The Best Japanese Eateries in Melbourne Right Now

The entire world is Tokyo-inspired right now, and it’s super tough knowing that we can’t jump on over and join in on all the Olympics fun. 

But we’re lucky that in Australia, we can bring the country—and more importantly, the cuisine—to us, with incredible cultural diversity that translates to our local hospitality scene. 

Are you craving an authentic Izakaya experience? No worries. How about a Japanese fruit sando in shokupan (Japanese milk bread)? Done. Or perhaps you’re after more of a whisky highball in a sexy Japanese-club-style setting? You got it.

Here are the best Japanese eateries and experiences in Melbourne:

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DenDeke Japanese Bar & Dining / Facebook


Owned by hospo pros Keisuke Nakamura (ex-Nihonshu, Kumo Izakaya, Ichi Ni Nana) and Aaron Au (ex-Nihonshu, Golden Monkey, Brunswick Mess Hall) DenDeke Japanese Bar & Dining brings the retro Izakaya experience to Preston with its nostalgia-inspired theme and classic Izakaya dishes. Think things like charcoal-grilled Wagyu skewers, Chashu slow-cooked pork belly, house-made Japanese curry or fresh Sashimi. They also serve up pretty fantastic cocktails, a great range of Japanese craft beer and sake. 
How to book: You can book a table online.

May be an image of food
Marble Yakiniku / Facebook

Marble Yakiniku

Glen Waverley
Marble Yakiniku is the definition of a hidden gem. Tucked away in Glen Waverley, this incredible Japanese restaurant, Marble Yakiniku takes inspiration from traditional Japanese tea houses and food inspiration from everyone’s favourite: bento boxes. They serve up things like tempura plates, sashimi, udon, Japanese rice and deluxe wagyu platters served on wooden boards and in gorgeous wooden bento boxes. But the wagyu is where it’s at. They only use locally sourced cuts with an M9 score (the highest grade available for Australian produce), as well as imported Japanese wagyu at an A5 grading, which is the highest international marble grading. Basically, if you like wagyu, you must check out Marble Yakiniku. And also their Instagram page, it’s true food porn.
How to book: You can book via their website site, here.

May be an image of sashimi and indoor
Akaiito Underground Bar & Eatery / Facebook

Akaiito Underground

Flinders Lane
Akaiito has a bit of a brooding, sexy vibe to it, with black marble surfaces, dark granite flooring, plus grey banquettes and a neon red-thread light installation that twists across the ceiling of the dining room and all the way down into the underground bar. Akaiito’s Underground Bar & Eatery promotes casual dining in a speakeasy setting, while their ground-level restaurant offers a seasonal chef’s menu, with a Robatayaki grill and sushi fine-dining experience. For drinking, they have a creative cocktail list, a great whisky selection and a vast range of sakes.
How to book: You don’t need a book for the bar, but you can book a spot in the restaurant online.

Photo: @lebajo_milkbar

Le Bajo

North Melbourne
Le Bajo is a Japanese cafe in a warehouse in North Melbourne, that is named after an Indonesian fishing town and decorated with Australiana memorabilia. We don’t fully get it, but we’re here for it. A relatively new venue, Le Bajo was originally supposed to be a much bigger project: a beach club and hotel in Labuan Bajo (the Indonesian fishing town), but Covid put a halt to these plans. Owner, Jason Gunawan, decided to turn his huge North Melbourne garage into a sando-centric cafe called Le Bajo (short for Labuan Bajo). Their sandos are whacky and wonderful, serving up things like an ebi (prawn) option with wasabi-spiked tartare and a veggie-packed sando, fruit sandos, with whipped cream, sliced strawberries, kiwi and mango. All sandwiches are cased in thick slices of house-baked shokupan, which is Japanese milk bread. This is the kind of one-off place that you have to experience at least once.
How to book: They operate on a walk-in basis.

Photo: @izakayaden2029

Izakaya Den 2029

Russell Street
Izakaya Den is a classic Melbourne favourite, and it wholly deserves that title. Izakaya Den is really tricky to find, but once you know, you know. Located behind an unmarked door and down some steps into a long-narrow basement, you’ll find a Tokyo-inspired wonderland, with a mix of authentic Japanese Izakaya-style offerings. Everything is tasting style and passed to you on small plates, steaming straight from the chef’s in the open kitchen, to you. They whip up incredibly delicate dishes, such as bitter melon with tofu mayonnaise to miso soup with sand crab to marinated octopus straight off the grill. You can dine a la carte, or try the chef’s selection; both of which are good options. They have a range of sake, imported beers and delicious cocktails. 
How to book: You can book a spot online, or try your luck and walk-in.

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