Wednesday, 8 June 2011


8 Whiteman Street
Southbank 3006

The Conservatory looks and feels decidedly posh. The entrance creates the impression of a magical gateway to a food lover's garden of eden. As you enter, you are greeted by friendly, professional staff who show you to your spacious tables complete with big, cushiony seats and candles for a touch of romance. Within seconds, a basket of enticing gourmet bread rolls appear at the centre. This is definitely no tacky buffet.

A quick glance at the food on offer sparks excitement. There's your usual prawns, oysters, crab and mussels. Nothing to get too over the moon about, you expected those. The hot food station is what surprises you. Pan fried swordfish, steamed barramundi and grilled wallaby…what? This reads more like a decent a la carte menu than dishes you'd find at a buffet. You're impressed. You see a selection of Phillipa's breads next to the cheeses and four flavours of Movenpick ice cream hiding behind the glorious display of varied, well crafted cakes and pastries. With expectations now high, you can't wait to get stuck into the task at hand.

Perhaps you got a bit too excited. When you taste the food, it's mostly one dimensional and some of the flavours just don't gel. The swordfish is tender, rich and well cooked, but the accompanying chutney is overpoweringly sweet. The meats, be they beef, lamb or the adventurous wallaby, are tough and dry and not very pleasant at all. The dumplings are horrid, soft and mushy, leaving a terrible aftertaste in your mouth. You breathe a sigh of relief that at least the scalloped potatoes taste good.

Things look on the up when you bite into one of the fresh, juicy prawns. You underestimated their quality, their bouncy texture and sweet freshness catching you off guard. The oysters look a little dishevelled, but they taste ok. You question their freshness as the water seems to be leaving them. You go back for more but there are only shells left and staff take ages to replenish them, dissapointing. The mussels and crab are pretty plain and ordinary. The sushi is just plain bad and you promise that you won't subject yourself to any more of that mushy rice. After two rounds, you go back for more but wonder what's left to try. At least the salad isn't bad.

You hope that dessert will save the day. Those petite cakes and pastries look fantastic. It's a shame they taste so generic and plasticy, like something you would find at Coles or Woolworths. The cheesecake is ok, but you've definitely had better. Walnut ice cream from Movenpick, that's encouraging. But something is wrong with the freezer and all four flavours are melted, you're saddened that they just let all that quality ice cream go to waste. Even the chocolate fountain fails to get your taste buds going. The chocolate tastes so…uninspiring and generic, which seems to be the theme of the night.

Would you go back to the Conservatory? Only if someone else was paying. And you certainly wouldn't bother skipping lunch.

Buffet/Fine Dining 

Food - 1.5/5 
Ambience - 4/5 
Service - 3/5 
Price - 2/5 

Total - 10.5/20 

Conservatory on Urbanspoon

Imperial Kingdom

546-554 Waverley Road
Glen Waverley 3150

Char Siew Bao
Imperial Kingdom has been an instutition of suburban yum cha for many, many years. And it shows. The pink, weathered, 'pacific inspired' building looks like it's barely hanging in there. The service is similarly strained and laboured. The wait staff make it their mission to convey the message of not wanting to be there. A couple of the older staff tend to just shove the dim sum carts in your face and pause, without word or expression. It's some of the rudest service you will find in a restaurant this popular.

Prawn and Chive Dumplings
Clearly, the food at Imperial Kingdom is what draws the weekend crowds. The steamed dumplings are big and fresh. The skins are well made, with just the right amount of chewiness, although can be on the thicker side at times. Steer clear of anything made of pork mince, like the Siew Mai or Shark Fin Dumplings, as they come bundled with relatively large cubes of fat.The Lor Mai Kai (glutinous rice dumpling wrapped in lotus leaves) is a stand out, bigger and fuller in flavour than other restaurants owing to the generous quantities of filling - a treasure chest of chicken pieces, char siew, braised pork, candle nuts and shitake mushrooms. 

Lor Mai Kai
Imperial Kingdom's fried goodies are also memorable. Generally crispy and surprisingly un-oily, they won't leave you feeling like a hot air balloon. A small disclaimer though, dishes like the Paper Wrapped and Lychee Prawns do tend to be dripping in oil. The key is to avoid anything not carbohydrate based or otherwised dipped in batter. I recommend the Glutinous Pork Dumplings, Taro Puffs and the Glutinous Rice Balls with Red Bean Paste. The Baked Oysters are also worth a try, the pinch of curry powder gives this version a unique flavour hit. The pan fried Taro and Turnip cakes are also done well, and aren't the horrible flour laden types you sometimes get.

