Regent Place continues to flourish with this party room where the sake flows.
It's almost impossible to recognise Regent Place these days. What even was it before? The area was like antimatter, a nowhere place behind Event Cinemas George Street that if looked at directly would cause your eyes to blur and mind to slip until you came to in line for onion rings at a fast food place across the road.
And now? Now it's like a cool offshoot of Chinatown. Level one is a neon-bright Tokyo mirage, while in the basement is the jumble of Senyai Thai, a Misschu hut and AstroTurfed cocktail bar Assembly. One ever-packed Regent Place destination is izakaya joint Yebisu, where you can mix and match a pre-movie feed or settle in for a long, congenial night of grazing on Japanese share plates and sake. Wood tones splashed with street art by Ash Johnston act as a trendy cloak from the city beyond.
It's a gargantuan menu; with more than 100 dishes, the focus is on dizzying quantity rather than A-class quality, and that's fine when your meal is as fun and reliable as this. It's perfect for a party, really, as all tastes are accounted for, whether you fancy regional rarities such as dried skate fin ($8.80) and vinaigrette tuna skin ($10.80), dependables of the sushi or yakitori variety or just giving up on the world and going for fried mixed cheese ($14.80).
Adding some spontaneity to your ordering is the iPad menu system, which is so often derided as a novelty but simply works for tapas-style dining. It means you genuinely can order course by course if you want to, and there's no awkward sitting around trying to get the waitstaff's attention. Yebisu could even take this further, letting diners access more information about a dish with a tap — though it's possible the information overload would be crippling.
For us, it's a journey guided by gut from deep-fried to fresh and back again. The tom yum goong roll ($15.80/8 pieces) is one of those dishes you're likely to crave after leaving, though it's a hugely unsubtle hit of tempura prawn, lemongrass rice and salt. The cooling mix sashimi entree ($15.80/9 pieces) is welcome right about now, although some of the fish was not at its most tender on this occasion.
We get through a small range of good yakitori, available by the skewer, but the best grilled meat is actually from the entree menu: Angus beef tataki ($16.80), seared ever so cleanly around the edges, butter-soft in the middle and topped with an abundance of crunchy, thin spring onion rounds.
Sake and shochu are a specialty at Yebisu, and as well as ordering off the iPad, you'll also be visited by an attendant with sake trolley and plenty of recommendations to share. Each sake is served ceremoniously, with designated cups for each type and a cheer of 'Kanpai!' There's cold, sweet sake for beginners, but a warm Urakusami is a brusque step up. Accompany it with some takoyaki octopus balls ($7.80) — fried, doughy, croquette-ish fare on sticks is a comforting chaser at any bar.