Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Iiza, Newtown

Last night I met up for dinner with my two favourite boys, BFF and The Boy. 

I’m keen to try a Japanese restaurant that I’ve recently spied on King Street in Newtown.  The Boy tells me that I’m always keen to try a Japanese restaurant, but there is nothing wrong with that. Right?

Iiza occupies the spot formerly occupied by Lucky’s Pizza.  I’m sad that Lucky’s Pizza has disappeared from the King Street strip as they did some awesomely good pizzas, but I’m happy that I have another Japanese restaurant to try out.

Iiza is a modern looking restaurant in the style of a traditional Japanese izakaya, which the menu tells me is a popular eating establishment in Japan offering a casual, vibrant and friendly atmosphere for locals to eat.   

I’ve never been to Japan or an izakaya (yet) but this place has the ‘ Japanese vibe’  complete with wooden floorboards, paper lanterns and Japanese calligraphy and paintings adorning the walls.

We are all very impressed by the plethora of sake bottles that occupy nearly every flat space in the restaurant…including an Australian Sake!  We didn’t try any sake, but if it is anything like the sake I’ve had before I am sure it would be strong enough to blow your socks off (if you wear socks that is).  

The menu at Iiza is fairly extensive and has all of the regular suspects as well as some more modern options like Duck Teriyaki and various tapas offerings.

We start off with a serve of Edamame ($6.80) which is intended to give the boys something to munch on as I take happy snaps of all the other dishes that we’ve ordered  The Edamame are steaming hot and sprinkled with sea salt. Delicious! 

Our next entrée is Pork Gyoza ($8.50) served with a spicy sour sauce.  We are all so impressed that everything we’ve ordered comes in six pieces – a good number for a group of three. 

The final entrée we’ve ordered is Nasu Dengaku ($8.80) – sliced eggplant topped with Japanese Dengaku miso.   

When this dish arrives at our table I am a bit startled as it looks like a huge piece of steak (not what we ordered).  It is in fact a large, unsliced piece of eggplant with a thick layering of Dengaku miso. 

The eggplant is soft and smooth, but I do find the Dengaku miso is just a little bit too salty (which is saying something as I am a total salt addict). The Boy has never had eggplant before and the thinks this dish is ‘alright’ which I know translates to “meh”. 
Being at a Japanese restaurant we of course have to have sushi!

The BFF decides on the Iiza Signature Roll ($13.00) filled with “seasonal seafood and vegies”.

My soft shell crab addiction needs a hit so we also order a Spider Roll ($14.50) filled with crispy soft shell crab.

The sushi rolls are served together on a chunky wooden plate and are piled high, pyramid style.  I LOVE the presentation and the sushi looks so inviting.  Both rolls are wrapped not only with Nori, but also with  finely sliced daikon radish – unusual, but a nice touch. 

We all agree that we miss the spidery crab legs that usually feature on soft shell crab roll.  I wonder if the chef saves up all the crunchy legs and has himself a big crab leg feast at the end of the night.  I sure know that’s what I’d be doing if I was in the kitchen.

Last up is the Teriyaki Chicken ($19.00), a grilled juicy chicken thigh fillet which the menu tells us is marinated with teriyaki sauce.    The plate arrives, but with a little bowl of teriyaki sauce on the side.  I’m not entirely sure if the chicken is marinated or not...never the less, it is still pretty darn good.

Right at the end of our meal I spy an elaborate looking sashimi dish headed for someone else's table and I have massive food envy.  The delicate pieces of white fish sashimi are cradled on what remains of the body of the fish.  The first is curled up like it is leaping out of the water, and is skewered into shape.  The fish is complete with head and tail.  It was incredible fancy, although the way I've described it sounds more like fishy torture! Anyway I know what I'm having next time....

Iiza is at 184 King St, Newtown.

Iiza on Urbanspoon


  1. My mouth is watering... I love Japanese food. Trouble is there never seems to be enough!!

  2. We went to Iiza some months ago and absolutely loved it. Good quality and reasonable prices. The slow cooked stuff is pretty good too, with a homemade taste.

  3. My favourite here is the Kakuni Pork Belly, - 'sweet Japanese pork belly braised overnight in a traditional soy based stock until sweet and tender.' Expensive but drool...

  4. interesting place, i need to get to newtown more often

  5. radish ... nice :)

    was the radish like preserved?

    -- Have u tried Green Palace?

  6. I think I need to get back to this place again. The pork belly was fantastic

  7. Hi Melba Toast! I love sushi too! But it's kind'a odd that the Soft Shell Crab sushi doesn't have the crunchy legs. And it's amazing how they wrapped them in Daikon. Nice pictures and I love the way you described the food. I will visit Iiza!

  8. that gyoza looks delicious! sounds like a nice place to try out.

  9. Hi Cate - my mouth waters just thinking about Sushi. You just need to order more food! That's what I do.

    Hi Lateraleatig - I loved this place and will go back again for sure to try some different things.

    Hi Shawn - pork belly is on my hit list for next time. Love a good pork belly!

    Hi Laura - Newtown is great, but parking is a real pain in the butt. It's worth it though for all the yummy places to eat.

    Hi Dolly - I've not been to Green Palace (you have). I'm going to suggest it for my next outing with my vego friends. I think the radish was raw and peeled very thinly. It was lovely.

    Hi John - I'm going back again for the pork belly. You're the third person to tell me how good it is.

  10. Drove past this last night and it looks great, cant wait to try - i love japanese food! oh and there is sake too? WIN!

  11. Yum Japanese food! I wish there were more Japanese people in Canberra opening restaurants!

  12. Hi Gianna - they have SO much sake that a gal could really get herself into a whole lot of sake trouble if she's not careful!

    Hi Susan - I feel the same about African restaurants in Sydney. I wish some more would open up.

    Hi Thang - the gyoza were so tasty (hot & tasty = yum)!

  13. I usually loooove nasu dengaku - the miso eggplant - I'll try it when I go to Iiza tonight and see how it compares to the (incredible) version at Hikaru.

    Have you tried African Queen in Marrickville? It's very authentically African and has pretty good food!

  14. Hi Liv - let me know what you think of the Nasu Dengaku at Iiza. I love the one at Hikaru too. Haven't been to African Queen - thanks for the tip.


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