Bondi’s Isabel walks the line between restaurant and wine bar, with its owners dubbing it a non-traditional izakaya – venues commonly found in the alleyways of Tokyo that are about the drinks and the food equally.
Isabel is anizakaya (a Japanese venue that place as great an importance on drinks as it does food). And while the menu features a range of yakitori and kushiyaki (meats on stick cooked over charcoal on a robata grill), that’s where the adherence to tradition ends.
The drinks menu, helmed by acclaimed bartender Kate McGraw, is stridently inventive. That shows up in cocktails such as the Miso, which is made by burning miso and adding to it Pierre Ferrand 1840 (cognac), toasted sesame and the Australian native fruit quandong. And like innovative Scout bar in Surry Hills, Isabel is also making its own wines.
Additionally, it has one of Australia’s largest collections of Japanese whiskies, alongside sakés and 40 or so bottles of wines made with minimal intervention. The kaiseki is a good option if you want to experience either four or six signature cocktails matched with food.