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Monday, April 15, 2013

Yebisu Izakaya, Regent Place, Sydney

chirashi sushi at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney

It's been dubbed Little Japan, and it's easy to see why. There are enough moody lanterns, brightly lit signs and choruses of irrashaimase to excite any Tokyophile in this newly renovated section of Regent Place. Remember the dark and rather mysterious entrance to Azuma? It's barely recognisable now with new tenants Yebisu Izakaya, a Japanese tapas-style bar serving sake, sushi and snacks from the grill.

The entire Azuma trio -- Azuma Restaurant, Azuma Patisserie and Ton Ton ramen -- have been replaced with Yebisu, Chanoma (serving green tea soft serve and hot dogs) and Tenkomori (a ramen and self-serve deep fried snack canteen of the Mappen and Oiden family).

signs outside yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Yebisu Izakaya

If you squint a little, you can probably recall the layout of Azuma Restaurant. The bar and kitchen remain untouched. You can still see the room dividers that led into the private dining area. What interior designers Giant have done, is remove all the frontage, creating an open and informal dining option that is fun and accessible for the passing public. The Giant design company were behind the interiors for Yebisu, Chanoma and Tenkomori.

touch screen menus at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Touch screen menus at the counter

We stop by at lunchtime when the restaurant isn't quite so busy. Mounted iPad screens act as touchpad menus, although you can ask for a laminated menu if you don't want to scroll.

counter stools at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Counter stool seating

A seat at the counter gives you a view into the kitchen, but most larger parties are seated in the main dining area.

interior design at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Yebisu Izakaya interior design by Giant Design

totoro graffiti art at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney

assorted fried lunch set touch screen menu at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Assorted fries lunch set with sushi, anyone?

The lunch menu is smaller than we expect, with options mostly spanning lunch sets ($13.80-$29.80) or sushi. There are no yakitori or grill dishes listed, much to our disappointment.

teriyaki salmon lunch set at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Teriyaki salmon lunch set with sushi $15.80

The teriyaki salmon lunch set is more like a three course meal, a multi-course banquet that allows you to dip into miso soup, curls of fresh sashimi, a dressed salad, disc of slow simmered daikon, rice and a hefty slab of sweet and salty teriyaki salmon.

teriyaki salmon at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Teriyaki salmon

sashimi tuna and salmon at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Tuna and salmon sushi with sashimi

chirashi sushi lunch set at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Chirashi sushi lunch set $18.80

I've opted for the chirashi lunch set, a favourite order of mine because of its casual simplicity of fresh fish on top of vinegared rice. At $18.80, it's not a cheap lunch but the chirashi sushi is one of the best I've had. It's a seafood wonderland of salmon, tuna, kingfish and octopus crowned with glistening pearls of ripe ikura salmon roe that burst on the tongue.

sashimi salmon at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Sashimi salmon

It's the Japanese attention to the aesthetic, too, that so often transforms a meal into a memorable experience. Soft pillows of salmon are pushed gently into a bowl that looks like a bamboo cutting. Finely diced pickles are served in a gold-tipped saucer that looks more like a flower.

simmered daikon at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Simmered daikon

ikura salmon roe at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Ikura salmon roe on the chirashi sushi

Chirashi sushi often makes use of the off-cuts of sashimi - those end pieces or straggly bits that aren't pretty enough for nigiri sushi. But here the fish is so firm and fresh, the unevenness only adds to the textural experience. The rice is plump and well-vinegared without being soggy, and the salmon roe is like icing on the cake.

dining room at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Main dining room

I'm so keen to try the grilled elements of the menu that I return that same night with a few Stomachs Eleven members in tow. At 6.45pm on a Thursday we're told that it'll be a two hour wait for four people. The place is heaving. There's a happy bustle to the place and the dining room is full.

marinated octopus kimchi at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Marinated octopus kimchi $5.80

We finally snag a table after 90 minutes. Marinated octopus kimichi sets the scene - it's actually ika or squid that's allowed to ferment with its own guts, creating a slippery and chewy snack that delivers on heat.

