A smiling Ebisu beams down from above the lift that takes you up into this riotous new Japanese bar and grill.
Ebisu is a bit of a cheeky reference, because as well as being all about plentiful fishing (he’s clutching a red snapper and holding a fishing pole) he’s also the traditional Japanese money god. While not over-priced, the new Yebisu Bar & Grill certainly is an easy space to drop some coin, starting with their double-sided drink card.
From colourful cocktails on one side, to whisky, whisky highballs, sake, shochu served straight and lengthened into chuhai (shochu highballs), wine and beer on the other; there are more than a hundred and eighty ways to get your booze on. Cue me, five minutes later, double-parked with a Suntory Koyu Ginger Highball ($8.80) and a Kirin Ichibanshibori ($7.50).
Five minutes later, the sake trolley arrives at your table, and somehow you get caught up in the bell-ringing excitement of the place and you’re necking Dassai 39 ($22/180ml) as well. Truth be told, this junmai daiginjo sake is light and wonderfully smooth, and you should drink it at any opportunity that presents itself, because it’s hard to find in Sydney. See what I did there?
With my thirst well on the way to being quenched I took in my surrounding. With Astro Boy, Godzilla and Bruce Lee bursting from the walls, and flowers blooming on the ceiling, it’s certainly a fun and energetic space. If you’re familiar with their other restaurant in Regent Place - Izakaya Yebisu - this new 1.1 million dollar fit-out is a notch above.
Yebisu Bar and Grill floats above the touters and tourist traps on the old part of the Dixon Street pedestrian mall. There are indoor tables, or you can take in the mall’s hubbub from tables on the wide balcony.
While ordering is done on screens at your table, the universally beautiful floor team, all clad in pastel pink, are on hand should you need assistance. They’ll punch in your orders from the sake trolley, and pop ‘round with the handwritten and illustrated board daily specials. We ordered Today’s Special: Bluefin Tuna Belly Sashimi ($18.80/6 pieces) and were not disappointed with the fat slices of rich and unctuous raw tuna fish.
Yakitori here is a particular highlight, and perfect drinking food. With ordering by the stick, you can easily cater to different diners’ tastes and preferences. Two sticks you shouldn’t miss are the rich, fatty Beef Rib ($6.80) and Quail Egg ($3.80), which presents four speared quail eggs that burst in your mouth. Beef Tongue & Enoki ($4.80) were flavoursome, but a bit of a chew-fest.
The fast-paced kitchen gets your yakitori out very quickly. Round two commences with fragrant Pork & Perilla ($4.80) balls, wrapping pork meat around perilla leaves (they’re a different kind of mint). While they do warn you on the menu, Pork & Kimchi (Salt) ($4.80) make for tasty but extremely salty drinking food. Must be time to order another drink…
Don’t get overwhelmed by the food menu (which is just as extensive as the drinks). You won’t be able to cover it all in one sitting, so just order what you feel like eating. For something fun and wintery, the Takoyaki Curry Cheese Fondue ($9.80) made me smile. Crisp octopus balls on skewers are dragged through a sizzling platter of the same sweet Japanese beef curry you find inside a Japanese curry bun, topped with cheese.
If you’d prefer something a bit more elegant, and don’t mind bones in fish, Salmon Chazuke ($8.80) presents a salmon wing on top of rice soaked in green tea. This broth had such roundness and clarity I already want to eat it again!
Still a tiny bit hungry, we threw in Big Clam ($9.80) and felt quite satisfied after the resulting six tiny protein hits. With so much of the menu left to explore, I've already got a hankering to schedule a repeat visit to this bright, happy new space next time I feel like drinking!
NOTE: Washoku Lovers members can claim tempura ice cream for just $2.
Yebisu Bar & Grill
Level 1, 55 Dixon Street, Haymarket
Ph: (02) 9211 3038