Not just your average Izakaya
As a visitor to Melbourne, you will probably find yourself wandering along Bourke Street, perhaps strutting up Chapel Street, definitely meandering some laneways, and possibly marvelling at Brunswick Street. However, for a real local feel, away from (most of) the tourists, I encourage you to check out Smith Street in Collingwood.
Smith Street: here you’ll find an eclectic mix of bistros, ethnic restaurants, boutiques and bazaars. My pick of the bunch in this lively part of the city is a sensational Japanese tapas restaurant and sake bar called Pabu. It is everything discerning diners could wish for when the target is a no fuss, yet quality experience. Pabu has an extremely inviting, cosy feel, authentic food with high shareability factor, and staff who truly go out of their way to make your night a breezy one.
I chose to celebrate my 30th birthday here with friends – we feasted on oysters, octopus, tofu, and tasted various sake, both hot and cold; a fun night on the big communal table at the front of the restaurant. The remainder of the space comprises dainty 2 to 4 person dark wood tables with bold yellow stools, offset by low lighting and tea light candles setting a sumptuous mood.
Khoa Nguyen manages the restaurant and can be found nightly keeping the high standard of food, cocktails and customer service flowing. The best part, it all seems so effortless. When you phone to book (and you should, as it’s not huge), they’ll call you ma’am or sir, but it’s not forced – they are true professionals and, well, graciousness just comes naturally to the Pabu crew.
Must haves if when you go are the Lychee Saketini cocktail, the seared beef, and you must must must finish with the brilliant green tea brulee. Kirin on tap, a sushi counter, skewered meats marinated and char grilled to perfection, vegetable tempura, gyoza… each dish is meticulously prepared and presented with pride. This is not sushi train, and it certainly does not have the Nobu pricetag, but it is a meal I promise you won’t forget in a hurry. Kanpai to that!by