Friday, August 16, 2013

Yebisu Izakaya: Looks the part

The transformation of Regent Place near the cinemas on George Street, Sydney has been pretty impressive following the departure of three Azuma eateries last year.

In addition to filling all the empty spaces on the George Street level, maintaining a Japanese theme; two vibrant eateries have joined previously lonesome Assembly Bar downstairs.

Neon signs outside Yebisu Izakaya, Regent Place, George Street, Sydney
Upstairs, replacing the somewhat high-end Azuma Kushiyaki now is Yebisu Izakaya; a modern izakaya drinking-style restaurant, presumably named after Japan’s Yebisu beer or the Japanese god of fish and merchants.

Beneath the streetscape of colourful neon signs and paper lanterns, a long queue often forms outside the restaurant, waiting for tables.

Yebisu Izakaya is not an eat-and-run kind of eatery like the nearby Tenkomori ramen bar, so the fact that so many are prepared to wait, standing outside for up to an hour with naught to do and no call-back option, is intriguing.

Counter seating at the open kitchen
While there is counter seating overlooking the open kitchen, seating for a group of more than two is ideally within the wood-toned restaurant.

Once you've waited it out (or well-organised and cleverly made a reservation) you can get down to ordering immediately via their iPad menu, which includes photos and pricing across the extensive food options.

While this makes it super easy to get carried away with tapping and ordering food and drink, you also get to see a running bill which can see many small items add up pretty quickly.

We started with beers and pickles as seemed right for the izakaya style. The carrot, yellow-tinted daikon and squishy cucumber salt pickles were decent enough; however, there was a heavy bitterness to the white daikon that made it inedible.

Sake served in a masu
The custom sake trolley cart, manned by a cheery young Japanese waitress, features a number of the 1.8 litre sake bottles.

She was able to recommend me a dry sake (something with the kanji character for 'daughter' in it) which once ordered, would elicit bell ringing and celebrations (or congratulations, I'm not sure) from the kitchen and other staff, leaving the sake drinker feeling like quite the winner.

The waitress would then proceed to fill the sake glass, allowing it to overflow into the square masu container as a traditional gesture of generosity, and then input the drink into the table’s iPad ordering system.

Grilled skewers of chicken giblets (left) and chicken skin (right)
Food arrived in no particular order, especially as it’s so easy to order in a completely random fashion. We first received some yakitori grilled, skewered chicken items of giblets and chicken skin; the former cooked to a hard and challengingly tough state.

I know in Japan torikawa chicken skin is served folded onto the skewer as is done here, with the smooth, rubbery and fatty texture relished, but it’s just not my cup of tea so I just nibbled the blackened crisp bits where possible.

Karage chicken
Fried chicken was safer territory with a pretty decent rendition of golden battered karage chicken thigh fillets, served with a salad side and mayonnaise.

Nasu dengaku
The sweet miso sauce-topped nasu dengaku eggplant was served as a quartered wedge of the vegetable, with pre-cut pieces. The miso sauce resembled melted cheese but gave the softened eggplant flesh plenty of flavour.

Takoyaki served in crackers
I was intrigued by a new presentation of takoyaki octopus balls, even if it was just the frozen and deep fried ones. Sandwiched between two thin, round crackers with takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and katsuobushi dried bonito shavings, we were advised to squash and flatten the top cracker and takoyaki for eating.

This was practical advice although the action unfortunately demonstrated the oiliness of the takoyaki, with copious amounts of oil oozing from the deep fried ball. In the end, it was really just an oily takoyaki and crackers.

Grilled chicken wings
The highlight of the meal was the grilled chicken wings; steaming hot straight off the grill. Seasoned simply with salt on the grill, most of the skin had the opportunity to render its fat and crisp up, revealing the juicy, just-cooked flesh of one of my favourite cuts of the chicken.

Grilled skewers of pork belly and chicken tsukune meatballs
The meal ended as it started with grilled skewers of meat. The pork belly certainly looked promising with its golden char and fat layers, although it was a very chewy few bites to negotiate. Meanwhile, the tsukune minced chicken was a little bland and unexciting, even with the semi-poached, soft-yolk egg as a dip.

In atmosphere and fitout, and even on first glance of the menu, Yebisu Izakaya looks the part of a fun izakaya. But without the drinking crowd or the tasty, booze-soaking food to back it up, it’s a bit of a letdown with looks prevailing over substance.

Yebisu on Urbanspoon


Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I am stunned by the look of Regent's Place now. I've heard the hits and misses of yebisu izakaya. Shame it doesnt live up to the looks.

Sherrie Huang said...

I love most things about Jap food! Though as with Tina, there seems to be highs and lows with the dishes.

gaby @ lateraleating said...

Good to know that there's a good replacement for Azuma.

Mr C @ The Food Diary said...

I have to agree with Tina, really love the new Regent Place. There seems to be some disagreement on whether Yebisu is good or not though!

chocolatesuze said...

hehe love the presentation of the takoyaki served in crackers tho shame it was oily

Ramen Raff said...

Hello takoyaki! I reckon karaage is always safe and a must at izakayas! lol

john | heneedsfood said...

Wow, takoyaki in crackers! I'd definitely be ordering those, and that gorgeous eggplant.

Tina said...

Hi Tina - It certainly wasn't worth the wait :/

Hi Sherrie - I have heard some better feedback, so perhaps we need to order differently next time.

Hi Gaby - Um... not the greatest.

Hi Mr C - They have done a good job on the overall Regent Place, but I think Yebisu needs work.

Hi suze - Especially when I can make my own, fresh takoyaki!

Hi Raff - Can't go wrong with fried chicken, hey?

Hi Jonh - Can't go wrong with eggplant either..!


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