Melbourne’s Japanese cafes are a creative bunch, and this one is no exception. Ilza Japanese Cafe is from husband and wife Han Oh and Erin Kim, who met while working at Nobu and went on to open Tokyo-inspired cafes in Box Hill South, Nunawading and Docklands, along with a day-to-night spot in the CBD.

At Ilza’s moody Docklands outpost, you can take a seat at the penny-tiled wooden tables (which Oh and Kim refurbed themselves) and see how the menu experiments with Japanese and American flavours. A crowd favourite is the cheeseburger curry udon, which is best paired with a malty Asahi or Yoyogi Black Lager. For something lighter, a classic sando might be the go – like the beef menchi sando stuffed with Japanese meatballs, shredded cabbage and Ilza’s signature sauce, and bookended by fluffy shokupan.

The drinks are just as experimental, with strawberry-matcha, peanut-butter and orange lattes available. For something more familiar, grab a coffee by Zest.

Ilza also serves up hearty dinners a few nights a week. Go for its salmon tartare served on crisp lettuce or rice dons with pork katsu, salmon steak or unagi (eel). Dessert might be a sweet matcha panna cotta or strawberry shortcake.

Pair your meal with a yuzu Margarita or a refreshing soju-spiked cocktail. The Peach Hana marries peach soju with Cointreau, lychee and strawberry. In true Japanese fashion, there’s also an abundance of sake and Haku vodka-laced highballs, as well as non-alcoholic drinks like the Japanese soft drink ramune (which loosely translates to “lemonade”). For something more local, opt for one of a handful of Yarra Valley wines.

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Updated: August 31st, 2023

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