Experience Japanese cuisine in Yokocho, Melbourne’s newest hole-in-the-wall venue
If you have visited Japan, fond memories of shuffling along crowded streets and discovering alleyways with some of the best hole-in-the-wall venues was likely an exciting pleasure, the same of which you’ll find at new laneway hideaway, Yokocho.
Having literally just opened its doors, Yokocho (meaning alleyway) is Melbourne’s newest Japanese restaurant by Kevin Pak (of 24 hour ramen diner Shujinko), Benny Lui and Khoa Le. Benny describes fond memories of watching Asian movies and hanging out at the old Red Silks balcony in the Mid City Arcade. Not unlike the alleyways of Toyko, the historic Mid City Arcade is the home of Yokocho.
Much like Dr Who’s seemingly small outward appearance of his Police Box, you’ll be pleasantly surprised as soon as you enter Yokocho. Contrary to expectations of a small interior, there is an expansive modern eatery beckoning you.
With a minimalistic interior designed by Wendy Bergman (Bomba, Mr. Miyagi), the dining hall seats 80 to 90 patrons, including the outdoor terrace overlooking Bourke Street.
Now that summer has hit Melbourne, the terrace is the perfect spot to relax and observe the hustle and bustle of Bourke Street while having a good feed and quenching your thirst beneath a setting sun.
Initially you may be overwhelmed by the comprehensive menu, but having a large choice is the perfect scenario for a shared menu.
Start with some nigiri, such as the jewel coloured tuna and salmon. Then try fresh sashimi, including the beautiful Yukke of seasoned raw beef with egg yolk.
Of course, no Japanese meal is complete without some sushi rolls. Be sure to order the California roll, which is a potpourri of tasty ingredients including salmon, tuna, egg, avocado, crab meat, mayo and flying fish row.
Yakitori (skewers) cater to all palates, from carnivores craving a juicy chicken thigh to vegetarians looking for that perfectly charred leek skewer.
The tempura on offer is impressive, comprising everything from prawn to more unusual inclusions such as capsicum, eggplant and even pumpkin.
If you still have room in your belly, grab some gyoza, okonomiyaki, or even a pork katsu sandwich, then finish with some green tea ice cream.
Drinks available are appealing and include beer, cider, sake, choya (sweet Japanese plum wine), spirits and cocktails. If you yearn for something particularly refreshing, try the Sake Spritz, which is a quirky twist on your usual aperol spritz with the addition of sake. Another hit is the Harajuku Girl, consisting of Four Pillars Gin, lychee puree and lime juice – a perfect summer concoction.
So transport yourself to the alleyways of Japan and have a taste of traditional Japanese cuisine with a modern twist. Yokocho is the ideal venue for dinner with a group of friends in a relaxed setting. Kanpai!