The concept of an Oriental Cafe isn't new to Dublin. I did a little online research and was interested to learn that Bewley's opened the first cafe way back when in 1894 on South Great George's Street. It was followed by other famous Bewley's venues on Westmoreland Street and later Grafton Street. I can only imagine how the grand decor, with tiling, stained glass windows and lightshades must have looked to the fashionable set of the time.
Sadly, even venerable institutions can fall and in 2004, the Bewley's venues closed their doors. South Great George's Street played host to Cafe Bar Deli for several years, along with another short lived venture, before becoming home to Yamamori's latest offering. I'd eaten in the upstairs Yamamori cafe in December 2011, but it had been a mixed meal, with high points (sweet potato fries) and dismal low points (congee). I genuinely had the Oriental Cafe on my no-return list. Or at least that was the case until I visited the downstairs Izakaya bar.
Head down a steep flight of stairs and you will find yourself in what is possibly Dublin's coolest little bar. Big chunky wooden tables, low lighting and Japanese pieces fill the space of this little gem, which sells a selection of Japanese beers, whiskies and spirits. If you're hungry, there is a large selection of little bites, with a special offer of 5 for €25. Plates arrive as they are cooked, meaning that there is a nice stream of food delivered to your table. We kicked off with spicy and delicious chili squid, followed quickly by tender and moist pork ribs. Pumpkin korokke (little breaded cakes) were served with dipping sauce, while stuffed capsicum featured mixed chili pepper slices, filled and deep fried. Last to the table was a selection of chicken yakitori (or skewers).
|Pumpkin korokke with dipping sauce|
The five courses for €25 represents great value, but after a few tasty beers (him) and cocktails (me), we were peckish again, so we made a last order of a plate of pork gyoza (€6.50) and the Izakaya burger. The gyoza were good with plenty of juicy filling, but the burger surpassed all expectations. In fact, I would go so far as to say that it is the best burger in Dublin. With a price tag of just €5.95, I was contemplating a return visit for just the burger alone.
|The magnificent Izakaya burger|
|The owl adorned label of Nest beer|
The drinks menu is dominated by Japanese drinks and he had bottles of Hitachi Nest pale ale (€5.50) and Sapporo (€4.50). My tastes run a little different so I drank cocktails - a Geisha Night (€7.50) and Mojito (€9.00) to be more precise. All cocktails are made with Japanese or Korean spirits like soju, so it's definitely different.
It wasn't until after my visits to Izakaya that I learned that the name denotes a kind of Japanese after-work drinking establishment which serves food to accompany the drinks. It's kind of like calling an Irish bar "pub". Naming effectiveness aside, our Dublin version definitely fits the description. In fact, it's become my new favourite bar. There are regular drinks promotions and the 5 for €25 offer means that the small tasty plates can be shared amongst groups. And did I mention that it's got the tastiest burger in town?
Tel: +353 (0)1 645 8001