homemade tofu at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Homemade tofu $6.80

Homemade tofu is vastly different to the commercially produced version most of us are used to. The snow white mounds are delicate with a slightly grainier texture in the mouth. A heap of finely sliced shallots and grated ginger add freshness and zing.

chicken skin yakitori at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Chicken skin yakitori $2.80

The yakitori menu is long and varied with a few unusual vegetarian inclusions like avocado with sweet miso ($4.80) and cherry tomatoes with asparagus ($3.30). We head straight for flavour land, loading up on calorific grilled chicken skin, ribboned on skewers and cooked over charcoal until the fat renders and the edges caramelise.

wagyu beef yakitori at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Wagyu beef yakitori $5.80

Wagyu beef yakitori is a bit of a splurge but one cube of this juicy succulency, and I dare you to not sigh with unbridled happiness. The beef is soft and and yielding, with a tenderness that comes only from marbled perfection.

wagyu guts at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Wagyu guts $3.30

We're not just here to eat the prime cuts. We want everything else too. The eloquently named wagyu guts is actually intestines, but here the casing has been cooked so long and slow that the fibres have actually broken down so it tears apart like meat. It's unlike any other intestine I've ever eaten.

eggplant with sweet miso at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Eggplant with sweet miso $6.80

Eggplant with sweet miso is conveniently sliced to allow easy pickings at the premium flesh. There's more of a toasted soft char than an oozing stickiness to this dish, but we still end up eating the entire dish, skin and all.

fried chicken soft bone at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Fried chicken soft bone $7.80

Fried chicken soft bone makes use of the cartilage section from the chicken breast. It's a dish that contrasts the hard crunch of cartilage with the light crunch of a golden batter.

toasted rice cake at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Toasted rice cake $5.80

Toasted rice cake is one of my favourites - marrying my obsession with chewy starch with a smoky char from the grill. It's a tablet of mochi, or pounded rice cake, that's wrapped in nori seaweed and then cooked over charcoal until the mochi becomes soft and stretchy in the middle. There's a light basting of miso, a sweetness to the edges and a crinkle of toasted nori that adds a taste of the sea.

steamed wagyu and vegetables at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Steamed wagyu and vegetables $12.80

There's a lovely sense of elegance that comes with the steamed wagyu and vegetables, two slices of wagyu beef steamed in a bamboo basket with autumnal accompaniments of pumpkin, sweet potato, zucchini and asparagus spears.

tsukune chicken meat ball skewer with poached egg at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Tsukune chicken meat ball with poached egg $4.80

Tsukune, or chicken meat balls on a skewer, come with a runny poached egg on the side.

tsukune chicken meat ball dipped in egg yolk at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Meat ball dunking in runny egg yolk glory 

Who doesn't love an interactive dish? It's all about dunking the meat ball into as much runny egg yolk as you can manage.

sake trolley at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Flight Sake Airways departing now

We'd been ordering sake from our touch screen menu but soon we realise there's a drinks trolley circulating the room. Just like an airplane! The pretty waitresses - and yes, they're all female and all demurely batting super long eyelashes - trundle the alcohol cart with calls of enticement.

sake trolley at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Sake for one?

Ok we couldn't resist either, and actually it's an easy way to check out all the different sake bottles and ask any questions if you have any. When you do nod and agree to order some sake, the waitress rings a bell like you've won a prize. The kitchen rings a bell as well. It's like some crazy big party and heck,  by that point, everyone wants to join in. It's a brilliant marketing strategy with the bell going off every five minutes like an alcoholic slot machine.

sake pouring at the table at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Sake pouring at the table

The sake is ceremoniously poured at your table, into a sake glass that deliberately overflows into the masu wooden box in which it sits. The sake is deliberately poured so it spills over, as a show of generosity. When you've drunk all the sake in your glass, simply transfer the extra sake in your masu to your sake glass to finish.

dewazakura ikko sake at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Dewazakura ikko sake $9.70

takara brown sugar umeshu at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Takara brown sugar umeshu $8.80

We also try the takara brown sugar umeshu, not quite as toffee sweet as umeshu plum wine, with a deeper amber hue.

