Yebisu Izakaya is located at Regent Place, a notoriously bustling shopping and dining hub in Sydney’s CBD that is home to a number of drool-worthy restaurants specialising in Asian fare. We stepped into the establishment for an early dinner and this proved to be the best idea we’d ever had. We didn’t have to wait for a table! This was a very good thing because not 15 minutes later, a ridiculously large queue of over fifteen people had built up outside the popular izakaya. This was a Friday night and it seemed like everyone wanted to get into this casual after-work Japanese bar to have some drinks and hot food.
Being a special night for the both of us, we decided to splurge a little on some of our favourites. There were so many things we wanted to try! As is the trend nowadays, you get to pick your order through a touchscreen interface at your table (in Yebisu’s case, they use iPads). This saves a lot of time and orders are placed immediately at the touch of a finger. Of course, once you select your item, you won’t be able to cancel it, so a lot of deliberation will need to be made before you pick something. The cool thing though, is that the screen is able to tell you in real time exactly when the chefs have started to cook your meal, and exactly when it is done.
We started the evening with a bowl of the Agedashi Eggplant ($7.80). Being huge fans of both agedashi tofu and eggplant, we loved the idea of combining the two. The tentsuyu (dipping sauce) was particularly nice; a nice combination of sweet and salty. While the eggplant was also perfectly cooked (succulent, yet ever so slightly crunchy), I would have preferred it if the eggplant itself was deep fried rather than surrounded by bits of tenkasu (crunchy bits of deep fried batter).
Next, we ordered the Mentai Tsukune ($4.80) and Teriyaki Chicken Thigh Skewer ($2.80). The tsukune definitely won this round. Perfectly succulent morsels of grilled chicken meatballs coated in a spicy cod roe sauce. The slightly spicy sauce complemented the juicy chicken well. Though slightly less memorable, the chicken thigh skewer was also nicely grilled and coated in a sweet, shiny tare sauce. As with most yakitori (heck, any grilled food), it’s washed down well with a cold beer.
We soon spotted the Akashi Style Takoyaki ($7.80), something new to both of us. I’ve been a huge fan of takoyaki for as long as I can remember. Who can turn down the cute little balls littered with dancing katsuobushi (bonito flakes)?! Naturally, I was quite excited about trying the mother of takoyaki, akashiyaki. The texture is quite different, being noticeably softer and a lot eggier in taste. The akashiyaki is dipped into a light dashi broth before eating, softening it even more and making it melt away in your mouth! Akashiyaki is considerably plain compared to takoyaki, but I can definitely see myself ordering it again in the future.
Last to arrive was our beloved Karaage Chicken ($8.80). To be honest, I wasn’t particularly amazed by Yebisu’s karaage. A bit too crunchy for my liking – they might have actually burnt the pieces slightly (you can judge from the pictures). But at least the dish came with a handful of salad leaves and some sweet chilli sauce for dipping.
Just when we thought we’d had enough food to add to our bellies, we were startled by sudden bell-ringing and yelling a few tables down. Panic-stricken and wondering whether we needed to evacuate immediately, we spotted a sake-laden drink trolley making its way around the restaurant! The merry waitress soon spotted our bewildered faces and rushed over to offer us a drink. Naturally, we ordered a serving of the Komagura Sake ($18.00 per 100mL) — well, it’s a bit hard to say no when everybody is staring at you, waiting for more bell-ringing and yelling like you’ve just won the 1 millionth customer prize. The sake is poured at your table into a glass placed in a wooden masu box. After pouring the drink, the waitress cheerfully rings her bell and lets everyone in the restaurant know that somebody just ordered sake!
Despite eating more than enough for the night, we could not resist trying their Kyoto Style Green Tea Cheesecake ($6.80). While it wasn’t the greatest cheesecake in the world (the green tea flavour was hardly present), it was still impressively decorated and adorned with a purple orchid, no less. The cake had a nice creamy texture with a delightfully crunchy base. It was a nice way to end our meal.
Overall, we both thoroughly enjoyed dining at Yebisu. True, some of the food could have been prepared a little better, but what Yebisu lacked in flavour it definitely made up for in atmosphere. I would happily return to try more of their (insanely large) menu.
Regent Place, CBD
Shop 7-10, 501 George St
Sydney, NSW 2000
Opening hours: 12 – 2:30pm (lunch), 5 – 11pm (dinner)