|Australian Food Bloggers Ring|
|Site Ring from Bravenet|
Visit number one to Izakaya Den actually took place just over a year ago, before I decided to convert my blog of complaints and ramblings into something more. On the second occasion, some photos were taken of the dishes we had indulged in but at this point, still fresh to the world of food blogging, I had overlooked one very important aspect: taking notes of the flavours and taste. They say the third time’s a charm and that is why I sit here now writing this post.
Given that I’ve now visited the Den quite a few times, I was definitely no stranger to the culinary delights tucked behind the black veil.
The interior sets the scene for a perfect after work chill and hang scenario. The music enhanced this vibe: jazzy music with low soothing tones. The sort of music that makes you want to shut your eyes, tap and click your fingers along to. The bar extends all the way down the elongated venue, accompanied by tables on one side (more suited for larger groups). Seated at the bar, J.ma and myself were privy to much of the cooking action that takes place in Izakaya Den.
Once seated, we were immediately presented with some warm towels to refresh… our hands.
I thought I’d include a shot of the little strip of paper that jazzed up the menu.
We ordered a Peach Oolong Tea and Sakuranbo vert (Japanese cherry with subtle green tea flavour). Both teas were very aromatic with tastes that were much more subtle than they smelt. I personally prefer this, otherwise it’d be too much like drinking… perfume (not that I’ve consumed any sort of perfume before).
Loving the fishbowl look of the tea cups. Not only are they aesthetically pleasing to look at but they also have practical use in adding another layer of glass and space between your fingers and the hot tea.
Sweet corn ‘kaki-age’.
I kid you not, this is a must order dish. It’s the one dish that has been ordered one every single occasion that I have eaten here. Deep fried corn kernels in the thinnest and crispiest layer of batter that holds the kernels together. Once you bite into the actual kernels, you get bursts of juicy, sweet corn flavour. The green tea salt itself is very fine and just like the icing on top of a cake, the salty flavour is a MUST eat that suits the battered corn perfectly.
Note. The salt looked like green tea, and even possessed the faintest trace of green tea flavour when “eaten” on its own, but with the corn it just tasted like super duper fine salt.
Den fried chicken.
No different to the fried chicken you can order at most of the other Japanese restaurants. The perk with this dish is that it will feel you up quickly if you’re feeling very hungry.
*Note: exercise caution with the mayo. Little amounts are good for helping to cut the dryness of the chicken, but too much will be sickening.
Hervey Bay Scallops with garlic butter soy.
Garlic butter soy. Need I say more? I don’t, but I’m going to anyway :)
The scallops were definitely very fresh and tasted like soft pillowy clouds of scallop. The flavour was an intense umami meets garlicky butter.
Pot steamed rice, mushroom and poached egg.
I love my rice, I love my mushrooms and I love my eggs, so when you put all three in front of me in ONE dish… SOLD. Cooked in what reminded me of a clay pot, the bottom layer of rice possessed a very nice crispy texture. With the poached egg mixed through, the dish hit close to what I would call a glorified form of fried rice. Delicious.
Hmmm, after writing all of that, I’m feeling an intense hankering for some of that corn (and scallop… and rice…) Perhaps visit number four will take place sooner than anticipated…
114 Russel St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9654 2977
On the night before 23-dom struck, I met up with thehouseofem to eat away my woes over adding another year to my age. Dinner had to be something seriously delicious. Say peking duck delicious. And because it was my pre-23 day, we decided to take things a notch further and go to one of Melbourne’s more renown peking duck establishments, Old Kingdom.
The earliest time we were able to secure a last minute reservation was for 8pm. It was a good thing that we didn’t get any earlier because traffic from South Melbourne to Fitzroy was a nightmare. It took us almost an hour!
We ordered some jasmine tea to help us prepare for and work our way through the duck.
Not too long after placing our order, one of the waiters arrived at our table with a whole duck and a butcher knife. He didn’t look like he would be able to handle the knife, let alone expertly carve up the duck, but we were in for a shocker! His hands were quick and nimble and in no time we had a plate full of duck skin and meat. He had very impressive knife skills!
Mmmmmm peking duck… This whole plate to share between two people!?!?! It’s a good thing we ordered the tea!
The pancakes were quite big and super thin. To such an extent that I’m sure that if I had pressed my eye right up against the “crepe”, I would have been able to see right through it. I didn’t do it. I personally prefer the pancake to be smaller and slightly thicker because it makes it easier to assemble. No biggie through, it just meant there was more pancake to work with.
One small portion of duck, one big portion of pancake.
The duck skin was very crisp and dry-ish. There was minimal to no fat underneath the skin and so I felt less guilty indulging in peking duck. As I mentioned earlier, there was plenty of duck to go around with only two of us. By the end of it, it started to make sense why the usual banquet menus recommend only one or two peking duck wraps per person.
Crispy bean curd - bean curd stuffed with minced prawn deep fried in crispy batter, then served with an oyster based sauce prepared with chicken and Szechuan pickled vegetables.
The taste of this crispy bean curd dish reminded me of the fried prawn and bean curd dish from yumcha. As per usual, the prawn complimented the tofu. The sauce was a sweet sort of tasty. As full as I was, I’m glad we had ordered some rice because it went perfectly with the prawn and bean curd. Interestingly the more I ate, the more the bean curd exterior started to taste like a Chinese donut.
Stuffed scallop shell - scallop shell stuffed with crab, scallop, chicken and vegetables, with a mild curry flavouring, deep fried then served.
The scallop dish was interesting. Unlike what it said on the menu, the curry taste was actually quite potent and continued to linger for quite some time before fading out into a seafood scallop taste. I don’t think the strong curry and seafood combination was a great one!
We had ordered the prawns plus scallop dish without realising there was a noodle and soup dish included with the duck order. There was no mention of it in the menu and we were very surprised when the dishes arrived at our table.
Thehouseofem: “DAMMIT! They DO do the soup and noodle thing!!”
I have NEVER heard thehouseofem complain about too much food before! We decided to think of the soup and noodle dishes as “bonus dishes” so that we wouldn’t wind up feeling as guilty when, not if, we didn’t finish the food.
The soup had a fantastic rich, flavoursome and umami taste, with no detectable traces of MSG. Despite feeling quite full at this point, I couldn’t help but polish off two bowls.
The noodles were also quite tasty and not too oily. I was able to only fit in a little bit. We thought that with the focus on the pancakes, the soup and the noodles would have paled in comparison. This was not the case at all and it was a shame that we didn’t have any room left in our duck pancake/tofu/scallop-filled tummies to fit it all in.
Our expectations prior to eating at Old Kingdom were quite high and left much room for disappointment. This was most definitely not the case with the duck here being one of the best I’ve had in Melbourne to date. Almost outdoing the extent of deliciousness was the IMPECCABLE service. The waiters were all very attentive and prompt. When we ordered some rice, rather than plonking down some bowls and the rice container, it was served to us at our table. Thehouseofem ordered a can of coke and again it was poured into a glass for her at our table. Great service AND great food? This restaurant is definitely one that will be revisited.
197 Smith St,
Fitzroy, Victoria, 3065
(03) 9417 2438