, sesame dressing. The other was tangier.

Each dish was made gracefully. The atmosphere at lunch was relaxed but elegant with the music, service and décor.

I am glad I found this place. It’s easy but delicious food, made well in a pretty spot, taking you back to Japanese memories. Sometimes that is just all we need.

En Izakaya
277 Carlisle Street
Balaclava 3183
03 9525 8886

En Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato