WordMonkey and I were tossing up a few ideas about which of the new openings we would hit this weekend. After some back and forth we decided to travel further afield (tramwise) to Brunswick East and check out Kumo Izakaya & Sake Bar.
It has become standard for me to throw up a couple of ideas of where to have a pre-dinner drink. This area has an abundance of pubs, clubs and bars, but only a few shine through and are worth your hard-earned Aussie dollar.
We headed to The Alderman, which is literally 4 doors down. It has a great atmosphere and is one of the few places where you can trust all the wines on the menu and they serve my fav Knapstein craft beer. It has a good seating area at the back for summer and a roaring fire for winter.
So the Kumo Izakaya & Sake Bar experience got off on a bad foot. We dropped in at 4.30pm to see if we could throw our names down for a booking. We entered and asked if they had any openings. The lady on the front desk said that they were completely booked out I asked if we were free to come between 5.45-6.30pm as they open their doors at 5.30pm. They said there may be a table at 9.30pm. We were not up there for a five-hour drinking session so we retreated back to The Alderman to plan our 2nd attack.
This place had been only open a week so either they were such a hit that they were completely booked out or they relied too much on their internet booking system. So three mins after we were told there was nothing for us, WordMonkey called up and what do you know, they had space for us at 6.30pm. Why make life hard?
Andre Bishop who also runs the Chuji’s, Nihonshu and Robot Bar has put his sake knowledge to the ultimate test and is focusing on what he knows best. Andre was nice enough to walk us through the full sake list and give his recommendations but I noticed not all got this treatment as the service became busier. We settled upon a bottle of Kitzakura Draft Blue Sake. It was a mellow sake with the aroma of pear – light easy drinking that went well with pretty much anything but didn’t really stand up to more meaty dishes.
First up was Snapper Sashimi Ceviche with Ume-Sake Dressing ($14). The ceviche was glorious and the chef must have had some fancy knife-work to dice the chives so finely. But is a cocktail-glass amount worthy of a $14 price tag? Not too sure but it was the first cab off the rank so we gave it the benefit of the doubt.
Oysters served natural with Ponzu and Lemon ($3 each) were a perfect mix of cream and understated heat. The Asian mix of juices complemented the salt of the oysters. They hit this out of the park.
Another standout dish was the King Prawn Fry Wrapped in Potato with Green Tea Salt ($16) with it outer layer of crispy beautifulness and a fat prawn that was cooked perfectly. This is in contrast to a similar dish that Coda have attempted to serve to me twice and failed each time (sugar spun prawn on a stick – mushy and flavourless by comparison). Were they worth $8 each? That I am not sure about.
We also eyed up others having the same dish during service and noticed what must have been a shorter cooking time as others did not have the crispy coating.
The Braised Kurobuta Pork Belly Pie ($16) kicked a goal with pastry done to perfection with chunks of pork belly in the centre. The accompanying sauce played a major part as if it had not been there then the dish would have erred on the side of being too dry.
If the Fruity Plum Wine Karaage Chicken ($12) was laid out a little differently it would have been the star dish. My recollection of karaage chicken is being tender inside and crispy on the outside. Had the plum sauce been served separately the chicken may have remained lightly fried but the time we got around to eating it, the sauce had seeped through and made the chicken soggy. But saying that, WordMonkey thought this was the dish of the night. And the cheapest!
We were still a bit peckish so we enlisted the help of a waiter as to a suggestion. He rattled off 3 of the dishes we had ordered and then was at a loss until he said that we should try Yakiniku Onigiri Beef Rice Ball with BBQ Sauce ($12). What we got did not look particularly appetising – as seen in the photos. Indeed it was a rice ball wrapped with beef. The beef with the sauce was very tasty but the rice ball in the centre was too dense, dry and a little undercooked.
So – would I recommend a visit? That would be up to you and the battle of portion size vs dollars. Service was a little sloppy overall with people repeatedly asking us the same questions, but I guess this will be ironed out in time. We, and many of the tables around us, were missing cutlery for the different dishes. They seemed to be some uncertainty about which tools were right for each job.
The welcome – which is obligatory for every member of floor staff to say whenever someone arrives at the restaurant – even if they are 20m away taking your food order – is very American and could be done without. If it had to remain I would suggest only those in the top half of the restaurant who are not talking to customers participate. But that is just me. Maybe you will think differently – either way, please drop a comment below.
Kumo Izakaya & Sake Bar
152 Lygon Street
Ph. (03) 9388 1505