So we came up with an alternative plan and decided to meet in the city (Steve was at a football game) and have an early dinner at a place that doesn't take bookings - a bit like our Longrain experience.
There are two places I've wanted to try that don't take reservations so have always been put off by potential queueing; Mamasita and Izakaya Den. Given we were meeting on Russell Street, it made sense to try Izakaya Den. Steve had walked past Mamasita's at 5pm and said there was already a queue down the street so we decided to stay in the area and go Japanese.
It opens at 5:30pm on a Saturday and we met up about 5pm so we decided to have a pre dinner drink at James Squire's. It was about 5:45pm that we ventured over to this hidden restaurant. There is low key signage and it literally is a little nook off the Comme des Garcons shop. The black curtain makes you think it's closed but the music and the fact it was after 5:30pm gave me the confidence to push back the curtain.
It's a long narrow room with a bar and the open kitchen on the left as you enter. Seating is at small tall tables or a large communal table at the back or at a bar in front of the kichen area. We were taken straight to a bar bench in front of the kitchen and left with menus.
Within the next ten minutes the place filled up and a queue began to form so we were pleased we arrived when we we did. At this stage, I confess to being somewhat hungover so stuck to genmaicha green tea which was delicious and Steve ordered his first of many Kirin beers.
Service is friendly although you have to flag someone down as the place is pretty busy. Steve and I discussed this and given the shape of the room there isnt' really space for spare wait staff to stand so it's almost like they understaff the place to add to the busy vibe and to keep them moving at all times. Anyway, it wasn't a huge deal because everytime I stopped a waiter or waitress they always smiled and were very polite and friendly.
First impressions were good. The fish was fresh and the slices thick and chunky. Have to admit the yellowtail sashimi and beef tataki at Nobu is better but this stuff was good too. The sweetcorn fritters were great. Pieces of corn bound together in a crispy batter with a green coloured dipping salt. It was fun watching our food cookand then put in front of us.
Lots of people ate quickly and left - theatre reservations etc but we enjoyed taking our time and after our first lot of food ordered a second round and the staff seemed amenable to this way of eating too.
We enjoyed the tasty quail which was chargrilled and served on the bone. It was fingerlickin' good! The duck and leek was also tasty and the pork came out late as they must have forgot our order but we were in no hurry. The pork was very rich and unctuous with a fatty layer but also tasty.
We decided that the food was not as good as Longrain or as memorable as Nobu but it is a notch cheaper. We enjoyed the whole meal and the fact we could take our time and it felt more relaxed than Longrain did. There's a good atmosphere and is well worth a visit. I think we did it right by arriving early and taking our time.