Friday, October 21, 2011

Yu-u Bar - ( Melbourne )

  Japanese izakaya bars are popular in Australia,  although quality Japanese food is very scarce in Melbourne perhaps due to a limited offering of real Japanese ingredients.    Yu-u is found hidden behind a heavy steel door and one is then led downstairs into a chic Japanese architect designed dining space.  It was originally created to cater for Japanese businessmen who needed a space to chill off after work,  perhaps with their mistresses behind the wives  (it happens!).   When this izakaya was awarded a 1 Hat status by the local Good Food Guide a few years ago,  there was controversy involving the old Japanese couple owners refusing to allow their izakaya to be published on the dining guide,  citing reasons of privacy and aimed clientele.   After a change of ownership to a younger owner Japanese couple but retaining the hatted status so far for the last few consecutive years,   I returned back to find that even the clientele has slightly shifted towards the more local crowd.   


P1210662-1Hidden beneath,
you’re ushered into this half hidden underground dungeon..




The Charcoal Bed grill and tonight’s grilling Chef -



Shochu of:    Ikkomon 一刻者  (sweet potato)
&  Iichiko いいちこ   (barley)
For reasons unknown, everyone orders Japanese Sake, prounounced  sar-keh  not  sa-ki  down South whenever dining and drinking out at izakayas.   In Japan and Hong Kong,  most businessmen order beer first and then hop straight onto shochu or awamori instead of sar-keh …    That’s why I often say Japanese food and customs in Australia has deviated slightly from the truth.   Sake is a more delicate drink and should be ordered in more formal restaurants,  whereas shochu is more of an izakaya type of drink,  but hardly anyone orders it here !




P1210648-1赤貝, 蛸,  ホッキ貝の酢の物,  三杯酢 -
Ark Shell, Surf Clam and Octopus in sanbaizu vinegar and ginger,  was cut really well by the owner here, who is an ex-sushi chef.  Knife work and presentable wise this was fantastic,  but the imported hokkigai was pre-cooked and pre-frozen stuff (fresh ones look different).  The ark shell is nicely crunchy but real fresh ones are in a totally different league.   I am sure if the owners had access to fresh ingredients they would,  so it’s not their fault.   It is just that Australia is not Japan!      ~    7/10


えびしゅうまい -  Prawn Shumai Dumplings
Another Australian favourite and found in many restaurants here,  just like Nasu DengakuTatsuta Age or Karaage,  and Agedashi Tofu.   It is lovely and one of the best versions in town here and came with a delicate vinegary sauce…    try ordering this in Japan and Hong Kong though,   I’d say 99% of restaurants wouldn’t carry one, and if they do,  it is a Japanised Chinese version.     ~    9/10



コーン, うなぎ天ぷら Corn and Eel layered Tempura, with a Teriyaki Sauce -
This was a nice creation by the chef,  and came with a smoky sauce.   Wouldn’t say it’s a typical Japanese dish,  but then again it works!   ~   8.5/10


Mixed Charcoal Grilled Yakitori - 
かわ Chicken Skin was surprisingly done well and just crispy here.
つくね Tsukune meat had little cartilage bones but carried some offal taste somewhat.
やきとり Chicken thigh wasn’t too aromatic and the sauce was a bit too thin
レバ Chicken Livers were ok and not dry,  but the sauce was again too thin ~    6.9/10


砂肝 Chicken Giblets are hard to cook right,  these were average
ハツ Chicken Hearts were decent but not excellent, as it tasted a little weak
ささみ梅 Chicken breast with plum sauce was undergrilled but a little too steamed like
ねぎま With thigh and spring onion,  is missing the proper Japanese leek,  it was also not charred enough  ~    6/10



焼きおにぎり Yakionigiri Rice Ball -
A little too thin and the rice wasn’t very fatty in the rice grain,  and it was not starchy-sticky enough.   Grilled evenly however.  And the sauce was too thin and not overly complimentary by Japanese standards  ~    5/10




手打ち ざるそば  House Made Cold Zaru Soba by the owner -  *must pre-order
I’ve had soba here many times and it is always cooked then ice bathed to a al dente state.  This upon a revisit was surprisingly ‘buckwheaty’ and very good.   Even better than Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi’s home made version up in Sydney!   Highly recommended to pre-order!    ~   9/10




Price: AUD $40 - 60 per person
Score:  ♕♕♕1/2 to ♕♕♕♕

Opening Hours -
Mon-Fri noon-2.15pm
Mon-Sat 6pm-9.30pm  *Reservation essential by a week or two weeks in advance.

Address:  137 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph:  (03) 9663 3038 ,  try book through their annoying robotic line system!


  1. Ah I've never been to this place for dinner. Those soba noodles look like a must have!

  2. The Soba noodles are good! Others are decent too, but the menu is too limited I guess. : )

  3. "Ark Shell, Surf Clam and Octopus in sanbaizu vinegar and ginger," are perfectly cut. It's hard to notice for a newbie, but knowing how these ingredients can easily be ruined, I just know that it took great knife skills to get this done.

  4. I didn't know that there was a Japanese restaurant like this in Melbourne. The Chef there must have great knife skills to make a Corn and Eel layered Tempura.

  5. They have very good knife skills indeed! This is one of the best executed Japanese restaurants in town.

    But unfortunately the Ark Shell, Surf Clam and Octopus above were all pre-frozen, the Surf Clam is also already boiled-cooked. Not a problem with the chefs, though the grilled sticks weren't too good sigh..



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