Open since Christmas, Tatsu Yakitori Bar is the colourful, fun-loving sibling of West End’s Izakana-Ya Okuman. If Okuman is a date-night favourite, Tatsu is where you head with a group before hitting the town. Or just to stick around at the bar sharing small or large plates of Japanese classics.
You might have trouble finding it the first time. That’s kind of the point. Chef and manager Takashi Matsuzaki says they wanted to give the restaurant a hidden feel, with black tinted windows and no obvious signage, though a video on the Facebook page will point you in the right direction.
It almost seems like a disservice to call Tatsu a yakitori bar. Yes, the skewers of chicken (including traditional heart and tenderloin), pork, Wagyu beef and salmon are perfectly grilled and seasoned. They all pair well with a draught Asahi, or one of the many local bottled beers.
But Tatsu really seems more like an all-star team of Japanese favourites. There are curries, bento boxes, fried tofu, soft-shell crab, salmon teriyaki and pork ramen. Plus one Chinese favourite – soft bao buns hiding aggressively delicious centres.
Where Okuman caters to more traditional Japanese tastes, Tatsu is all about crowd-pleasing. With a decade’s experience cooking at a fast-paced izakaya in Osaka, as well as stints at Wagaya and Okuman itself, Matsuzaki is well up to the challenge.
The interior has almost as much impact as the food. On entry you’ll notice the murals, black booths, neon signs and exposed brick, a hip mix of Japanese and Western styling. But take notice also of the little things, like the way the slats about the bar are shaped like a sake bottle and cup. Or the small painting of the Story Bridge riding a classic Great Wave Off Kanagawa-style wall piece.