Nakano Darling

This Haymarket izakaya serves up highballs and free karaage chicken during happy hour.
Marissa Ciampi
February 06, 2020


There have been a lot of Darling Square openings in the past 12 months, but, still, Steam Mill Lane has welcomed a new Japanese izakaya. Nakano Darling is now slinging highballs, karaage and gyoza to CBD dwellers.

It's the latest by the team behind the lower north shore's favourite hole-in-the-wall Yakitori Yurippi and tiny standing bar Tachinomi YP, both of which are located in Crows Nest. Nakano Darling is the team's first venture into the CBD and it's keeping things simple by specialising in just a few things — which is typical of the way hospitality venues function in Japan.

At Nakano Darling, those specialties include its special recipe karaage chicken and gyoza. To accompany these izakaya favourites, punters can order simple cold or hot sides, including edamame, lotus root chips and miso soup. More substantial sides include vegetarian fried udon, octopus karaage and stir fried wagyu.

Drinkswise, it's all about the highball here. Traditionally made with whisky, soda water and lemon, the drink has expanded to include a variety of flavour profiles — with coke and ginger options specifically present on the Nakano Darling menu. You can also sip a wide range of shochu, sake and umeshu plum wine.

The fit-out offers a number of spaces for your eating (and drinking) pleasure, from nibbles at the bar to relaxed vibes in the tatami room, as well as a private space that offers bottomless fried chicken to larger parties.

However, the best time to hit Nakano is during its weekday happy hour. When you order a tap beer between 5–6pm Monday to Thursday or 4–6pm on Friday, you'll get a serve of the karaage chicken for free. Yep, free. It'll go down pretty well with your schooner of Orion, Asahi or Suntory Premium Malt.


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