So on Friday, Steve and I decided to pop in for gander. There are three levels; a Japanese restaurant on the ground floor and part of the Ichi Ni group which has a popular place in St Kilda. The second floor is The Village People and is like a dining room / bar that is informal and offers Asian fare (ex Longrain chef) and then there's a rooftop bar on the third floor.
As we enter the doorman gives us a brief rundown so we know which direction to take. We end up putting our names down for a table in the Japanese place (45 minute wait) and explore the other floors before finally having a drink in the The Village People.
It's pretty noisy and busy and I can imagine it will be like this on a weekend. We like the fitout and found the door staff pretty friendly. What we did find strange was whilst there are open outdoor spaces, there's not that much of it and I guess we should have known there'd be no view given where the building is located but when faced with the reality it was a bit "oh, there's nothing to look out at." So Naked for Satan still wins the rooftop bar competition.
We head back downstairs for our table and are shown to a dining area on the lower ground floor which doesn't have the buzz of upstairs and was sometimes empty and devoid of any wait staff which I don't think is a good thing. Anyway more on that later...
- KING OYSTER MUSHROOM TEMPURA
- TORI SOBORO – Rice cake grilled with ground chicken served with teriyaki sauce
- WHOLE FLOUNDER TEMPURA
- BEEF TATAKI
- ICHI NI ROLL – 8 pieces of lobster, avocado and cucumber inside out roll topped with flamed salmon and Japanese mayo
- DRAGON ROLL - Spicy raw tuna, avocado, cucumber, roe\
We also ordered soft shell crab tempura but what came rather late was soft shell crab roll and it was pretty bland. That was one blip. The other blip was the wait for drinks and the wait for our later dishes which we had to chase up and when the dish came it wasn't what we ordered. As we paid up to leave, I think one of the waiter sensed all hadn't gone particularly well so we received an apology and an explanation that it's all the teething issues that happen in the first week of opening.
The couple on the table next to us didn't seem too impressed by the slow service either as they chased up their drinks about 3 times!
Anyway onto the food. The mushroom tempura arrived first and that was really good especially the dipping sauce that had the mellowness that comes from the finely grated radish in the soy base.
We sent the Tori Soboro back as the rice cakes were inedible. I had this at Ichi Ni in St Kilda and it was amazing with doughy, chewy rice cakes but this was just weird. The second lot was a bit better but still not great.
The flounder tempura was attractively presented with the flounder bones bent into a kind of basket. Loved dipping the tempura in the salt to flavour it. If only the soft shell crab tempura had arrived as so far the tempura is the hit.
Beef tataki was pleasant enough. Steve prefers Nobu's version and finds that hard to beat. I liked the thick slices in this version but agree the Nobu flavours are the benchmark.
Ichi Ni roll with the lobster was nice enough but Steve felt it needed something crunchy on it as it was a bit mushy for him. I liked the sweetness of the lobster meat with a little char flavour from the searing of the flesh.
The Dragon Roll was also nice enough. I thought the green and orange roe wasn't particularly attractive - bad colour combo.
The food was ok, the service was barely ok so the whole thing was a bit meh. It has the excuse of it being opening week, but it needs to up its game to be worth the money. Although part of me thinks it might be ok to operate with these lower standards as there's not much choice for good sushi in Fitzroy so no doubt the coolness of the joint will still draw the weekend crowds. I'm not in a hurry to return though...