The word izakaya isn’t exactly new to Melburnians anymore but Fumi and Takako Tamura think the city lacks a proper one.

“Izakaya is like a Japanese pub restaurant. My definition of izakaya is a lot of choices. Food-wise and drink-wise,” Fumi tells Broadsheet. “Back in the day, [they were] Japanese-owned, classic food, big venues. I miss it. It got me thinking, ‘Where is it?’”

Now the couple – who opened Tamura Sake Bar on Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street in 2019 – have launched the kind of izakaya they think Melbourne is missing.

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The sprawling bluestone venue – which was beloved pasta bar Mamma Vittoria’s for over 30 years, then the second iteration of pizza hangout Lazerpig – is exactly as Fumi describes. There’s a lengthy menu of classic Japanese snacks, a solid selection of strong drinks and a massive space that can fit around 150 people across two levels.

Takako’s dinner menu has familiar dishes like gyoza, sushi, karaage and katsu, as well as some that might be new to diners. They’ve been surprised at the popularity of unakyu, unagi (eel) with cucumber and the takowasa, raw octopus with wasabi. The lunch menu is tighter, with ramen, sushi and donburi on offer. “It [feels like there’s been] a revival – I feel like classic is really cool nowadays,” Fumi says.

The cocktails have Japanese ingredients and flavours, too. The martini uses brine from making tsukemono (Japanese pickles), the toki doki highlights Japanese whisky and the cho bri bri club is mixed using a house-made lychee pomegranate shrub. Wines lean natural, while beers on tap include a rice lager made in collaboration with Stomping Ground.

And there’s sake, of course, but not the same bottles you’ll find at Tamura Sake Bar. “[That’s] a sake bar that’s like a wine bar, so just sake as it is … very savoury, very funky, big character. But the sake here [is] more food-matching”.

Izakaya by Tamura
343 Smith Street, Fitzroy
0417 921 527

Thu 12pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–1am
Sun & Mon 12pm–10pm