Japan is so good at bar snacks it has a name for eateries where snacking (and drinking) is the focus – izakaya. A new izakaya-style bar has opened in Surry Hills near Central, based on a character called Goro. Goro may or may not be fictionalised but to get to know the venue, first you must get to know him.
Goro’s life story is detailed and full of adventure, but in an edamame shell, it goes like this: he grew up in the Golden Gai in Tokyo, an area famous for its nightlife. He spent a lot of time at a particular izakaya, Tanoshī-ya! (Fun Shop!) owned by Mr Kobayashi, which was a mix of, “Bohemian artists and run-of-the-mill alcoholics,” says Lloyd Boolkin, general manager of Goro’s. “His dad wasn’t around much, so he was brought up by Mr Kobayashi.” Kobayashi died tragically on a game show and Goro found himself in Sydney. He immediately fell in love with Surry Hills and decided to open his own venue.
Goro’s is deceptively large, split into separate spaces by curtains or panels, with pale wood coloured with navy finishings and plenty of seats. “Cocktails are definitely front and centre, food is secondary,” says Boolkin, though it doesn't taste like it. “We call it selfish food – grab it as soon as it comes out and don’t share.” Sake takes pride of place at the bar and cocktails incorporate ume-shu (plum wine), sho-chu or sake with light, balanced results. Lunchtime bento boxes and evening yakitori will take you through to “2am ramen” and gyoza. Everything is small and salty – perfect snacks to encourage further drinking. Try the pork ribs with chilli and mandarin, or octopus balls with takoyaki and aonori.
When you visit, see if Goro is around. Apparently he has a habit of being generous with sake shots. However, with the 3am closing time on the weekend, it’s unlikely you’ll need much encouragement.
84–86 Mary Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9212 0214
Mon to Wed 11.30am–12pm