ONE of the latest Japanese restaurants to grace Perth’s CBD is a real pearler.
Opened in October, Nippon Izakaya Bar and Kitchen is a large 120-seater on the corner of Hay and Milligan.
It’s towering floor-to-ceiling windows make it hard to miss from the street, with animated diners and perpetually-moving staff creating an entertaining vista.
On arrival, customers bang a huge oriental drum and are greeted with a shout-out welcome from the convivial Japanese staff.
It was a bit like Norm entering the bar in Cheers, minus the borderline alcoholism, weltschmerz and 42” waist.
A high-end affair, Nippon has been beautifully fitted out with a gleaming bar, stylish seating and atmopsheric lighting. It looks like it cost a packet.
The first thing you’ll notice is the cherry blossoms festooning the bar; it’s a beautiful touch that helps soften the bold architectural lines and contemporary fittings.
On Tuesday lunchtime, the tables were crammed with office workers enjoying a pre-Christmas lunch, but I was on my Sweeney Todd, so I took one of the spots at the bar.
I liked that Nippon had an affordable lunch section with donburi and bento-style boxes as well as a dinner section with share dishes (grilled black cod, blue fin tuna, sake clam with sautéed leeks), robatayaki (charcoal grilled skewers) and nigiri sushi and sashimi.
I fancied some of the items on the all-day Izakaya menu (akin to Japanese tapas) so I ordered the Margaret river wagyu beef tataki ($28) and tempura vegetables ($19).
The thin slices of seared raw beef were arranged in a neat row and perched on top of wafer-thin cucumber and scallion. Gorgeous presentation.
The heavily marbled beef (it had a marble score of 7 for aficionados) was crammed with rich flavour and had a crispy seared edge.
Rounding things off was the soy and ginger dipping sauce, which accentuated the flavours in the wagyu.
A lovely tasting dish.
The generous pile of tempura vegetables looked just as nice as the beef, with the carrot, pumpkin and sweet potato creating a colourful, ad hoc piece of art.
I’ve never had a tempura with such thin and crispy batter, and there was a loud satisfying crunch as I bit into the veggies.
The soy sauce was nicely balanced and complemented the fresh vegetables. Another great dish.
Seated at the bar, it was an ideal opportunity to longingly gaze at all the drinks I wasn’t going to have – there was a lovely range of rare whiskies, sake and a very good selection of beers on tap including Asahi and Sapporo.
They even had Asahi Super Dry Black on tap; a dark version of Asahi which is pretty hard to find.
Service was great throughout, despite the place being packed, with the polite manager asking how my meal was and if I would like some rice or another drink.
I’m definitely banging the drum for the excellent Nippon Izakaya Bar and Kitchen, and if Norm ever visits Perth, I hope he pops in.
“What’s going on, Mr Peterson?”
“A flashing sign in my gut that says ‘Insert sake here.’”
Nippon Izakaya Bar and Kitchen
QV1 Perth (corner of Hay and Milligan Streets)
by STEPHEN POLLOCK