Lunch - Fri/Sat/Sun 11:30 - 3:00pm
Dinner - 7 days 5:30 - late
Newtown has long resembled a province of Thailand when it comes to the many restaurants along King St, and while Buggles and Squeak enjoy a spot of Massaman curry or a Pad Thai every now and then, it is refreshing to see some new styles of cuisines being represented on the strip. Iiza is one such place, and Japanese food is their focus.
Squeak knows my penchant for all things sashimi and sushi related, but as she is not a seafood eater, I do not always get an opportunity to indulge. Since our recent visit to Monkey Magic, however, Squeak has come to see that Japanese cuisine offers many dishes that cater for her tastes too. A quick browse of the online menu of Iiza, and the glimpse of words such as Wagyu Beef Tataki and Vegetable Tempura and we were off to sample.
To start the meal we decide to experiment with Sake - this is something neither of us had tried before, but were keen to give it a go. I will admit to some degree of trepidation however as I just had a sense that it was going to blow my head off. The waitress made a suggestion for us as newcomers, and we were committed! The sake came in very cute little bottles and while it didn't blow my head off, and it was drinkable I will admit to feeling that it could be an acquired taste for me. Squeak was more keen on it though.
While the progression of the dishes came out differently to how we ordered them, it wasn't a huge problem, as we were mainly sharing them anyway. We shared the Vegetable Tempura and the Karage Chicken which is crunchy fried, seasoned chicken pieces with a dipping sauce. Both of these were delicious individually. There were a variety of vegetables with the tempura, the batter was light and crispy and the sauce and green, seasoned 'salt' worked well together. The chicken was nicely seasoned and very tasty. For me, the two fried dishes together was a bit too much - but that may well just be me, and a result of poor ordering.
I then had the Salmon Sashimi Tacos. Yes - tacos! Now this was diced salmon with a tomato and garlic salsa on top of crispy wontons. I will agree with some others that the combination of these elements seems strange - but for me, I focus on what it tastes like. I do not care if it is traditional Japanese, Mexican or Finnish for that matter - it just has to be tasty. The sashimi tacos were definitely tasty. Squeak, an avowed hater of seafood, even liked them!
I followed this with the Iiza signature sushi roll which was 6 pieces of seasonal seafood and vegetable sushi roll. I generally have always said that I don't like pickled ginger. This was based on one experience I had many years ago. My experience of the pickled ginger accompanying the sushi roll on this occasion however was eye opening. It truly added an extra dimension to this dish and I loved it. This dish was fresh, crunchy, moreish and delicious.
Squeak went for the Yakiniku Wagyu Beef which was Wagyu beef grilled on a Teppanyaki plate with Yakiniku sauce. This came sizzling hot and some final sauce was splashed over the meat and plate on arrival which really added to the sizzle and drama of it all. The meat was incredibly tender and the sauce was very tasty. I scored a couple of pieces and I loved it too. This dish was a winner with us both.
We considered some of the dessert options, tossing up between the Kokutou Brulee and the Green Tea ice cream, but decided to forego it on this occasion.
(We did however pick up some of the absolutely delicious dark bitter chocolate, orange cointreau and ferrero rocher gelato from Gelatomassi to take home.)
Iiza is a very popular place that serves tasty, Japanese food with a slight twist. It was packed with all manner of people on a Monday evening, so I would imagine that booking ahead would be well advised.