Maedaya, Richmond - a Japanese Izakaya

Before I went to Japan at the beginning of this year I was for the most part an izakaya newbie. Basically I hadn't really had much experience in drinking beer/sake and enjoying skewers and other nibbles at Japanese styled sake bars. Yuye and I went to a few while we were there and totally loved them. The food were fantastic, the alcohols alluring and atmospheres were exciting. There was a sense of joy and festivity and relaxedness in the air with the constant chattering and glowing red faces around me. Izakayas are places where people go to rest after a long day at work and gossip about new things happening in their lives.

I will be blogging about our experiences at some izakayas in Japan in a later post.

When we came back to Melbourne, we decided to try more izakayas as there are so many around and some are quite popular, one of them being Maedaya in Richmond. Maedaya has a no bookings policy unless if you're booking for a larger group and as the place is quite small, most of the time you will have to fight with the eager crowds lining up at the door. But of course, the smaller the group (we went as just 2 people) the easier it is to get seats.

Maedaya has a nice selection of Japanese sakes, umeshus and other alcohols where the bottles are neatly lined up on the shelf behind the counter.

We were seated at the counter where the skewers were made and the smell was so tantalising. It was 8pm and I was hungry.

Yuye ordered a regular Kirin Draught ($7.50) while I ordered a cooler Choya Blush ($7.50) which was fruity and sweet. Due to the ice and size of the drink, it wasn't as alcoholic which was a good thing for me. You can't go wrong with a pink drink!

The first dish of the night was the Kawari Tuna Sashimi ($12.80). To my surprise, it was actually a very large plate full of fresh and slightly scorched tuna pieces drenched in sesame oil and wasabi mayo and topped with a good amount of grated daikon. A bit too oily for Yuye and myself, but the taste was so good I ate all my share and part of Yuye's anyway. The tuna literally melted in my mouth which the flavours of the sauce and natural sweetness of the fish came flooding onto my tongue. I loved it together with the daikon as it was flavoured with a citrusy sauce (most likely ponzu). It was a most fitting start to the meal.

The next dish, something we order without fail if available on the menu, was the soft-shell crab. It came with 2 crabs which were very crispy and tasty but yet not that oily. Yuye and I chowed down the soft-shell crabs in a matter of seconds.

After the soft-shell crabs came all the skewers. It was a nice experience enjoying our skewers while watching the waiter behind the counter make them. The first skewer that we had was the beef skewer (gyu kushi) for $3.80. It was a tiny bit tough but very tasty. Yuye liked this one.

The next skewer was the chicken skewer or yakitori ($2.50). It was quite average and I noticed why. The chicken skewers were actually pre-cooked, most likely boiled, and then reheated on the grill and then dipped in yakitori sauce. When chicken is pre-cooking and then reheated, it tends to become a bit more dry and bland. Yuye and I both didn't like this one too much.

Three different skewers came on one plate after the chicken and they were (from bottom up) chicken skin (kawa - $2.50), pork belly (buta kushi - $3.80) and chicken & spring onion (negi tori - $2.50). Some people (in fact many girls I know) refuse to eat chicken skin. The notion of ordering a skewer with JUST chicken skin on it might be utterly unthinkable. However, I'm an avid lover of chicken skin and I loved this skewer. It was a bit crunchy and a tiny bit oily but definitely delicious. If you like chicken wings and eat chicken skin, I suggest trying this skewer. The pork belly was not bad although a tiny on the tough side but I liked the chunky salt on it and the chicken with spring onion was quite average as well.

One of my favourite skewers of the night was the next one - pork asparagus ($3.50). It was a slender long asparagus wrapped in a thin layer of pork and grilled. The asparagus was juicy and tender, the pork was salty which gave the whole skewer a balanced flavour.

We contemplated whether we wanted to order more dishes since we were mostly satisfied but could fit in a few more things. It was a bad decision really. We ended up ordering 2 more fried dishes, the first one being agedashi tofu. It was a bit different to the usual way of making it. Maedaya's version was very saucy and was topped with vegetables instead of grated daikon. I liked the sauce because it was sour and flavourful, but it was something that Yuye can make at home. The tofu batter was not that crunchy, partly due to them being soaked in the sauce. The major thing that I noticed with this dish though was the badly cut veggies. The carrot pieces were unevenly cut with some large and some small. If this happened on Masterchef as part of a challenge, it would not have fared too well for the contestant. Overall it was still a tasty dish but it didn't wow me.

The second fried dish we ordered was the veggie tempura. This was an even bigger mistake. I should have noticed the couple next to us ordering the same dish and stopped at that but I was too slow. As you can probably tell, the batter on the tempura was thick, oily and not at all good. It was like the batter on fish and chips. The batter should have been airy and light, a very important element in making good tempura. We ended up taking the whole outer layer off the bigger pieces and just ate the inside. They also didn't serve the tempura with a dipping sauce which may have helped ease the oiliness a bit in my opinion.

Although the last two dishes didn't leave such a good impression, we were still keen on trying a dessert. A separate dessert menu was provided and we chose the Matcha Warabimochi ($5.50) which is a chilled green tea mochi dish. It was very chilled indeed and was quite a nice end to the meal. The dessert came with honey to dip the mochi as by itself there would have not been any sweetness at all. Although I enjoyed this dessert, I did think it needed a bit more green tea flavour or a bit more bitterness since the honey really overpowers whatever flavour was in the mochi.

Overall I enjoyed our meal and the lively atmosphere. The service was good and the prices were reasonable. However, a few of the dishes did disappoint me so I wasn't sure whether I wanted to return here. I heard that there is an upstairs teppanyaki room as well so if I do return here, it will probably be to try teppanyaki and have a drink or two. With the immense popularity of Maedaya, I thought it was a little bit overrated but perhaps this is due to the popularity that food prep had to be done earlier and food quality has been slightly compromised.

I also read on other blogs that people received complementary lotus root chips with dip. We didn't get this so not sure whether they had ran out on the night or we were forgotten? :(

Phone: (03) 9428 3918
400 Bridge Rd, Richmond 3121

Maedaya on Urbanspoon

Did you enjoy this post? If so, why not share it with your friends?

Share |


  1. These types of restaurants are getting a little more popular in Sydney too :) Looks great!

  2. The tuna belly looks amazing! It's always disappointing when your expectations aren't met. I once went to a restaurant because I had a coupon, and the rating on urbanspoon was like... 67%. But it was amazing and the service was great. Plus one massive chuck of brownie and ice cream for dessert. I can't wait for your Japan posts on Izakaya :)I wonder what that's like :)

  3. @JasmyneTea, I know right? I think they're getting popular everywhere. People are starting to realise drinking and nibbling good food go well together :)

    @Choux-Fleur, Urbanspoon did create a pretty high expectation for me so I was slightly disappointed. But with that said, the food and ambiance was still pretty good and fairly close I guess to what an izakaya is like in Japan. Don't have too high expectations for my Japan izakaya post, in case it doesn't meet it :P

  4. Japanese is 200 billion times my favourite cuisine :) Love when there's something a bit interesting on the dessert menu too (although I do adore the standard black sesame ice cream). I had soft shell crab myself at a Japanese restaurant for the first time recently. Nom nom!

  5. @Hannah, it's also my favourite cuisine by far!! :D I love how it's so intricate sometimes and oh so tasty. Love softshell crab :)