Maedaya Sake & Grill @ 400 Bridge Road
Maedaya Sake & Grill is an izakaya-style establishment located on Richmond’s Bridge Road, dedicated first and foremost to the Japanese fermented alcoholic rice beverage, sake. Sake master and owner, Toshi Maeda, envisioned Maedaya to be a medium through which he could introduce the popular Japanese beverage to the Melbourne general public. Boasting over 60 different sake varieties in addition to a wide ranging selection of Japanese beers, whisky, umeshu and shochu, Maedaya is without a doubt a well-equipped Japanese drinking house. Accompanying the beverages is a smorgasbord of Japanese small eats comprising of skewers, gyoza, okonomiyaki and the like.
We began with a range of grilled skewers, a traditional Japanese street snack cooked by way of charcoal grill. Our skewer selection consisted of the following: Maedaya original blend tsukune (chicken meatballs), yakitori (chicken thigh), kawa (chicken skin), salted sunagimo (chicken giblets) and unagi (grilled eel). On the whole, the skewers were sufficiently seasoned and flavoursome, however, with the exception of the eel, the skewers could have benefited from additional time on the grill to achieve a greater degree of outer charring.
Takoyaki is a popular Japanese snack originating from, and typically sold by, street vendors in Osaka. These savoury ball-shaped dumplings are filled with octopus pieces and are generally complemented by takoyaki sauce, Japanese mayonnaise and dried bonito flakes. While the octopus balls at Maedaya were not as memorable as the ones I sampled in Japan last year, given their rarity in Melbourne, they remain an enjoyable treat.
Next to arrive was the kawari tuna sashimi. Semi cooked tuna slices were drizzled with hot sesame oil and mixed with teriyaki sauce before being topped with wasabi mayonnaise. Despite the agreeable blend of flavours, the unmistakably substandard quality of the fish ultimately spoiled the dish.
The spicy miso yakiniku was unfortunately another below par dish caused by poor quality produce. On this occasion, the culprit lay in the jerky textured beef that seemingly underwent full moisture extraction before finding its way onto our plate.
Our final dish was a plate of glistening pork belly slices; it was a dish that evoked excitement upon its arrival. Each slice of pan fried pork belly consisted largely of unadulterated, unctuous pork fat which exploded with intense porky goodness with each bite; it did not disappoint. Combined with a pleasant sweet marinade, the pork belly was unquestionably accomplished in taste. However, this dish is rather decadent – I would suggest consuming this dish in the company of lighter items to achieve maximum satisfaction.
Established over three years ago, Maedaya is by no means new to the Melbourne culinary scene, despite what the difficulty in securing a table on a Friday or Saturday would otherwise suggest. The culinary offerings at Maedaya may not be unblemished in terms of execution, but in light of Maedaya’s vibrant atmosphere, varied beverage selection and overall dining experience, Maedaya has earned my stamp of approval.