Sitting pretty amongst laminex diners, Izakaya Ichi is as cute as a Ningyō Kabuki doll. With fairy lights winking and the dining wagon calling, there are lots of reasons to check out this little gem.
Owned by Young Hun Cha, owner of the Sushi 1 chain, the bar opened in late 2015, the flagship (he hopes) for a successful restaurant chain.
“I didn’t want anything too formal,” he told us. “We’ll try it out and see how it goes.”
Izakaya Ichi is a cool place to chill and hang out. When we dine there, we see lots of English language students and local workers, joined by a wide cross-section of diners at night times and hospitality workers eager to have some sustenance after work. Almost directly opposite the Southport tram station, it’s also close to transport.
How super cool is the ordering system! Each table has its own iPad with an easy to read illustrated menu app which you use to place an order. You get to look at your food before it even comes to the table! No problems with translation, how much items cost or even adding up the bill! We’re not generally huge fans of mechanisation, but we can see the value of this little app, limiting mistakes and misunderstandings while saving on queueing, time and staff.
There’s an extensive well-priced menu of Japanese tapas, with nothing over $15: smaller dishes such as sushi, sashimi, salad, fried and grilled dishes ($8 – $12) as well as donburi, rice and udon dishes, and dessert. Lunch also includes bento boxes ($14 – $16).
“You should try the Sake jelly drink,” Young tells us, “or Yakitori and a sake. Very nice.”
In fact, everything we try at Ichi is ‘very nice’ and well-priced in smallish bites. We’d prefer the Seared salmon ‘undressed’ without its fried onion topping, but don’t miss out on the Yakitori or the Mochi. Both are moreish! Service is friendly and quick and it’s the sort of place where even if you don’t have a lot of cash, you can join friends and enjoy a plate or two and a drink.
But the OMG dish setting Instagram on fire is the Icy Snow Flake dessert ($12), a huge bowl of shaved fresh milk ice with condensed milk added, in eight flavours including Green Tea, Sweet Red Bean, Mango, Strawberry, Coffee and Chocolate. Only available at this store, it’s a huge confection to share with friends, the girls opposite us pouring over the chocolate sauce before tucking in. “It’s the best!” they tell us.
Izakaya Ichi is also a late night venue, with last food orders taken just before midnight. With a full bar at the back of the restaurant, drinks cover a range of Japanese beers (two on tap, with Suntory Premium imported from Japan), sake and shochu; after all, Izakaya Ichi literally means ‘sitting in the Number 1 sake shop’.
The Sparkling jelly sake? It’s beautifully presented in a martini glass, but to my palate it’s so sickly sweet that it’s undrinkable. Definitely a cultural divide. I’ll have my sake straight any day, thanks!
We’ve come a long way from the traditional men-only Japanese bars, with food introduced to entice patrons to stay and drink more, rather than leaving to shop around for better sake elsewhere. Frankly, you’d be travelling a little way to find another sake bar close by, especially one open at these hours. The only reason we could see to move on would be to catch a movie. Now that’s an idea…
NOTE: Izakaya Ichi is fully licensed. BYO is $5 per person.
Shop 6, 42 Nerang Street, Southport, Queensland 4215 Ph: 07 5564 0190
Open: Mon – Fri 11.30am – late; Sun 5pm – late (last orders 11.45pm)
This review has also been published on Blank GC.