Hidden down an alleyway off bustling James Street lies Oi Izakaya, a Japanese eatery that is here to blow your winter blues away. With an unassuming entrance, one foot inside and you’ll feel like you’ve stumbled upon a legit izakaya in a small Asian village.
Oi Izakaya is the product of two mates, Stephen Thompson and Troy O’Shea, who wanted to bring their shared love of all things Japan to the Coast. The duo, who met back in 2010 while competing against each other in a triathlon in Geelong, come from hugely different backgrounds, Thompson is a former lawyer, while O’Shea spent time in hospitality in Canada as well working as a PT and plumber. But seeing the pair at Oi Izakaya, it’s clear they’ve found their passion.
The fit-out, which the boys built themselves, feels authentic with dark wood, moody lighting and intimate nooks and booths to cosy up in and sink sake.
The eatery boasts an open kitchen, so diners can score a front row seat to the action—watching fourth generation sushi chef Ran Kubota work this magic.
The menu is designed to be shared so you have permission to go crazy and order a whole bunch of their mouth-watering creations. There’s edamame cheese chips and karaage chicken to start. Followed by classic pork gyozas, yakisoba (a traditional fried noodle dish) and their special sushi burger (opt for the Mooloolaba tuna).
And you can’t come here without ordering the star of the show, the okonomiyaki available with pork belly, thinly sliced beef or seafood (prawn and calamari). Here the team make the savoury pancake Osaka-style but, if you can handle it, try it with noodles for a Hiroshima-style twist.
And you can’t go past their spin on Japanese desserts like their sundae—matcha ice cream layered with sweet red-bean filled sponge cake, fruit and sweet mochi balls.
Post meal and to stave off the impending food coma, slink off to the bar, hidden at the back of the eatery. There you’ll find chief mixologist Lowana Davies, who after working as a bartender in Japan, knows a thing or two about sake and Japanese whisky. There are 25 varieties of the latter on offer, so you’ll want to become a regular, just so you can work your way through them all.
While there’s a selection of beers, wines and even local spirits on offer (Brookie’s and Ink Gin to name a few), we recommend getting stuck into the cocktail list. Try the Oi House Highball or the Brown Rice Old Fashioned for something a little different. You’ll be forgiven for losing hours in this place, and let’s be honest, eating and drinking is what winter on the Gold Coast is all about!
Oi Izakaya is open for dinner Wednesday to Sunday and lunch Friday to Sunday.
Image Credit: Kaitlin Maree Photography for Urban List