aburi scallop nigiri at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Aburi scallop nigiri sushi $6.50

We briefly delve into the sushi menu. Aburi scallop nigiri are flamed with a blow torch until charred on the surface.

soft shell crab roll at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Soft shell crab roll $14.80

The soft shell crab roll looks unusually wide in circumference and the use of red cabbage seems a little ill-fitting.

whiting tempura at yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Whiting tempura with isobe $7.80

It's easy to rack up a hefty bill here, and some dishes seem significantly pricier than other touch screen restaurants. A single fried chicken drumstick, for example, is $6.80. Three cheese croquettes will set you back $14.80. By comparison, the whiting tempura seems like a bargain at $7.80 for eight whole fillets, the batter mixed through with isobe, or dried green seaweed.

diners inside yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney
Diners inside the main dining room

It's easy to see Yebisu fast becoming a mainstay for George Street diners. It's quirky but approachable, with easy ordering and a lot of fun. Itadakimasu! Let's eat.

yebisu izakaya, regent place sydney

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Yebisu on Urbanspoon

Yebisu Izakaya
Shop 7-10, Regent Place
501 George Street, Sydney

Opening hours
Lunch 7 days 12pm-3pm (last order 2.30pm)
Dinner Sunday to Thursday 5pm-11pm (last order 10.30pm)
Friday to Saturday 5pm-12am (last order 11pm)

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Japanese - Izakaya Fujiyama, Surry Hills
Japanese - Mizuya, Sydney

Japanese - Toriciya, Cammeray
Japanese - Wagaya

26 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 4/15/2013 02:13:00 am


  • At 4/15/2013 7:00 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Loving the decor of this place and zomgosh it's tor tor Tortoro!

  • At 4/15/2013 8:14 am, Blogger Tina @ bitemeshowme said…

    The last time I went to Regent's place was sometime last year, back when only Tenkomori had just opened. I cannot believe it has transformed this much since then. Love the vibe your photos are giving off and hey, the food looks very good too! You tried so much, is there anything you didn't try? haha

  • At 4/15/2013 9:02 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    Grilled chicken skin! I'll take 10 please

  • At 4/15/2013 9:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    WOW! this place looks amazing!!

  • At 4/15/2013 10:00 am, Blogger Milktea Eats said…

    very comprehensive review i cant wait to try this place out been visiting tenkomori quite often waiting for this place to open! and chicken skin! gimme all you got!

  • At 4/15/2013 11:02 am, Blogger Mel said…

    I'm impressed that you waited 90 mins for a table for dinner...the food does look worth waiting for and the skewers look amazing (might give the guts a miss, but keen to try soft bone chicken).

  • At 4/15/2013 1:33 pm, Anonymous Eha said…

    Absolutely love this: it really feels like being in Tokyo! Hope you do not mind if I sahre with all honours :) !

  • At 4/15/2013 1:36 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    This place sounds FUN! I love your description of the sake bell-ringing. The sushi looks so fresh and colourful, too.

  • At 4/15/2013 5:22 pm, Anonymous angela@mykikicake said…

    Yumm after reading this I am craving some fresh sashimi!

  • At 4/15/2013 8:48 pm, Blogger Sherrie @ Crystal Noir said…

    You tried so much of the menu! The toasted rice cake is something I'm keen to try - it sounds so interesting and I am a huge lover of rice cake :D The chewiness is the best!

  • At 4/15/2013 8:58 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    We had a markedly different experience sadly :(

    We stopped by for dessert and snacks. The chawanmushi (egg custard) was too firm, almost like panna cotta instead of the silky smooth texture we were expecting.

    Chanoma next door does a better parfait but compared to the green tea cheesecake, it was practically gourmet. The cheesecake was like eating a bitter brick of chalky cream cheese.

    I might give it another shot though after your review though. Looks much better!

  • At 4/15/2013 9:06 pm, Blogger joey@forkingaroundsydney said…

    Great read. Love the decor.

  • At 4/15/2013 10:31 pm, Blogger retrodaze said…

    This place looks cool! I wonder if they take bookings?

