Maybe it was a sign from the food gods telling me that when you are watching an AFL match at the MCG you are meant to eat the food that is offered at the stadium. Hotdogs, jam doughnuts, meat pies and hot chips, coke and beer are all absolute winners every day of the week. You certainly cannot go wrong with a combination of those timeless junk-esque snacks. We tried to beat the system on this occasion – to find a suitable pre-match restaurant that was quick, affordable and delicious. Maedaya was quick, affordable and semi-delicious.
I had been to Maedaya on several occasions before, and thought that it would tick all the requirements for this evening. We had no choice but to arrive early, considering we wanted to watch the first bounce, and there is a strict no booking policy for under 6 patrons. The staff are very friendly as they greet you in Japanese (I think) as you enter the room. Further, our waiter was very kind as he helped us select our dinner and drinks – nice to find some helpful staff.
The team behind Maedaya have done a great job fitting out the downstairs room. As you walk in the front door, it is impossible not to notice the ropes hanging from the ceiling that creep down the walls. An interesting touch. I like the space a lot. Meanwhile the bar is on the right hand side displaying an impressive range of Sakes and Japanese beer on tap. I did not get a photo but you will surely see the small grilling station upon entering, where a dedicated griller stands and cooks a variety of skewers (a specialty here). An upstairs room is available too where they host self-barbequing stations – personally I find the downstairs much more cosy and cute.
The menu is enormous in both physical size and variety of izakaya inspired dishes on offer. The skewers are certainly a feature of the menu taking up an entire page of different options including, mushroom, eel, scallops, chicken … you get the picture. We started with the scallop (pictured above). I was hungry and ate them very quickly. The scallops were not a brilliant quality. But they were only $5.00 for the two. It is hard to complain when normally they are a very expensive treat.
Beef, teriyaki chicken and chicken mince skewer ($6.00ish for all). These were very chommable and arrived very quickly.
I cannot criticise the presentation of the Maedaya skewer set. Five of these babies are lined up next to each other, each ready and waiting to disappear. Each skewer was meant to have a different dressing, although I found the mayonnaise ones to be very similar, besides the colour. The three on the right were all alike too. They were very inexpensive and tasted like mushy chicken mince. Not superb, but an ok snack.
The salmon sushi was presented very nicely with carrot slivers and toasted sesame seeds to decorate – stock standard hand rolls. This dish was probably the best of those ordered and was appropriate to share with 2 people.
Main serve of chicken teriyaki. Tender pieces of chicken coated in a thick sweet marinade. You can’t go wrong with it. A good option to plonk in the middle between 2 or 3 people. Three forks please?
Above is the salmon and tuna salad. I felt like the pieces of salmon and tuna were slightly sub-par standard overall – seems like the average fish theme runs through all the dishes here. Nevertheless, this was a healthy and surprisingly filling salad. The golf ball inspired mayonnaise constructed pile of crab meat was a very nice touch. I chommed him up real quick.
We were in and out of Maedaya within 40 minutes, not bursting out of our pants and our wallets had not suffered either.
Overall, Maedaya is not creme da le creme Japanese. That long lasting feeling when you think about the restaurant for days post-visit did not occur after this experience. Will I go back in the future? I would go under similar circumstances. Certainly the level of haste to re-visist has decreased a notch or so since this experience. In such a competitive industry in Melbourne, you just have to be perfect (or at least close to it) with simple dishes like these. Or maybe my mind was a mess the whole time and I just wanted my Four’N Twenty Pie…
The Important Details…
Cuisine: Japanese Izakaya
Noise: Bearable chit chat
Bookings: Groups of 6 or more
Suitable for: All
Price: Approx $25 a head
My View: Fast, friendly and cheap
Address: 400 Bridge Road, Richmond
Phone: (03) 9428 3918
Sozai is one of many on my restaurant repertoire list. Thankfully, I put suburbs next to names of eateries to make the decision making process even faster. A cold night in Melbourne, I can take comfort in going to one of my old favourites, ensuring I will have a good meal. It’s also not too far away from the nest either.