Pan Fried Taro Cake
Avoid the rice paper rolls at all costs. These used to be good a few years ago, but lately are just soft, gloggy, seemingly half cooked piles of mess. I'm not sure whether they've added more water to their recipe or have switched to using an inferior brand of rice flour. Either way, the texture will leave you gagging. The desserts aren't terribly noteworthy, although the Ma Lai Koh (Malaysian steamed sponge cake) is lighter and fluffier than most, and the use of brown sugar creates a bolder flavour and aroma.

Chinese Doughnut Rice Paper Rolls
Imperial Kingdom is one of those places that you'd be happy to go to if in the area, but will forget about a few days later. Steamed dumplings, Lor Mai Kai and a few deep fried treasures aside, the food is decidedly average. That's more than can be said for the service, which is truly appalling. Seating is cramped and uncomfortable to boot. Imperial Kingdom is sufficient for enjoying the yum cha experience, but simply not up to scratch when compared with it's competitors, namely Gold Leaf or New Royal Garden. 

Casual Dining 

Food - 3/5 
Ambience - 1.5/5 
Service - 1/5
Price - 3.5/5 

Total - 9/20 

Imperial Kingdom Chinese Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Earl Canteen

500 Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000
(enter via Little Bourke)

Few sandwiches have captured the attention of the foodie community quite like the Otway Pork Belly Sandwich created by the folks at EARL Canteen. Such is the popularity of this item that it has been dubbed the 'sex sandwich' and has developed nothing short of a cult following. The day finally came when, despite being a fair distance away from the office, I had to have it.

Otway Pork Belly Sandwich ($13.50)
Generous proportions of roasted pork belly, shredded apple, fennel and cabbage coleslaw with wilted silverbeet, held together by a crusty fresh baguette. Sure sounds like a winner to me. The pork belly was roasted to absolute perfection. The meat was fall apart, melt in your mouth succulent, and the crackling was flawlessly crunchy, the saltiness providing the perfect flavour kick. I have a confession, I don't usually like pork belly as I can't stand the fatty aftertaste. This was the leanest piece of pork belly I have ever seen. The apple, fennel and cabbage mix was delightfully fresh, crisp and refreshing. The sweetness complimented the pork perfectly. The baguette was fresh and chewy, although if I'm being honest, like any other baguette you would find at a good sandwich bar. One thing to keep in mind is that this sandwich is a mouthful of gigantic proportions, so eat whilst on the go at your peril.

Left, Top to Bottom: Salted Caramel, Black Sesame, Rose, Ginger Macarons ($2.50ea)
It seems that every cafe is offering macarons these days, but I couldn't pass up on these delicate little beauties staring at me through their glass display. And boy, was I rewarded...for the most part. The ginger was too crisp, it's texture soft and cakey. Flavour wise, there's something so wrong about ginger in a macaron - pass. The salted caramel, black sesame and rose, on the other hand, were pure bliss. They were slightly crisp on the surface and chewy on the inside - just how a macaron should be and as good as any I've had in Melbourne. The ganache fillings in all four were sinfully smooth and creamy. Flavour wise, the rose was the stand out. It was subtle and delicate with just the right amount of flavour and sugar so that nothing was overpowering. If I'm being picky, the black sesame could've done with some more, well, black sesame to give it a bit more kick. The salted caramel was inspiring but perhaps a bit too sweet and buttery for some pallets.

EARL canteen is a fantastic lunch time pitstop that sets itself apart from the multitude of other sandwich bars with its quality, fresh ingredients and 'restaurant like' fillings (not to mention those delicious macarons!). It's quietly tucked away as part of an office block but it's bold, flavoursome sandwiches speak loudly. Although not exactly cheap, they're very fairly priced for what you're getting. Remember, this is wagyu meatball, pork belly and confit duck we're talking about, not leftover roast chicken or shaved ham. My only regret is that this little gem isn't open on weekends.

