Monday, June 9, 2014

Izakaya Den $38 lunch special

A quick catch up lunch with a friend brought us to Izakaya Den. We take a look at the a la carte menu but end up settling on the 'Den Classics' lunch special - $38 per person, two choices for each of the four courses plus a drink.

We order different dishes and share, so end up with one serve of everything.

green tea
The green tea is served in a cute little glass teacup with a round bottom. It doesn't hold much, but with an individual pot each, it's fine to just pour as you go.

First out are the fried crunchy bites. Two of Izakaya Den's must-try dishes - the den fried chicken and the sweet corn kaki-age (fritters).
den fried chicken
The den fried chicken is coated in a light batter and deep fried, served with a wedge of lemon and some mayo on the side. Crispy on the outside, still moist and tender on the inside.

sweet corn kaki-age w/ green tea salt
The kaki-age is as good as ever. I first tried this dish as the Taste of Melbourne 2010 and again when I visited the restaurant on one of my Melbourne trips. It's the perfect combination of juicy corn kernels suspended in a light batter and served simply with some green tea salt. I must say, there really is something special about the green tea infused salt that really lifts the flavours of this dish.

Up next are the cold dishes - a tuna tataki and kingfish sashimi.

tuna tataki w/ garlic soy & wasabi cream
kingfish sashimi w/ asian dressing
The fish is super fresh, and the dressings are light and simple, but work well with each type of fish.
ocean trout
Perfectly cooked so that it flakes away at a slight touch. Good seasoning with a side of pickles.

kurobuta pork belly
Pork belly is always a fun one for reviewers. The crackling was crispy, the meat tender. The only downside was that the fat hadn't been rendered properly and so was a little too oily for my liking.

Then it was dessert time.

apple mille feuille
This dessert was brilliant - like a mini apple pie stack. Light crispy filo parcels of stewed apples, drizzled with a light syrup and served with a some fresh strawberries.

black sesame brulee
And creme brulee. Nice hard toffee crunch on the top, creamy brulee filling.

For $38, there's definitely plenty of food. Perhaps a little pricey for a 'quick lunch', but definitely value for money if you have the time to sit back and enjoy it!

Izakaya Den on Urbanspoon

Saigon Fusion

Mission: introduce Canberran friend to banh mi

Who thought such a mission would be so hard to achieve! After traipsing across the city and finding the usual suspects (Ba'get, FOB Rolls and Roll'd) closed, we happened across this little gem tucked away between Little Ramen Bar and Shanghai Street on Little Bourke Street.

Maybe it's been there a while, maybe it hasn't, but I didn't notice it until today. Having worked up an appetite for banh mi, and only banh mi, we decided to go in.

There's a good selection of Vietnamese bread rolls - traditional, roast pork with crackling, pork chop, grilled chicken and a few others. The roast pork wasn't quite ready yet, so the man behind the counter recommended the pork chop.

pork chop banh mi

So we decided to give the pork chop a go and I think I've found a new local favourite. The pork was sweet and juicy, with a good lemongrass flavour through it. The bread was fresh and crusty, the pate smooth and creamy, and the salad of pickled carrots, cucumber, coriander and chilli brought a real hit of freshness.

The place itself isn't fancy. A little more than a hole-in-the-wall, the place runs quite efficiently. In addition to the banh mi, there's also pho and a couple of other dishes on the menu.

Will be back for the roast pork with crackling!

Saigon Fusion on Urbanspoon


Hofbrauhaus has been on my list for many many years, but only this year did I finally get my act together to try it out. It helps when you have a German friend who occasionally craves a German feed!

When you think German food, what comes to mind? Schnitzel? Pork knuckle? Sausages? Sauerkraut? How about all of the above, and much much more.

That's what you get when you order the HB feasting platter. Designed to serve two people, but really more than enough for four, the platter consists of a massive pork knuckle, crispy pork belly, sausages, schnitzels, sauerkraut, red cabbage, mashed potatoes, potato dumplings, bread dumplings, mustard and gravy. Significantly more food than could be consumed by two people!

HB feasting platter
The pork knuckle is amazing. A huge hunk of tender meat served on the bone, crispy crackling on the outside, and a nice sticky gelatinous layer between the crackling and the meat. The pork belly is equally well done, but the flavour is less intense. The schnitzel is as it should be - golden and crunchy on the outside, thin slices of chicken on the inside.And you most definitely need the sauerkraut and red cabbage to cut the richness of all that meaty goodness.

We order a side of spaetzel, which is really a German style of mac 'n' cheese. Crispy onion rings on top, al dente pasta and a creamy carbonara like sauce. It's a bit rich so it's a good thing we're sharing.

And it wouldn't be a proper review of HB if I didn't mention the huge beer menu that certainly pleases my German friend.


The decor is simple, with long wooden tables and benches upstairs, smaller tables downstairs. Mid-week is probably the best time for a proper feed as it can get quite loud and rowdy on a Friday night.

upstairs dining

downstairs dining and free live music
Service is relatively quick for the amount of food on the platter, and the waitresses are friendly and polite. If you're looking for value for money, Hofbrauhaus fits the bill!

Hofbräuhaus on Urbanspoon