An unconventional long and narrow space tucked in a dimly lit basement with hardly visible signage. Upon discovering the mysterious doorway at the ground level of Russell Street, patrons need to descend a flight of stairs and push aside an eccentric-looking black curtain to gain entry into this secretive, underground den.
You squint your eyes, trying to adapt to the sudden and unexpected darkness. You attempt to take a good look at the almost rustic interior, and its exposed ceiling and beams. But before you can fully take in the odd combination of peculiarity and chicness of your current surrounding, you would have already been led and seated on a black Japanese wooden stool, a typical piece of furniture found in many contemporary Tokyo-style taverns. A scroll of parchment-like menu is then handed to you, which might make you wonder momentarily whether you have just been given an oriental coded message from a Japanese shogun.
The menu increases the rapidity of your heart rate. Your favourite pork katsu coated in flavoursome panko breadcrumbs does not appear in the menu, neither is your beef gyudon topped with perfectly caramelized onions or your Char-Siu Ramen that usually forms part of your lunch bento set.
What meets your eyes is a list of unfamiliar items with uncommon twists, and an average high-end prices ranging from light snacks of around $10 each, and char-grilled meat dishes in fine-dining portion from $15 to $26 per plate.
Once you have done the food ordering and picked your choice of sake or umeshu, you can then set your mind at rest and enjoy the silent performance of the open-kitchen chefs showcasing their spectacular skills of chopping, grilling and plating up.
Each dish presented is a fine art combined with awesome gastronomic experience: Crisply marinated fried chicken served with lemon wedges and mayonnaise, dainty Tamagoyaki with fine layers of omelette cooked to perfection, the curious sakata-coated prawns served in Japanese citrus mayonnaise. Simple yet not ordinary, those were some fine dishes of top-notch quality.
Izakaya Den is definitely within my list of highly recommended places for alluring food in a seductive atmosphere, as long as you do not mind the slightly upper range price.
Basement, 114 Russell Street
Monday to Friday Lunch: 12 pm- 2.30 pm
Monday to Saturday evening: 5.30 pm till late