Sandwich Bar/Casual Dining 

Food - 4.5/5
Variety - 4/5
Service - 4/5
Price - 3.5/5 

Total - 16/20 

EARL Canteen on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Crystal Jade

154 Little Bourke Street
Melbourne 3000

I should probably clarify one point about Crystal Jade - apart from name, it bears absolutely no relation to the infamous Asian dumpling chain. While the name is associated with delicate xiao long baos and hand made noodles overseas, the Chinatown restaurant serves yum cha for lunch and Cantonese cuisine by night. While I don't recommend the yum cha, the mains dished up by Crystal Jade are amongst the best you'll find in the city.

Black Pepper Beef
What sets Crystal Jade apart from the multitude of other Chinese restaurants is, first and foremost, the quality of the ingredients used. This is particularly noticeable in their meats. The beef dishes are made with good quality eye fillet that is cubed and cooked to medium rare perfection. An absence of artificial tenderising agents means that you're able to taste the natural flavour of the meat. The black pepper sauce is a stand out, the use of deep fried garlic slices adding boldness and textural depth to the dish. Also worth noting is their roast pork. While the serves are a bit on the small side, they use a quality lean cut of pork belly. The taro coated duck is also a favourite. The meat is wonderfully tender and melt in your mouth, whilst the taro topping is smooth and creamy on the inside but deliciously crispy on the surface. Unlike many other restaurants who add buckets of flour or potato, it is 100% taro and full of depth. If you're not a fan of duck, they also make taro baskets that can accompany any stir fry of your choosing. 

Taro Coated Duck
Dried Chilli Calamari with Taro Basket
Like any respectable restaurant, you can't really go wrong with the live seafood. Do note that their prices are on average 30% to 50% dearer than other Chinese restaurants, so I wouldn't come here hoping to go crazy on the mud crabs. In terms of the seafood offerings on their a la carte menu, the quality is surprisingly hit and miss. The fish dishes are prepared with good quality cod - absolute lightyears apart from the basa or low quality rockling served by peers. Don't make the same mistake I did by ordering a fried (salt and pepper) fish dish. The richness of the cod does not lend itself well to being deep fried and whilst the batter was light and crisp, the dish was a little too much. The calamari with dried chilli is bursting with flavour and will excite the taste buds, but the quality of the calamari is not of the same standard as their other ingredients. It's thin and slightly tough. If I wasn't such a fan of the flavours in this particular dish, I'd be sure to avoid all calamari mains. Be sure to try the prawns - they're big, fresh, bouncy and sweet. But a warning - ensure your group is small or fist fights may ensue, as there are only about 8 prawns per serve. 

Salt and Pepper Cod
The desserts aren't limited to banana fritters or fried ice cream at Crystal Jade. Here, you will find a relatively wide range of speciality sweets including glutinous rice balls in red bean soup, sweet taro paste (it's not as dodgey as it sounds) and red bean pancakes. Their glutinous rice balls are chewy little pockets of delight, filled with a to die for black sesame paste. They're made in house and are the best you'll get in Melbourne, hands down. 

Glutinous Rice Balls in Red Bean Soup
Glutinous Rice Balls in Roasted Peanut
Ambience is neither here nor there. You get the impression that they're trying to pitch more up market, but the somewhat tacky seats and standard Chinese restaurant tables contribute to a relatively generic environment. Service is also nothing to write home about, but having done the rounds in Chinatown where it's notoriously offensive, Crystal Jade is definitely on the better end of the spectrum. The food arrives promptly and usually all at once, and the wait staff at least manage to smile rather than grunt and moan at you. They're also very quick to pour and refill your tea, which can be somewhat of a luxury in Chinatown.

Japanese Tofu with Shitake Mushrooms and Dried Scallops
Crystal Jade is definitely not your typical Chinese restaurant. It's kind of like the over performing older sibling. The quality of the ingredients and multi-dimensional flavours are far superior, even down to the tea (be sure to ask for the exquisite 'flower tea'). While it's not exactly cheap, prices are very reasonable for what you're getting. If you're fed up with mediocre, MSG laden tackiness served with a generous side of bad attitude, be sure to drop by Crystal Jade next time you're in Chinatown.

Casual Dining 

Food - 4/5 
Ambience - 3.5/5 
Service - 3.5/5 
Price - 4/5 

Total - 15/20 

Crystal Jade on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Old Kingdom

683 Canterbury Road
Surrey Hills 3127

Leveraging off the success of the hugely popular (and somewhat dilapidated) Smith Street restaurant, Old Kingdom has recently branched out into suburban Surrey Hills. I was pleasantly surprised at the modern feel of the place, as well as how clean and fresh everything looked. They've even designed the counter to act as a quasi mini bar area. The room is pretty big and tables aren't overly 'sardined' together. It's definitely a vast improvement to Old Kingdom's grandfather in Collingwood. 

