Sunday, December 16, 2012

Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe, Melbourne CBD by Big Fil

It’s a bit nicer than your typical Japanese cafe around the city – the sushi a little fresher, the decor and seating a bit more comfortable, the prices a little higher.  The service on the other hand, well it was friendly but it was certainly hard to get staff’s attention when we were ready to order.

Anyway, unless you walk in you'd be hard pressed to pick Ito was anything more than your typical student cheap eats place.  The building it’s located in is nice enough but looks fairly run down, from the outside anyway.  Inside though is a pleasant surprise, much more restaurant than cafe, with a series of booths for two person dining near the entrance and what looked like tables towards the back for larger groups (a hint there were only the two of us on the day).

Menu wise it’s pretty familiar territory at lunch time anyway, with your typical ramens, bentos, dons.  Surprise, surprise I decided to order one of the dons, the katsu don, crumbed deep fried pork with egg on rice.  On the plus side, the rice was nicely fluffy and because the egg was a little bit runny rather than omelette in style it helped to hide that the pork had been a bit over-cooked.  On the negative side, the pork was still overdone, resulting in a crumbed crust that was a bit harder and crunchier than I prefer it.  Consequently what should have been a good kastu don was just an ok one.

Snooze went for one of the Bentos, number 5 I think but don’t quote me on that.  Anyway it came with a handful of big juicy prawns we both liked and salmon and a white fish sashimi that was fresher than much that you’d find around town.  It also came with unagi (eel) which was milder in flavour than most that I’ve tired but still very nice, and crumbed fish we had very different reactions to.  Snooze didn’t like it whereas I thought it was like super premium fish fingers, those treats from when some of us where small made from unidentifiable pieces of what you hope are fish.  Snooze's issue was that she's not a real fan of crumbed fish in general but I found these nicely soft and tender in the middle and full of flavour, the crumbed and fried outer coating adding a nice texture to the fish.  All up both of us thought it was a pretty good bento.

To accompany our meal we (actually I) ordered one of the starters, the vegetable tempura.  Lightly battered then fried pieces of beans, potato and other vegetables, the batter was light, the vegetables still crispy and not a hint of excess oil either on the tempura itself or left on the plate afterwards.  The simplest part of the meal and probably the best executed.

 The only real issue I had was with the service.  The three serving staff I noticed were obviously trying very hard, but with one needed at the front to usher in new arrivals and the combination of larger tables at the back and the smaller tables at the front we seemed to be forgotten for a while.  And because the staff were concentrating on the back, where the majority of customers were sitting, it made it hard for us when trying to order.  Not enough to discourage us from going again and as much a consequence of the shape of the restaurant I suspect as any issue with the staff, although possibly easily corrected by the addition of one more server for the lunchtime rush.

Food – 8
Service – 6.5
Ambience – 7.5
Price – 7

122 Bourke Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
Tel: (03) 9663 2788

Ito Japanese Noodle Cafe on Urbanspoon

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