The newest version of Erin Kim and Han Oh’s casual Japanese eatery, Ilza, opened in Geelong over the long weekend. This latest spot is the couple’s fifth, and follows Ilza Izakaya and Snack Bar, which opened on Little Collins Street last year.

Husband-and-wife team Kim and Oh met while working at Nobu Melbourne – Kim in the kitchen where she started as an apprentice and worked her way up to sous-chef, and Oh on the floor and as a junior sommelier. For all Ilza locations, Kim oversees the back of house and culinary direction, and Oh takes care of the operations, marketing and customer-facing side of things. They’re joined at the new Geelong outpost by restaurant manager Jihoon Lim and chef Hyangwon Seo.

You enter the venue, which is on the ground floor of an office building, through a large fabric curtain with the Ilza logo printed in large cherry-red lettering. Inside, you’ll find an unfussy cafe space flooded with natural light from floor-to-ceiling street-facing windows. The space is decorated with chochin (Japanese paper lanterns) and small fabric curtains featuring the same simple illustrations of dishes, drinks and even cartoon versions of Kim and Oh that were drawn for Ilza Docklands when Kim and Oh opened their first venue six years ago.

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There are Ilza staples, such as sandos filled with pork or chicken katsu, bao with soft-shell crab and crisp tofu, and rice bowls with toppings including salmon, pork belly and grilled or fried chicken. You’ll also find snacky plates like renkon (lotus root) chips, veggie tempura and mini panko-crumbed and fried hotdogs served on a stick with mustard and tomato sauce drizzled over the top.

Geelong is the only place you’ll find Ilza’s breakfast rolls: brioche buns with a choice of pork katsu, chicken karaage (fried chicken), beef menchi (panko-crumbed hamburger patties) or crisp prawn, served from opening until sold out.

Kim loves desserts and here you’ll find her matcha tiramisu and strawberry shortcake and hand-made chocolates from Nama. There are also specialty drinks including a strawberry matcha latte, a peanut butter latte and an iced black sesame latte.

Ilza Geelong
1 Malop Street, Geelong
0434 282 929

Mon to Thu 8am–3pm
Fri & Sat 8am–3pm; 5.30–9pm