Carving the Duck
Much has been said about the service standard, or lack thereof, at Old Kingdom. I'm not sure if I was just lucky or if people simply expect too much from a restaurant like this, but my experience wasn't all bad. The staff go about their duties matter of factly and will seldom crack a smile, but they get the job done and will happily top up your sauce or bring you an extra plate of garnish when asked. Service was quick and courses followed each other promptly. It's true that the wait staff look like they wish they were anywhere else, but keep in mind how busy this place is and the fact that they are probably paid a third or less of what 'professional' waiters get. 

Only the ignorant would go to a peking duck restaurant and not order the peking duck (or in our case, three). For $55.00 you get peking duck, duck and bean shoot stir fry (with noodles for an extra $8.00) and duck soup with tofu and pickled vegetables. If you're not eating anything else, you'll need to indulge in one duck for every two people. To be honest, the duck isn't terribly traditional. It's very light on in terms of herbs and isn't as strongly seasoned. But the subtlety works. The meat is amazingly tender and succulent. As relatively young ducks are used, they are far less fatty and don't have that gamey taste that often comes with duck. Perhaps this is why Old Kingdom can afford to go easy on the seasoning? People who know me know that I'm not a fan of skin, but this was so spectacularly crisp and with minimal fat that even I enjoyed it. I could go on forever about how gorgeously delicate and thin the pancakes were. They are freshly made in house and worlds apart from the generic, supplier bought versions served at other restaurants. I would go as far as to say that they're the best peking duck pancakes I've had. The noodles, while good, were nothing special. As a testament to how lean the duck was, the shredded meat had absolutely no trace of fat. The soup was light and subtle, dominated by the natural sweetness of the duck. Arguably the best thing about Old Kingdom is that you won't go home having consumed about half a kilo of MSG. 

Deep Fried Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk ($27.80)
The other dishes on offer are a mixture of Chinese and Malaysian. Like the noodles, they are good enough to satisfy, but not spectacular enough to have you spreading the word. The beef dishes taste a bit 'food court' and the chefs tend to get too excited with the meat tenderising powder. Malaysian dishes like the Belachan Kang Kong tend to be done better and are just as good most Malaysian restaurants. I would also recommend the Deep Fried Prawns with Salted Egg Yolk. Crispy and not over battered, with just enough saltiness from the oily salted egg yolk, these are pure bliss. 

Old Kingdom's peking duck is undoubtedly the star of the show. It's what causes tongues to wag and diners to come en masse. Although their other dishes don't hold a candle to the duck, they are by no means terrible. When you book (a prerequisite for getting a table), you will be asked rather abruptly 'how many you want?'. Such is the popularity of their spectacular signature dish that it need not be spoken of, and whether you'll order it is a mere formality. 

Casual Dining 

Food - 4/5 (because of the duck)  
Ambience - 3/5 
Service - 3/5
Price - 4/5

Total - 14/20 

Old Kingdom on Urbanspoon

Melba Brasserie

1 Southgate Avenue
Southbank 3006

Although I never hold high expectations of the food quality and know that I'll leave feeling like I need a six month detox to make up for the gluttony, buffets (with the exception of the horrendous Food Star) are always a fun place to eat. Something about unlimited food really gets the pulses going. Located within the five star Langham Hotel, I was hopeful that Melba would be worth pigging out on. For $89 per person on weekends and $79 on weeknights, it had to be good, right? 

While there were a reasonable variety of salads on offer, none of them managed to set my taste buds alight. In fact, I've had much better salads from the cafe at work. Just in case you're wondering, I am not a carnivore and do enjoy my greens. The breads looked promising but were stale and in dire need of toasting. The dips were enjoyable as was the smoked salmon, although the latter didn't appear to be of the best quality considering there were large, visible blood spots on every slice.

Melba won me over with their seafood selection. The fresh prawns, oysters, crabs, mussels and Moreton Bay bugs (no, your eyes do not deceive you), were absolutely tantalising and kept me going back for more (and more, and more...). In particular, the large, meaty bugs were amazingly sweet and a unique and generous offering by buffet standards.  

