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Izakaya Den

114 Russell Street
Melbourne CBD VIC 3000
Tel : +61 3 9654 2977
Cuisine: Japanese
License: Fully Licensed (no BYO)
Price Range: $$$$
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Please phone the restaurant to make a booking

Notoriously difficult to find, descending into Izakaya Den can fill the uninitiated with nervous excitement , but never fear, what you’ll find here are friendly faces and a space devoted in equal parts to the art of Japanese eating and drinking. Note the performance art that goes on behind the open kitchen and bar, with the chefs and mixologists dancing around each other. Obviously, all drinks have a Japanese bent, from sake to imported beers, but the range is wide and there is something for all tastes.

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In the basement of the Hero building, near the corner of Russell St and Little Collins St.

An obscure entrance and basement location satisfies the trademarks of quintessential Melbourne dining, but once you’ve descended two flights of stairs and crept through black curtains into Izakaya Den, you’ll think you’ve teleported into a bar in downtown Tokyo. Restaurateur Simon Denton (Verge) indulges his Japanese obsession with this izakaya (Japanese pub) style restaurant. Izakaya Den is Verge’s funkier, punkier younger sister, bristling with noise and energy. A huge mirror behind the communal table at the back gives the illusion of a much larger space, while a long stretch of seating behind the bar provides the best vantage point for the grill. There are also high tables and low stools for smaller groups who want to spend the night sharing food and conversation.

The menu features about 30 small items, from salty, deep fried chestnuts and sweet corn ‘kaki-age’, which go perfectly with a cold Kirin or two, to larger cold and hot dishes ideal for sharing. There are some sushi and sashimi items on offer, such as the delicious spicy tuna tataki, but the most traditional izakaya dishes come from the grill. Watch the chef cook up unusual specialties like marinated octopus, ox tongue with spring onion or jumbo quail with sansho pepper. Sakata crumbed prawns with citrus mayonnaise, crunchy persimmon and green bean salad and the Asian delicacy char-grilled kingfish head are also stand-out dishes. The drinks list is an impressive, scroll-like affair that features an excellent range of sake, shochu, Japanese beers and an all-Victorian wine list. While exquisitely presented, the dishes here are small and can add up when making a meal of it. Try visiting at lunchtime where the set menu for $18 is less of a blow to the wallet.

Angela Costanzo
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Restaurant Features
Bar / Wine Bar
Late Night Dining
Suitable for Groups of 10

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