Izakaya Jiro, Hawthorn

Izakaya Jiro is a Japanese grill and sake bar/restaurant, located on the Glenferrie Road strip where there are lots of eateries. It's easily accessible by tram 16 or a 15 minute walk from Glenferrie Station, and there's plenty of parking on the side streets as well. The restaurant is named after the head chef, and prides itself on serving traditional, authentic japanese food.

The decor of Izakaya Jiro is simple and rustic, with the brick walls contrasting with the Japanese art for a fusion feel. Modern music plays in the background, and the atmosphere is lively yet not too noisy. The staff were friendly and attentive, changing our plates after the entree dishes and ensuring our glasses of water were never empty. The service was average, about a fifteen minute wait at most for our dishes.

As Japanese dishes are usually small and lighter, we decided on a range of appetisers, deep fried, and grilled dishes. The menu at Izakaya Jiro is very extensive and there's a good variety of traditional and more contemporary dishes, as well as catering for those who like different types of meat (chicken, beef, pork, etc.) and vegetarian options as well. Between three of us, we went with Prawn Skewers ($4.50 each), Gyoza ($7), Takoyaki ($6.50 for 5 pieces), Grilled Eel ($12.80), Fried Oysters ($6.50 for 3 pieces), a sushi and sashimi set ($36.50), teriyaki chicken ($18.80) and a beef udon ($13.80).

The prawn skewers were very fresh and had good elasticity. The smokey BBQ sauce that was drizzled on top contrasted well with the natural flavours of the prawn for a great appetiser.

The gyoza had a crispy base, and the filling had a good crunch from the cabbage that contrasted with the soft pork. The gyoza was sitting on a drizzling of vinegar for a subtle sour taste, and there were spices sprinkled on top that gave it more flavour than the usual gyozas.

The takoyaki (deep fried octopus balls with mayo and a special sauce) was really enjoyable, and you could see/taste bits of octopus as opposed to it all being just batter. It was really flavoursome, and the special sauce/mayo on the top allowed for the spring onion and dried bonito to all be scooped up to add some extra crunch to the dish.

The grilled eel was topped with a japanese sansho pepper, and was lovely and soft to eat, with no bones at all. By itself, it was a little on the salty side, but as we had ordered rice on the side, it went perfectly with it.

The deep fried crumbed oysters were covered in a thin layer of crispy batter, and the oysters themselves were surprisingly big. On the occasions that we have ordered oysters, they tended to be on the smaller side, but these were quite large, juicy and relatively fresh. The crumbed oysters went really well with the mayo and special sauces provided on the side, with a lemon wedge on the side for those that prefer to eat oysters in this way.

The sushi and sashimi set consisted of about 21 pieces of sashimi, 4 nigiris and 2 sushi rolls, and was one of the most enjoyable dishes of the night. The sashimi was all extremely fresh and you could really taste the natural flavours of the fish, but not in that fishy way that can be unpleasant at times. The sashimi consisted of slices of salmon, tuna, kingfish and swordfish, and the sushi rolls had prawns and tobiko (the small, orange fish roe). The dish is a little pricey, but given the generous variety that is included, I think it's worth the price.

The chicken teriyaki was a marinated chicken fillet that was grilled and topped with a teriyaki sauce. The chicken was soft and for the most part tender, though if you didn't add enough sauce to it did feel a little on the dry side. There was a good range of vegetables in this dish to go with the chicken, and again, this was a dish that went really well with the rice we ordered on the side.

The noodle soup dish we ordered consisted of sliced beef with udon, and was another really enjoyable dish of the night. The udon had great elasticity and wasn't just soft, and the broth was fresh and light. There was probably a bit too much beef in proportion to the udon, but it was still enjoyable nonetheless and not too tough or chewy.

Overall, it was an enjoyable experience here at Izakaya Jiro, and I'd definitely come back again to try some of their other dishes. The only real downside I could think of was that we were sitting towards the back of the restaurant; the last table near the back entrance in fact, so the cold air kept coming in when the door was opened and it did get a bit chilly.

Ambience: 8/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 8/10
Price: $$$

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