The Japanese sushi/sashimi station was another highlight. Yellowtail, salmon, tuna, prawn, octopus, unagi, tomago, tobikko, or any combination of these were meticulously prepared by Chef Takeshi on request. The variety was as good as most Japanese restaurants. Most of the available choices were backed with the quality to boot (particularly the salmon), but the tuna was pretty ordinary. 

As far as hot food goes, it was incredibly hit and miss. The roast wagyu was succulent, juicy and tender, leaving everything else in it's wake. You have the ability to order customised Asian stir-frys at the 'turbo wok' station. Selecting the ingredients is fun and worth a try. The Peking duck is also quite well done, the pancakes were delicate and comparable with most Chinese restaurants. Everything else apart from a couple of the Indian choices, including the wonderful, chewy, freshly made to order naan bread, was deplorable. The dim sum was soft and overly starchy. The western dishes lacked wow factor and went largely untouched throughout the night, with little variety. The saffron rice looked spectacular but was flavourless. There is also a customised pasta station. I have to say that this was by far the worst pasta I have ever had the misfortune of tasting. My spinach and ricotta tortellini was ridiculously undercooked and tasted like cardboard. The 'cream sauce' looked like a giant pot of melted cheese, so I opted for the tomato instead. I didn't know pasta sauce could be this bland, flavourless and shallow. Anyone could do better with a tin of home brand tomatoes and some dried herbs. It was truly revolting. 

There are a large selection of sweets, cakes and pastries on offer, including a magical chocolate fondue fountain and three generic ice cream flavours (they will be the first three that come to your mind). Although the ice creams were nice enough, the chiller didn't seem to be working properly which made them incredibly soft and on the verge of melting. No complaints about the fondue - can you really go wrong with chocolate? As for the other desserts, the chocolate and strawberry tarts were the standouts. Steer well clear of the creme caramel - it tasted like scrambled eggs.

Overall, I was slightly disappointed with the buffet at Melba. While it's one of the better buffets in Melbourne, the food was either good or all new categories of fail (I'm not getting over that pasta anytime soon). A bit more consistency would have made a world of difference. The 'variety' of the hot dishes was also a bit of a let down. Although the wonderful, fresh seafood and sashimi saved the day, there's only so much of it you can and want to eat in one sitting. Still, unlimited seafood and chocolate is never a bad thing.

Buffet/Fine Dining  

Food - 3.5/5
Ambience - 4/5
Service - 3.5/5
Price - 2.5/5

Total - 13.5/20 

Melba Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Monday, 30 May 2011

Izakaya Den

114 Russell Street
Melbourne 3000

People visiting Izakaya Den for the first time need to know three things. Firstly, allow yourself some time to find the entrance - the establishment is well hidden to say the least. When you reach 114 Russell Street, you'll start scratching your head and wondering whether you have the right address. There are no signs and the external door looks very much the clothing retailer, with a number of international brands listed on the glass. Find this and head down the stairs (I wish someone had told me this beforehand!). Secondly, if you aren't dining in a large group bring your patience hat as you will not be able to book and will consequently need to wait upwards of 40 minutes for a table (on a Friday night). I know what you're thinking. 'Surely this is too much effort for one meal?'. Good things don't come easy, which brings me to my third point. Once you finally get seated at Izakaya Den, it will not take long before you declare yourself an addict. The funky, buzzing atmosphere and glorious food will reward you for your persistence.

The first thing we noticed about Izakaya Den was how mind blowingly long it was. After our eyes adjusted to the dim lighting, we quickly realised that this was a clever illusion created by way of a very large mirror at the end of the room. Still, it is longer and narrower than you would expect. The bar spans the entire length of the room, partly occupied by a completely open kitchen. The question of whether Izakaya Den is predominantly a bar or restaurant is somewhat contentious. There are a huge variety of drinks on offer, many imported exclusively from Japan (and reflected in the price). The vibe is young, fresh and ultra cool, exuding energy and fun. If you are shown a sofa seat, be sure to request the next available bar stool or table or you may find yourself wanting more space. Good beats are guaranteed.

The staff certainly don't have it easy. With absolutely no rest for the wicked, they dart around the room at a cracking pace. In spite of this, they are surprisingly courteous, friendly and always willing to assist with food recommendations. It does not take long at all for someone at Izakaya Den to take your order, and there is a similarly short wait time before the food is delivered. The staff are an absolute testament to this place. Just how they can be so efficient in clearing used plates and topping up water given the sheer volume of patrons is beyond me.

