Traditionally, an izakaya bar is a place to knock off after work and enjoy a few quiet sakes (...and then a few extremely rowdy sakes). But there’s not really anywhere to do that if you live in Melbourne’s far north...until now, baby.
Presenting our new ultimate Japanese in Melbourne: DenDeke. We don’t usually play favourites when it comes to sashimi, but for this place, we’ll make an exception. It’s a no-holds-barred, retro-styled, Star Wars-twinked izakaya den, serving up some of the prettiest sashimi we’ve ever seen.
You know you’re in for a good time as soon as you push through the front door. Owners Keisuke Nakamura (ex-Nihonshu, Kumo Izakaya, Ichi Ni Nana) and Aaron Au (ex-Nihonshu, Golden Monkey, Brunswick Mess Hall) have styled this place just right. 70s Japanese rock posters, retro images from Yakuzu and Japanese biker culture, even Aaron’s original Star Wars memorabilia (that’s not necessarily traditional, he just really really likes Star Wars). It’s like some pop-culture time warp...with a bar.
Speaking of the bar, you can get matcha sake here. We didn’t even know that was a thing. DenDeke also slings a massive range of hot and cold sakes (the Daiginjo-grade Gassan is pretty special...if you can fork out $115 a bottle). You can also get Umeshu fruit liqueurs, and Schocho, a traditional spirit distilled from sweet potato.
But let’s get down to the food. We don’t want to chuck too many superlatives at you, but it’s the best Japanese meal we’ve had in years. Otsumami hash browns with seeded mustard and smoked paprika, tuna tataki with shisho and renkon chips, a karaage that’ll make you believe in God...even deep-fried Kushi-age eggplant skewers, of which we could have eaten about 472.
Whatever you do, save room for dessert. They’re doing a chocolate fudge cake with Kraken spiced rum butterscotch sauce.
If we had a mic, we’d be dropping it right now.
Image credit: Annika Kafcaloudis