The electric blue neon ‘Sushi (fish) Sozai’ sign at the top of the window will be the beacon of light letting you know you have arrived at your destination. Pleasant exterior with wooden paneling, a very typical Japanese style. A few tables out front, only really used to eat in the summer. In the winter they’re just used for a quick hit of nicotine during a meal by some patrons.
As you hope for when you go out for Japanese food – a clean, sleek fit out in which you feel very comfortable to dine. This snap was taken when Sozai was emptying out. An hour back or so, around 7:00pm, take-aways run in and out continually while the place is packed with sit-in diners. I have been known from time to time to take advantage of the efficient take away service.
Stock standard bowl of miso soup ($3.50). This is a great way to start any Japanese meal (unless you burn your mouth). In the winter, there are not too many nicer pleasures than cupping your hands around a hot dish and slowly warming up the ol’ body with small gulps at a time.
I can never stop myself from ordering this appetiser. Once they arrive and I have my first heavily salted bean, I can not stop eating them. The edamame beans ($7.00) at Sozai are served warmed with large sodium crystals dispersed throughout. I recommend these as a delightful snack to share with up to 4 people before your meal. Warning – these are addictive.
The gyoza – pan fried home-made pork and vegetable dumpling (6 for $8.50). Small parcels of minced fillings in a very delicate Japanese type dumpling wrapper. These work well to share between 3 or 4. They aren’t award winning Xiao Long Bao – just tasty, lightly fried mouthfuls. Dip them in the sauce provided for extra flavour.
Nasuden – lightly fried eggplant with miso glaze ($8.00). Love it, and order it every time I see it on the menu. On this particular occasion, you may notice the closer portion was slightly overcooked. It still tasted ridiculously good. The delicious miso paste, combined with the moist warmed eggplant is heavenly. Nice to share between three people.
Ebi tempura – prawns and vegetables deep fried in Japanese batter ($12.50). I always like to think that tempura batter is a far healthier alternative to the regular bread crumb/beer batter – I think I want to go on keeping this belief. The prawns are the best on the dish by far. The vegetables are only there to say hello with no real added value. A light soy based dipping sauce is provided too. I often let the napkin soak some of the residual oil from the tempura for a good 5 second before I pick it out and chom it in two mouthfuls (max).
If you want an insider’s tip for Sozai that you may use on your own, it is ‘ask for the Nasuden nigiri’ ($3.00 per piece). They are the seaweed wrapped eggplant sushi. Using the same eggplant displayed earlier, only finely cubed sitting on a bed of Japanese rice. Need I say more – order, order, order. Two per person is perfect. The entree sushi platter – 4 pieces maki + 4 pieces nigiri ($13.00) was put on the same dish. Good use of space if I say so myself. Excellent, fresh pieces of sushi. Flawless every-time. Unfortunately, this is the extent of sushi for this meal.
Chicken thigh fillet with teriyaki sauce with steamed vegetables ($21.00). I’ll admit this photo does not look too appetising. To be honest with my loyal readers, the taste is not great either. I have a brother with a condition that does not allow him to eat fish products, thus we often order the chicken teriyaki for him. It’s very edible, but most definitely not Chommery Approved.
The unagi don – sizzling smoked eel with steamed rice and thin omelette ($20.00) is a dish that many may not see on a regular basis. Besides eating this dish time and time again at Sozai, I have only one other fond memory of eels. When my brother and I were young children visiting the Botanical Gardens in South Yarra, we would run to the edge of the lake and our caring father would hold us back while we tried to catch one of the eels in the water. We were not so lucky. This could be Mr Sozai’s source. Roughly 5 soft, sweet, succulent pieces of eel sit pretty with a Japanese egg and sliced peas. We commonly put this in the middle and share between three. No more spiel, just try some eel.