Steamed snapper with rice in bamboo leaf ($7.00)
We were like little kids on Christmas morning when unwrapping these parcels of joy. The snapper was delightfully fresh, the glorious sweetness seeping into the black rice and creating a wonderful flavour sensation. The subtle taste was just perfect.

Spicy tuna tataki, garlic soy ($18.00)
The presentation of the tuna tataki was so immaculately perfect that it was almost too good to eat. Each piece was exactly the same size and thickness, the luscious red flesh bordered by meat seared with precision. Did it taste as good as it looked? You bet. The tuna was absolutely 'melt in your mouth', the mayo rich, thick and creamy. The elements complemented each other to the T.

Den fried chicken ($10.00)
It's not often you go wrong with fried chicken. It's also not often that it's so mind blowingly good. The batter was light, crisp and airy, but the real surprise was how tender, moist and beautifully seasoned the meat was. It's so good that there's an explosion of juice when you bite into each piece. This was a memorable and highly addictive dish.

Octopus, pickled cucumber and wakame ($7.00)
The octopus and wakame are so fresh that you would be forgiven for thinking that they were just plucked out of the ocean and delivered straight to your table. The octopus had the perfect amount of 'bounce' and was effortless to bite through. I can't emphasise how amazingly refreshing the wakame tasted. This is one that simply can't be overlooked.

Salmon roll, pickled turnip and shiso ($16.00)
Another course, another beautifully presented dish. Like every dish of the night, the ingredients were tantalisingly fresh, their natural flavours dominating and exciting the taste buds. Though not as memorable or spectacular as the other items we sampled, the salmon rolls were another pleasant experience.

Sakata coated prawns, citrus mayonnaise ($12.00)
The prawns are extremely generous in size and, unlike those found in many Asian restaurants, are crisp and bouncy. For that little bit of quirky-ness, yes, they are coated in Sakata rice crackers. This may sound somewhat odd but creates a perfectly light, crisp shell much like tempura, trapping in the moisture of the prawn. I must make special mention of the mayonnaise, which was so smooth it was like eating silk. It was a tad on the acidic side, which complemented the deep fried prawns.

Sweet corn 'kaki-age' ($7.00)
The corn fritters were again wonderfully crispy and deep fried to golden brown perfection. The corn itself retained its freshness. Each kernel would explode with sweet juiciness when bitten into. The green tea salt was innovative and a real treat for a matcha lover such as myself.

Barramundi fillet, hajikami ginger ($15.00)
When I first saw this dish, my first thought was 'well, they can't get everything right', due to how incredibly ordinary it looks. But don't be fooled by appearances. One bite of the tender, juicy barramundi flesh triggers an orgasm of flavour. The subtle charred flavour goes hand in hand with the miso based seasoning. The barramundi is sweet and there is no hint of that off putting earthy taste that can sometimes accompany this fish. My only regret was that we did not have the stomachs to try other dishes from the char grill menu.

Black sesame brulee, orange peel ($10.00)
Black sesame is one of my absolute favourite ingredients in the world. Needless to say, I was excited to see this dessert on the menu. When I cracked the crisp top, I was greeted with a rich, creamy, velvety smooth brulee. The flavour of the black sesame was fully infused and added incredible depth of flavour. I have ordered this dessert at a number of fine Japanese restaurants and Izakaya Den's version was simply the best.

It is difficult to fault the wonderful food Izakaya Den has to offer. Every dish seemed to outdo the one before it, and the buzzing atmosphere provided the perfect environment to unwind and enjoy yourself. I have read a number of reviews that have been critical of Izakaya Den's price to quantity ratio. What must be kept in mind is that this is, funnily enough, an izakaya, which is essentially Japanese tapas. You would not expect that the portion sizes be comparable to mains. Approximately $60 per head (excluding drinks) was enough to satisfy the hunger of two big eaters after a long week at work. Izakaya Den is definitely a place I will frequent and recommend to anyone. Yes, there is a lot of hype surrounding it, but this does not automatically mean that it is undeserved. Any establishment this good will generate buzz and excitement. It is sad when people automatically associate this with being 'overrated', without giving themselves a chance to enjoy what is on offer. They are truly missing out.

Casual Dining/Bar 

Food - 5/5
Ambience - 4/5
Service - 4.5/5
Price - 4/5

Total - 17.5/20 

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon