Exploring Japan’s snaking, eatery-lined backstreets makes its way onto many a bucket list. Whether it’s to enjoy perfectly shareable eats bursting with new and interesting flavours—the pure joy found in following wafting aromas floating fragrantly through alleys, or simply to experience the inspirational honesty that is Japanese culture.
It’s no secret that Japanese cuisine offers truly unique dining opportunities. One of those? Izakayas. These (usually hidden) spots are typically known for their late-night snacks and tasting dishes, perfect for enjoying alone or in small groups, coupled with a few beverages.
The best news of all is that you can enjoy Japan’s interesting bar experiences right here on the Gold Coast. We’ve rounded up four epic new Gold Coast izakayas, and you’ll want to check them out right now.
Can you hear the cherry blossoms rustle? The gentle whirring of a Tokyo Metro train? Chatter spilling from tiny Japanese bar doors… With each taste of an Izakaya Midori dish, you’re transported straight to the simple, honest and calming pleasures of Japan. Except for this time, those Japanese eats you’re savouring? They’re completely vegan. On the menu, you’ll find everything from plant-based Katsu Don to rich ramen and bite-sized nigiri sushi topped with wild mushrooms, sliced apple and carefully carved tomato flesh. Although they’re the Gold Coast’s first-ever vegan Japanese restaurant, even the most seasoned meat-eater would be forgiven for mistaking these earth-powered dishes for the real deal. Sip sparkling sake and a selection of refreshing Japanese beers while you visit. Well worth the road trip to Reedy Creek any day of the week.
In Japanese culture, eating and walking just isn’t a thing. Though Project Tokyo understand that we Aussies have a tendency to grab-and-go; so, it’s the fully stocked sushi bar and bento box station (bento boxes are a Sunday special) that really catches our eye. It’s all part of Project Tokyo’s ethos where harvested—sometimes inspiring— Japanese dining traditions meet Australian ways. Our recommendations? Fresh Kingfish sashimi with jalapeno heat and yuzu, heaven pockets of duck spring rolls and the type of chicken Karaage you thought was only legal in Japan. As one of the newest Japanese restaurants on the Gold Coast, dine in and wash it all down with Orion beer on tap, wine, sake and Japanese-inspired cocktails. Snuggled up near Markeri Street’s Lucky Bao—blink and you’ll miss it.
You know you’re onto a good place when their name literally translates to ‘happiness and good news.’ As the newest Japanese izakaya on the Gold Coast, Cafoo Izakaya serves a selection of traditional Japanese tapas, Sumiyaki skewers, salads, fresh sashimi and nibbles. With 25 years industry experience, head honcho Masa Kaneko owned two izakayas in Shizuoka before relocating to Australia back in 2009. Masa’s joined by his team, Sous Chef Hiro whose background is as Head Chef at highly regarded Sydney restaurant, Azuma and their manager who brings two decades experience working in Tokyo and across the Gold Coast. Expect interesting dishes like grilled-miso salmon, ninja chicken wings and wagyu beef rolls with garlic anchovy sauce. Sip a selection of fine sake, shochu (Japanese spirits) or dive into Japanese whiskies. Chop chop!
Hidden down an unassuming alleyway off bustling James Street lies Oi Izakaya, a Japanese eatery brimming with the authentic feel of a tiny Japanese village. Slink into your own Chabudai (traditional Japanese booth) with mates and settle in for a culinary experience not likely to be forgotten any time soon. In the kitchen, fourth-generation sushi chef, Ran Kubota chops, sizzles and tosses some of the best Japanese eats we’ve come across on the Gold Coast. Delicately combining traditional Japanese dishes (like okonomiyaki, a seasoned cabbage pancake) with modern twists (think crispy pork belly), even the desserts are gifted with Kubota’s creative mind. We must make special note of the inventive layered matcha sundae with sweet red-bean filled sponge cake, fruit and sweet mochi balls is an absolute showstopper. Don’t forget to visit onsite mixologists for an Oi House Highball or Brown Rice Old Fashioned for something a little different.
Image credit: Kaitlin Maree for Urban List