Meet Nonbei Izakaya, a new concept by the group that runs the successful George Town Tze Char & Craft Beer. Inspired by Tokyo’s Nonbei Yokocho (drunkards alley lined with izakaya and bars). Nonbei Izakaya specialises in fresh sashimi, tantalising Japanese bites, sake and Japanese beer.
Located in heritage Chinatown shophouses, across Maxwell Market, Nonbei Izakaya offers indoor and outdoor dining areas. The indoor offers a cooling and air-conditioned environment, however, I think the outdoor is the best seat in the house, especially during the cooler weather. From here you can enjoy the buzz and also historical feel of Chinatown, plus the view of the Buddha Tooth Relic Temple.
We started the tasting with Ohitashi (Vegetables marinated with dashi, $6) and Tamago Yaki (Japanese omelette, $10). The vegetables are sweet and cooked with the signature dashi. It finished off with generous shavings of Shaved Katsuobushi. The tamago yaki has a nice texture, solid and tasty with a hint of dashi at the end.
Sashimi (7 kinds, $58). Hon Toro (Fatty Tuna, top up $18). Served on iced, these beautifully plated sashimi is fresh and generous in size. Totally loved the hon toro, however, the scallop is surprisingly good as well.
Buri Kama Shio Yaki ($18). Our favourite grilled yellowtail collar. Lightly salted, with crispy skin followed by the fatty and melt-in-your-mouth flesh from the collar. A lemon just enhances the flavour of the fish. Yes, the price is very reasonable for that size of the yellowtail collar.
Buta Kakuni (Braised pork with soy, $10). Can’t say NO to this delicious pork belly. The pork belly is boiled in a blend of soy sauce, ginger, spring onion, mirin and dashi. The fats just dissipate slowly once you put it in your mouth. The best part is the broth is not as salty as other izakayas.
Kushi yaki (skewers) include: Tebasaki (Japanese Chicken Wing, $2.50), Yakitori (Chicken Skewers, $2.50), Tori Kawa (Chicken Skin Skewers, $2.50), Asparagus Bacon ($3), Mukago (Japanese Yam, $1.50), Ko Tamanegi (Charred Onion, $1.50)
One of the skewers that catch my attention is the Mukago, Japanese yam. It looks like a mini potato, but it has more depth in flavour and is crunchy compared to a potato. The Tori Kawa is my favourite. The chicken skin is well done to the point of crispy, yet it has a lovely chewiness in it as well.
Ebi Tempura ($15) and Kani Croquette (Crab cream croquette, $10) are next. The ebi tempura has a nice crispy exterior, followed by juicy and fresh prawn flesh. Eating the kani croquette can be dangerous since the cream fillings can be extremely hot. I usually poke a hole to test out the cream temperature before I bite through it. The crispy exterior provided a perfect capsule for the creamy and umami pack crab cream. Yummy.
Sukiyaki Beef ($12) is a common dish you can find in an izakaya. The fatty beef sliced is pan-fried with onions and braised with dashi to give it the umami finish. The beef here is tender and juicy. Good side dish for drinking or to eat with rice.
Asari butter yaki (Asari clam pan-fried with butter, $10). Fresh clams, seared in the pan briefly with mirin and butter. Soft, chewy and filled with butter and mirin.
Chashu Ramen ($12). Ramen is a common dish in an izakaya to end the meal and ensure you have a filled tummy to cushion the alcohol. The portion is half of the ramen house version. The soup base is thick, creamy and robust. While the ramen is bouncy, the chashu portion is generous. The overall flavour is better than average, however not to a ramen shop standard.
Live Oysters (6 pieces, $3 promo price). Fresh, juicy, delicious and a steal for this price. The fresh oysters are served with soy sauce, spring onion and shaved radish. A must-order here.
We were served 4 sakes by Charles, the owner. Knowing his knack for serving the highly rated wine and alcohol at Georgetown at a reasonable price, his sake offerings will certainly be at that level as well. The group was served the following sakes: Sake Kiminoi Honjozo Josen ($10 for 120ml), Sake Manotsuru Junmai Ginzo ($48 for 300ml), Sake Sazen Junmai Daiginjo Omachi ($128 for 720ml) and Sake Keigetsu Junmai Daiginjo Sparkling ‘John’ ($128 for 720ml)
|Sake Kiminoi Honjozo Josen|
|Sake Manotsuru Junmai Ginzo|
|Sake Sazen Junmai Daiginjo Omachi|
|Sake Keigetsu Junmai Daiginjo Sparkling ‘John’|
Overall, this sister restaurant from Georgetown has the potential to be a winner. The food and sake are well priced and taste very good as well. Don’t forget to visit them if you are near the Chinatown area and enjoy their hospitality. Kanpai! Cheers!
Don’t forget to check the current promotions.
Choose 1: $3 for 6 Live Oysters OR $3 for 5 pieces of the freshest sashimi air-flown from Japan (choice of either king salmon, bluefin tuna or amberjack)
Thank you very much Jennifer Yeo Consultancy and Nonbei Izakaya Team for hosting us.
Food & Drink: 7.25/10
Service: N/A (Tasting Invitation)
Budget per Person: $51 - $80
282 South Bridge Road
T/WA: +65 8112 8028
OH: Daily 11.30 – 14.30; 17.00 – Midnight