Tucked conveniently at the back of Town Hall’s Regent’s Place in the heart of Sydney and filled with literally every Japanese food under the sun, Yebisu Izakaya is a place that allows you to grab anything from a quick solo lunch to a long sit down dinner with a group of friends. Taking the traditionally narrow one-row counter affairs of Japan’s izakaya bars and turning into a full blown dining area with charming Japanese souvenirs and neon signs simulating a Tokyo alleyway at night.
Endorsed by Washoku Lovers, you can be assured the Yebisu chefs and sushi masters are authentically Japan-trained and the sheer variety of dishes on the menu suggest they’re trying to showcase every facet of Japanese cuisine – this is definitely the place to go if your current understanding of Japanese food stops at ‘sushi’.
The sushi is pretty good though. I could literally spend the rest of my life endorsing aburi scallop ($6.50) (raw scallop, lightly roasted by a blowtorch) as my go-to sushi train dish and Yebisu’s aburi scallop – fresh, creamy and sweet – doesn’t disappoint. It’s so good we ordered two lots. The aburi salmon ($4.80) was quite a fatty cut and packed with extra toppings, which was slightly unexpected, but good if you enjoy that intensely rich fishy taste.
Yebisu also specialises in kushiyaki – grilled food on skewers. They are relatively pricey given it’s the price per stick, but not too dissimilar to Japanese prices. We tried the wagyu beef ($5.80), chicken meatball with poached egg ($4.80) and the shiitake mushroom stuffed with beef ($4.30). I definitely recommend getting the skewers with the curry salt and enjoyed the shiitake mushroom. The chicken meatball had quite a tough and gritty feel to it and definitely needs to be dunked in the egg yolk to complete its texture.
For its price, the handmade pork gyoza ($8.80) doesn’t give you a terribly large serving and is actually more reminiscent of Chinese style fried dumplings (Japanese style gyoza commonly has a ‘net’ of crispy dough that binds them together. If we’re talking carbs, I definitely preferred the yaki onigiri with miso ($4.80), which wraps soft, slightly glutinous rice in a layer of the slightly burnt, crunchy rice ‘skin’ you often find at the bottom of a wok. Paired with an intensely sticky, sweet and savoury miso sauce, it’s great.
You wouldn’t think a thick slab of tofu could be anything but boring but the tofu seaweed salad ($12.80) actually proves you wrong. Combining Japanese seaweed (wakame), carrot slivers, radish slices, cherry tomatoes and lettuce and drizzled with fragrant Japanese goma (sesame) sauce, it’s actually quite a substantial meal.
If you’re not much of an alcohol person or if you’re the designated driver, you’ll be reassured to know that Yebisu has the most comprehensive mocktail menu I’ve ever seen. The yuzu-flavoured sorbet of our yuzu ocean ($6.80) mocktail adds a shock of citrusy tanginess to your standard (blue) lemonade, which is fun.
Unique to Yebisu Izakaya is also the ‘sake cart’, reminiscent of yum cha carts, filled with sake from different regions in Japan. You are allowed to sample a few before picking something you like, so it’s a pretty awesome system for updating your sake preferences.
With its huge menu of food and drinks, it may take a few visits to really find your go-to menu items at Yebisu Izakaya. But with a store so conveniently located, it definitely is worth going back a couple more times to do a deep dive of their food offerings.
Shop 7-10, Regent Place Arcade, 501 George Street, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9266 0301
Web: Yebisu Izakaya
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Yebisu Izakaya.