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November 5, 2015
Habits

First look: Himeji Ramen & Izakaya

According to restaurateur Shozo Ikeda, Adelaide’s sake scene has left connoisseurs wanting for too long. His latest venture, Himeji Ramen & Izakaya, is here to show us what we’ve been missing.

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  • Words: Johnny von Einem
  • Pictures: Julian Cebo

Through a visit to his Gouger Street restaurant, Sushi Bar Genki, earlier this year, Shozo Ikeda had already once shown CityMag the virtue of good ramen.

Remarks

 Drop in and see Shozo and the Himeji team at 22 Grote Street from 11:30am – 3:00pm for lunch, or 5:30pm – 10:00pm for dinner, from Monday – Saturday.

When word reached us he was opening another establishment, also serving those bowls of Japanese noodle-y wonderment, but now accompanied by a wide range of sake, shōchū, and an array of izakaya-style dishes, we were already on our way.

Traditionally, an izakaya is something close to a dive bar – a kind of dingy venue where you might go for a knock off drink and a light meal. You’ll find none of that aesthetic at Himeji.

What they have instead is soft jazz filtering into dimly lit, semi-private booths, and a well-stocked bar for retreat.

For Shozo, it’s about blending the izakaya attitude to food with the look of a modern Japanese restaurant.

“Izakaya, it’s lots of sake and lots of small tapas. People [can] enjoy in a group, or couple, or even one person [at] the bar,” Shozo laughs.

“[At] night time people [will] enjoy drinking Japanese sake, also our wine, and also lots of tapas menus, charcoal grill, [and] lots of different types of sashimi.”

Rather than sticking strictly to Japanese flavours, the Himeji kitchen draws from other country’s sashimi-like dishes, like carpaccio, tiradito, and ceviche.

The restaurant’s signature dish (which Shozo was kind enough to share with us – journalistic integrity be damned) is the beef tataki, made from Wagyu beef sourced from Mayura Station in Mount Gambier (where, if what Shozo reported to us is correct, the animals are fed white chocolate to sweeten the final product).

Food aside, what Shozo wants to provide for his patrons is an education, particularly in sake.

As far as he’s concerned, Adelaide has been fed a poor version of sake at an unfair price for too long, and it’s not until the masses are taught to differentiate, that the quality will improve.

Luckily, he’s here to help with around 50 different types of sake at his disposal, and over a dozen kinds of Japanese spirits.

“[In] each category we have a tasting menu, for example, shōchū. We have a Japanese shōchū menu, 30ml each so people [can] enjoy how different [they taste],” Shozo explains.

“Even in sake, we have different styles; some of them good for room temperature, some of them good [chilled], and of course each category is explained for the customer.”

Once Himeji Ramen & Izakaya has opened proper (the grand opening isn’t until 30 November), Shozo has plans to put together banquets paired with an appropriate selection of sake, but for now, starting your sake odyssey is only a matter of catching Shozo at the bar and asking what he might recommend

There’s South Australian wine available too, and Kirin beer on tap, but whatever you pick, make sure it pairs with ramen.

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