In Japan, an izakaya is a pub or tavern, where locals settle down for a night of good drinks and even better food. En Izakaya brings this to suburban Balaclava, where authentic Japanese food is expertly paired with a bustling atmosphere and delicious drinks.
Long time hospitality expert, Andy Gray, wanted to create a Japanese eatery that offered authentic tastes and flavours. While living in Japan he tasted and experienced a huge range of menu items that were segregated within their structured and organised food industry. This inspired him to create a restaurant in Melbourne that would collate all these menus into one big offering. Andy’s goal was to keep the authentic tastes of Japan in the food without serving a toned-down version for the Australian palate.
With Kota Ogawa as Head Chef, En Izakaya boasts a menu full of modern and innovative Japanese share dishes that are original to the Melbourne food scene. The focus is on taste, texture, aroma and appearance and the result is a highly creative, exotic and yet traditional eating experience.
There is a seasonal emphasis applied to the produce used as all ingredients are sourced from nearby regions. En Izakaya uses local seafood and meats including pork belly from Otway Ranges, Wagyu beef cheeks from Alexandria and grass-fed oyster blade beef from Gippsland.
Dishes are designed to be shared amongst everyone at the table. To make it easy for guests, the menu is categorised as “from the garden”, “from the sea” and “from the paddock”. The tuna sashimi laced with a spring onion, soy and wasabi dressing is a firm favourite, along with the BBQ calamari with white miso and vinegar-coated wild rocket, served on Yamagata soba noodles.
It doesn’t have to be dark for you to enjoy authentic Japanese dishes at En Izakaya. The restaurant also offers your choice of lunch specials that are served with miso soup, rice and a salad. We recommend the black sesame chicken thigh with chilli, garlic and honey, or the Wagyu beef burger with sweet soy and wasabi mayonnaise.
When it comes to drinks, you can choose from the extensive list of traditional izakaya beverages like sake, shochu and umeshu, or stick to something a little more familiar. Asahi sits next to Sapporo on the menu and wine offerings come by the glass, half bottle or bottle. With popular European varietals sitting alongside offerings from closer to home, there’s something for everyone.
If the food and drink aren’t enough to convince you of its similarities with the mother country, the interiors will. The small but always bustling venue’s design was inspired by a contemporary version of ‘kaminka’ – a traditional Japanese style of wooden housing without nails. The natural timbers and clean lines help to emphasise the serene dining environment.
In bringing the best of Japan down under, Andy has created a space where locals and out-of-towners alike can experience the best of the culture and cuisine, integrating traditional culinary methods with local Australian ingredients for a delicious dining experience.