12 The Esplanade
+61 3 9534 1212
A little while ago, work peeps arranged for an after work dinner at Ichi Ni. You know you work in a great place when you still want to hang out with your colleagues despite being in their company for more than 35hours a week. Oh and the best part: they let you take photos of the food before diving in.
When I was first informed that dinner was at a Japanese Izakaya in St Kilda, I had trepidations. I thought it was going to be “Crapanese” fusion with items heavy on sweet teriyaki and cloying mayo. But I trudged along good-naturedly and guess what, I probably ate most of the food on the table that night.
Ichi Ni sits along the tram tracks opposite the St. Kilda Sunday Market. Next to the iconic Etsy, the restaurant is flagged by a petite lantern and the interior resembles a modern temple.
(Left) Vegetable tempura – 6 pieces lightly battered seasonal vegetables served with ichi Ni original tarte $12.50
(Right top) Ichi ni roll – 8 pieces with lobster, avocado, cucumber. Topped with flamed salmon sashimi and Japanese mayo $25
(Right bottom) Crab roll – 5 pieces soft shell crab tempura roll with lettuce, cucumber, avocado, flying fish roe and Japanese mayo $16.50
Blonde Biker Chick took rein of the ordering and I was told that the gyozas here were a must. We had a vast selection of izakaya dishes, including tempura and yakitori and a few dons to satisfy those with bigger appetites.
I liked every dish. The gyoza was really good, with soft skins housing a juicy flavoursome filling. The sashimi was fresh but pricey for the amount offered. The vegetable tempura consisted of usual players like mushroom, zucchini and carrot. The batter was far from oily although I’d prefer if the usual dipping sauce was available. I found myself unexpectedly loving a dish of chargrilled rice cakes, drizzled in teriyaki and topped with cheese. The ingredients sound like the oddest combination but you know what, it totally worked! I ate my weight in grilled rice cakes that night, especially with the pickled radish, I just couldn’t stop.
The don were served after we had finished more than three-quarters of the izakaya dishes. All of us were getting pretty stuffed by then and our mouths almost hit the ground when 12 bowls of miso soup were initially set down before each of us. BBC had placed an order for 5 don and we thought there was an error in the ordering. Lucky for us, it was just the staff being extremely generous and giving each of us a serve of soup so we didn’t have to share. The don (not photographed) were tasty and served their purpose of filling up the very last of our tummy spaces.
Every now and again I find myself eating humble pie after forming a pre-judged opinion of a restaurant. Ichi Ni turned out to be more than pleasant and I look forward to visiting again just for those grilled rice cakes!