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All-Star Yum Cha
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Single-source honey putting community and sustainability next to sweetness.

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Australia saw some bold moves in the ’80s, and we’re not just talking hairstyles. Greater cultural references started peppering the menus of our restaurants, and home-grown ingredients won a new appreciation. The dining scene was coming of age and a new band of pioneers led the charge.

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Leading chefs descend on Melbourne in April for The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. We asked local hospitality folk who they’d abduct for the day and where they’d take them to show off their city. There may be coffee, there may be culture, but in the end it’s cocktails.

Izakaya Den
Japanese
  • Basement,
    114 Russell St,
    Melbourne, VIC
  • (03) 9654 2977,
    www.izakayaden.com.au/
  • Lunch Mon-Fri noon-2.30pm

    Dinner Mon-Thu 5.30pm-10pm, Fri-Sat 5.30pm-midnight

Izakaya Den
-37.813858,144.96791

Beneath staid old Russell Street lurks this seductive sliver of a basement. The tunes are eclectic and the lights dim, but there's no need for smoke and mirrors when it offers a captivating collision of Japanese snackage and a serious sake collection backed by the patient explanations of co-owner Takashi Omi. Bandana-wearing chefs provide the show from behind the flame-blackened bar, deftly preparing food that's both traditional (tuna tataki, fried chicken) and unusual (fat prawns sandwiched between wafer-thin layers of fried nori rice crackers, daubed with yuzu mayonnaise). Brutish charred kingfish head yields deceptively buttery flesh, perfect for poking around in with chopsticks, while ox tongue branded with the grill's smoky char is offset with minced spring-onion sweetness. Finish with the fondue of white chocolate spiked with matcha powder, a goopily glorious expression of the Den's irreverent soul.


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At a glance

  • Food:
  • One Star
  • Wine:
  • Two glasses
  • Price:
  • E $8-$14

    M $15-$26

    D $8-$17

  • Feature:
  • Licensed
    Bar
    Vegetarian
    Impressive Wine List
  • Cards:
  • American Express
    Eftpos
    MasterCard
    Visa
  • Bookings:
  • Bookings lunch only

    Bookings for dinner (groups of 5 or more only)
  • Chef:
  • Kenichi Okumura

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