Sozai is not out of this world, heart stopping, fine dining, three chef hat winning cuisine in Melbourne. Alongside Hibari on Malvern Road, it is one of my local go-to Japanese joints. The following reasons are why I keep going back to Sozai, and why I feel you may enjoy yourself too:
- The produce is fresh
- The interior is wooden and warm, not to mention clean
- The sushi is excellent
- You can often get in if you don’t have a booking
- The prices are very competitive
- It’s open seven nights a week (very rare for Japanese restaurants)
- The overall food standard makes me smile
- Reliability, convenience and taste are all checked
The Important Details…
Noise: Fair amount of chatter floating aorund
Bookings: Yes – wise to do so
Suitable for: Young and old
Dress: Casual – smart casual
Price: $30-$35 p.p. (very reasonable)
My View: Consistently pleasing
Address: 1221 High Street, Armadale
Phone: (03) 9824 8200
You want excellent quality Japanese food, very reasonable prices and a top-notch location and I’ll tell you Hibari Japanese restaurant is where to go. Running with the same successful formula for many years (maybe 10 or more) in the same location on Malvern Road in South Yarra, Hibari serves up dish after dish of all the usual suspects that you desire.
Very unassumingly positioned with no outside seating, which is no problem for The Chommery and won’t be one for you either. You haven’t come here to spend many $$$, ogle multi-million dollar fit outs or be served by a person wearing oversized Ray Bans (without lenses) with a snake tattoo crawling on to his neck from underneath his top-button done-up collar. You have come for GOOD – WHOLESOME- INEXPENSIVE food. Do those places still exist in Melbourne? Yes!
Basic, self explanatory interior which forms a very cosy seating arrangement that only holds 30 people at any given time. It’s standard to see a continual influx of ‘in the know’ locals picking up take-away all through the night.
Edamame Beans ($5.00) – boiled green soybeans. Served salted and warm. In case you don’t know the correct way of eating these. You suck dem beans out and throw away the wrapping.
One bottle of sake (or more) always goes down as a great companion to any Japanese meal. The regular house blend, slightly heated is my standard choice.
The Moriwase is the combination plate of sushi and sashimi ($24.00). Fresh fish, perfectly made and a simple yet effective presentation. Top suggestion to share between 2 or 3 people. The real chommers should ensure to smoosh up that wasabi+ginger+soy to make a great sauce to coat your pieces in.
The large Califonia roll with prawn, vegetables and mayonnaise ($10.00) Your standard roll – no complaints.
Spicy inside out tuna roll ($10.00) Very aesthetically pleasing presentation. The addition of the fish roe and the sesame seeds on the outside provide for something slightly different.
Yakiniku – sliced beef in Japanese BBQ sauce ($14.00) For the price I shouldn’t complain. As for the readers, they want the truth or they won’t trust The Chommery anymore. The beef is very edible, but not of an amazing standard. Therefore, it is an order if you want – but I’m not saying it’s a must.
Good Japanese main courses are hard to come by. Although, The Tori teriyaki – chicken in teriyaki sauce ($14.00) is an exception. The chicken is tender and perfectly coated with the sweet teriyaki. A side of rice goes well with this to lap up the sauce. Further, at the price you are paying the serve is far from stingy. Definitely order to share with 2 + diners.
Minutes from Chapel Street and just down the road from Hawksburn Village (Malvern) placing Hibari in a prime location. Note: It’s often difficult to notice; it’s almost opposite the McDonalds.This is my favorite spot for local Japanese dinner. You can get a table rockin’ up, but to ensure you get one, it’s best to book ahead.
Chommery Approved Suggested times to visit Hibari:
- Casual relaxed weeknight (except Monday)
- Wholesome food with NO pretentiousness
- Post/pre movie at Jam Factory (Yes, it’s worth driving away from Chapel Street)
- Lining the stomach before a night out on the booze and/or start with BYO @ $4.00 per bottle
The Important Details…
Noise: When full quite loud
Bookings: Yes, via phone
Suitable for: All
Price: $20 – $25 per head
My View: An oldie but a goodie
Address: 479 Malvern Road, Prahran
Phone: (03) 9827 0155