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Bars, Eat, Melbourne, Restaurants / 9 May 2013

Secret societies are cool. The hand shakes and doors that lead to secret passageways. Us every day folk can only assume a visit to Hihou is a little like being let into a secret society. Hike up to the top end of Flinders Lane, buzz the doorbell on the seemingly bare black door and you’ll be whisked up the stairs by a suit clad man with very nice manners. It’s all very James Bond right? One word of warning, don’t be alarmed when they hand you a wet towel on arrival. This is not for your gun wounds or to get rid of fingerprints. This is simply a Japanese tradition – did we forget to mention that Hihou is Japanese inspired in all our excitement?  Wipe your hands like the civilized diner you are and take a look at the menu.
The combination of the second story location and the floor to ceiling windows gives you a pretty neat view of parliament gardens from your vantage point. An intimate space, you can find a seat at the bar, the communal table in the middle or one of the many window seats. If you’re feeling adventurous venture into the back half where shoes comes off and floor seating takes over.
The drinks list is heavy on the sake and plum wine/liquor. The Doukan from Oita is rather tangy while the Yamada Jyuro from Kanagawa is a little sweeter. For an easy drinking sake go for the Kinokuniya ‘Summer Rock’.
When it comes to the cocktails there are about 6 on the monthly menus, but for a bit of fun go for the barman’s surprise choice where you choose an ingredient from their seasonal fruit list – last month we saw mangos, passion fruit and kiwi fruit –  and leave it in their capable hands.
The beer list is mainly Japanese like the Kirin ‘Heartland’ from Tokyo while the wine list sticks closer to home with the 2008 Delatite ‘Demelza’ Sparkling Pinot Rose from Mansfield something a little different to start off the night.
Japanese bar food is given a wonderful twist with bites like the ‘Cuban’ spicy tuna cigars and the Hihou hotdog, which consists of sesame brioche, arabiki pork sausage and pickled cabbage.
Hihou is the Japanese secret society you’ve always wanted to be part of.
First Floor 1 Flinders Lane
03 9654 5465
Mon-Sat: 5pm-1am