Ever been on a date that bores you to absolute oblivion? Then best plan any future dates at Ichi Ichi Ku. The izakaya chefs' salmon-slicing, roll-rolling and nigiri-constructing skills are so mesmerising, it will rid you of your yawns. Even on a real dud.
But here's hoping that your date is fabulous. With any luck, you'll both be raving about the sashimi you're sharing, or laughing about the bonito fish-flakes on the okonomiyaki that flutter in the air as if they're alive. Or, maybe the fact that one of you can't use chopsticks will be a topic of discussion (pro tip: be prepared and learn before you visit).
Ichi Ichi Ku is traditionally a takeaway joint for South Yarra locals, but there are a few tables for inside dining. The minuscule restaurant proves you don't need Chef Hats to produce quality Japanese fare. So if you don't want to fork out for Toko or Minamishima, this is the next best thing.
Low lights and chocolate timber interiors provide a relaxed ambience. If your body is screaming "carbs!" after two laps of The Tan, the tempura udon bowl ($18) or a chicken teriyaki don ($18) are your best choices.
For something slightly healthier, the brown rice maki sushi is a great choice. Notable variations are the Dragon Roll, with seared tuna, avocado, spring onion in a soy bean shiso sheet ($18), or the Famous Ichi Ni Roll: an inside-out lobster roll with flamed salmon and Japanese mayonnaise ($25).
Among their many talents, the restaurant also specialises in food puns. Ichi Buns have made it to the menu — but before your mind wanders too far, they're Japanese milk buns filled with a weekly special, like fish or meat. This place has taste and humour — what more could you want?
And dessert is where things get even cleverer, fusing Japanese ingredients with traditional Western desserts. Up for devouring is a black sesame cheesecake with red bean paste, as well as a matcha tiramisu (both $8.50).
To wash all that fish and miso down is a selection of Japanese beers beyond your regular Asahi. A Coedo Beniaka lager made with sweet potato ($13), Yebisu Premium ($15.50) and Orion Draft ($13) are just a few on the extensive menu. True to Japanese culture, the menu is so courteous it gives you the alcohol percentage for every beer. How polite.
Being a chiller of a restaurant shouldn't compromise good food. And Ichi Ichi Ku delivers both.