A grand pendant light followed by a water feature mark the entrance to this expansive entertainment venue located in the heart of Sydney. Originally two basement pubs, the Mizuya interior resembles a traditional Japanese garden with the addition of soft earthy finishes, glass tiles, and an eye catching Sakura tree. There are intimate dining booths of all sizes to accommodate couples or large groups. The glamorous private rooms deliver true Izakaya style dining with a hint of downtown pop culture combining quality wine and food with Karaoke. Each room has its own video-on-demand Karaoke system with access to songs in five language, English, Japanese, Chinese, Korean and Thai.
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The latest addition to Sydney's growing obsession with Japanese izakayas, Mizuya restaurant, is a true embodiment of this style of dining and, more broadly, of Japan itself. In decor it is funky, new-age and in some ways a little over-the-top. The dining room is fitted out with rows of numbered booths – little rooms each with a flat-screen television on the back wall. A long communal bench runs at the outer edge of the booth checkerboard, also studded with flat screens. The lighting in the room is dim bar the glow of the screens and a couple of electric fuchsia cherry blossoms. It is the kind of kitsch space you either love or hate. My bet is that you'll love it. In concept, Mizuya combines a karaoke bar with an izakaya – a large space in which you can eat, drink and be entertained.
But before you worry that the screens at your table will start flashing with song subtitles, let me assure you that the karaoke area is separate – and quite private – so nobody except your chosen acquaintance gets to hear you sing. The screens at the tables are, in fact, touch-screen menus, each boasting several categories: "kushiage", "sushi and sashimi", "hotpots", "kushiyaki" and so forth. Each of these is then broken up into further options – from edamame in the "starters" section to marbled steak with ponzu sauce in "a la carte" and green tea creme brulee in "desserts". The cuisine is flanked by an equally-diverse drinks menu that stretches from non-alcoholic beverages to cocktails, beer, wine and Japanese spirits. And, if the dining experience puts you into an elated state of mind, you can always cross the room for a bit of karaoke action after your meal.