Every Friday night on Dixon Street, you can barely manoeuvre your way through Chinatown from the bustle of the weekly markets. But now you can experience the vibe without actually being in the fray – by sitting above it all at Yebisu’s new restaurant, with a Japanese lager and few charcoal-grilled skewers.
In many ways Yebisu Bar and Grill is like the original Yebisu Izakaya on George Street, which is popular for being similar to what you’d find in Japan. But the new restaurant has a bigger menu, more space and a better view. “Like Yebisu Izakaya but extra,” says Yebisu’s owner Arioki Kondo.
One side of the restaurant has the expansive view – instead of concrete, the second storey has a series of large plastic flaps which can be peeled back completely so almost half the restaurant is open-air. “On a sunny day it looks like a balcony; very beautiful,” Kondo says.
Kondo has designed the space himself. He commissioned the murals on the wall of Gundam anime characters and Japanese landmarks, the odd, painted bricks and the bar that looks over the kitchen. “The restaurant on George Street is very popular but if this was exactly the same as the first shop it'd be very boring,” he says. “I wanted to make it funky.”
The kitchen is the domain of Eita Kimura, the head chef. He overseas two charcoal grills, a sashimi station and a menu with around 200 dishes. It’s all typical izakaya fare – glazed, chargrilled skewers of everything from crumbed pork and chicken thighs to hearts, skins and frankfurters. There are raw dishes of both sashimi and marinated sides like wasabi octopus. The bigger dishes include fried noodles, steak and curry-salt fried chicken. Specials are cutely presented on a paper sign made by one of the staff.
The drinks are typical of an izakaya too – bottles of the Japanese lager the restaurant is named after, other Japanese brews on tap, a range of Japanese whiskies and, of course, sake. The latter is served from a roving cart. “We show each person the sakes: this one is sweet; this one is dry. We do a free tasting and if you like it and buy it we ring the bell and yell ‘sake!’” Kondo says.