  • At 4/16/2013 9:36 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Tina - lol there's heaps on the menu! We made it through about 10% I reckon!

    Hi Miss Piggy - We actually had a snack at Tenkomori while we were waiting, and by snack I mean first dinner. lol

    Hi Eha - I'd be honoured!

    Hi OohLookBel - Ha, the sake bell-ringing was crazy but rather fun.

    Hi Sherrie - The rice cake was so tasty. I could eat them all day!

    Hi Anon - Sorry to hear it but they are still very new so maybe they were teething problems? I think that most izakaya tend to specialise in the grilled dishes so that's why we were happy to skip dessert :)

    Hi Joey - Aww thanks. The frontage is very cool.

    Hi retrodaze - They do bookings. Next time we'll be better organised!

  • At 4/16/2013 12:55 pm, Blogger Jacq said…

    totoro! I like the sake trolley - though I'd probably drink way too much sake because of it!

  • At 4/16/2013 1:56 pm, Blogger Phuoc'n Delicious said…

    Lots of food!! This place looks great!

  • At 4/16/2013 8:16 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Wow! Havnt been down that place since the trio closed down, it looks fab now! And the fact that you returned for dinner AND waited 90 minutes for a table, must be worthy of a visit next time I'm in the city.

  • At 4/17/2013 6:51 pm, Anonymous john | heneedsfood said…

    Wow, epic post! Not that I'm complaining. I love how Regent Place, the food-side of it, has evolved into what it is today. Looks great too. I've got to say, you ordered well. Great dishes! Waiting for and hour and a half to grab a table? You're determined my friend!

  • At 4/17/2013 8:29 pm, Anonymous Lauzy said…

    looks nice. thanks for a great review.

    im a bit sad at the prices.
    when the place was being built i had high hopes it would bring some of the 'plastic window' little izakaya experience that i love.

    and the 90+min wait is disappointing, but i guess its just another indicator that sydney needs more great small bar/restaurants.

    definitely looking forward to a visit to see what can be had on a budget...its an 'izakaya' after all!

    ...otherwise Jetstar will have to get used to seeing me every 6 mths. :)

  • At 4/19/2013 8:39 pm, Blogger leetranlam said…

    I'd been wondering when this would open – good to see your post and to get a colourful tour of the place and the menu! Totally going to order the sake to set off the crazy bell action. Sounds like a fun joint. Thanks for the peek into yet another Japanese addition to Regent Place (the more, the merrier)!

  • At 4/20/2013 3:37 pm, Blogger thesuzchef said…

    Wagyu guts - my husband would love that!!
    I've been avoiding Japanese food entirely as I have been very sad to be banned from eating sushi / sashimi... But the minute that this baby is born, I will be reigniting my relationship with Japanese food very quickly.
    Great review, can't wait to try this place!

  • At 4/23/2013 12:20 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Wouldn't seat us even though the place was deserted and we were 5 minutes early. They open at 12.

    Classic. Japanese inflexibility meets Sydney 'I don't give a rats' service.

    Still, on a previous visit the food was decent.

  • At 4/23/2013 11:40 pm, Blogger Unknown said…

    I loved that Totoro on the wall lol been wanting to eat at this place since...forever....the food certainly looked good!!!

  • At 4/24/2013 1:44 pm, Blogger Felicia @ Next Stop: Food said…

    Ooohh ... I walked past this place a few weeks ago when going to Assembly bar and was instantly, MUST GO!!
    Sounds like this is in need to be added to my list of eateries!!

    - Cass

  • At 4/25/2013 6:52 pm, Anonymous Gareth said…

    Drinks trolley, I'm sold. I love the masu and thanks for explaining what the idea behind the overflow was about. I did wonder when I visited. Looks super authentic.

  • At 5/13/2013 12:55 am, Anonymous Sara - Belly Rumbles said…

    I am going to have to check this place out. They pour sake the right way!! Plus I love the added sake bingo (slot machine) bell ringing.

    I do want to try the waygu guts, sounds interesting with its softness.


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