Harry Potter fans will agree that sometimes when you can't find a venue it's tempting to run straight at the wall, hoping for a platform 9 3/4 kind of situation. Hihou is a little like that. A black unmarked door with a doorbell is the only clue you get when you arrive at the Flinders Lane bar. Like its sister restaurant downstairs Hihou is taking inspiration from Japan in atmosphere and offering. Buzz the doorbell, wait to be escorted upstairs by the man in a suit and take a seat in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows. The view of parliament gardens is a nice backdrop as you peruse the menu.
In true Japanese style, the drinks list opens with sake and plum wine. For something tangy try the Doukan from Oita ($12) which pairs nicely with soda or try the Yamada Jyuro from Kanagawa ($15) for something on the sweeter side. If you're new to sake the Kinokuniya 'Summer Rock' ($12 for 100 ml) is very easy drinking.
When it comes to the cocktails Japanese ingredients are brought into the mix, creating some unique tipples. Try the Co-cha, a mix of calvados, Yuzuko, Pedro Ximenez, lemon, pineapple and tonic water ($22), or if you're feeling indecisive, order the barman's surprise choice where you choose a fruit from their seasonal list and let them do the rest.
The beer list is again mainly Japanese like the Kirin 'Heartland' from Tokyo. The wine list, however, sticks closer to home, with the 2008 Delatite 'Demelza' Sparkling Pinot Rose from Mansfield ($12) a nice pre-dinner drink.
The food menu here is geared towards snacking, with Japanese bar snacks given a little twist with tastes like the 'Cuban' spicy tuna cigars ($6) and the Hihou hotdog ($11), which consists of sesame brioche, arabiki pork sausage and pickled cabbage sitting alongside kingfish ceviche with yuzu kosho and seaweed crystal ($14).
Hihou is the kind of bar that makes you feel like part of a secret world.