Lunch review: EN Japanese Bar & Restaurant

Feb 06, 2015
Cha-Shu pork belly. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

Cha-Shu pork belly. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

EN has opened on Goodwood Road to the chorus of “finally an izakaya in Adelaide!”.

It seems everyone has been to Japan and enjoyed the abundance of izakaya – small casual bars with red lanterns hanging at the front to attract the after-work drinks trade.

Owners Takeo Chong and Yasuji Tanase both have roots in the Nagoya region of central Japan, where they say the izakaya style of bar and eatery is very popular. Chong was born in Adelaide to a Japanese mother from Nagoya and a Korean father. Tanase migrated to Australia in 1999 from Nagoya. Both are trained as sushi chefs under Adelaide master Shozo Ikeda.

EN sweet potato chips

Sweet potato chips with honey and mayonnaise dipping sauce. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

Chong and Tanase wanted to offer a different kind of Japanese eating and drinking experience in Adelaide and thought the izakaya tradition, with its informal bar vibe and tapas-style food, was a good fit.

Located next door to Ginger’s Coffee Studio, EN has joined a cluster of reputable Goodwood Road eateries including Whisk, L’Atelier, Eggless, Rollin Saigon and Boulangerie 113.

The front of the premises is set up in a restaurant style with a banquette and tables and chairs alongside a wall hung with vintage Japanese beer posters. Along the opposite wall are a number of high tables with stools.

EN  Takeo

Takeo Chong. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

At the back of the restaurant is a small bar with a backdrop of foreign bottles, including a range of Japanese sakes, whiskies and shochus (vodkas made from rice, wheat and sweet potato). There is also Asahi, Sapporo and Echigo (rice beer) on tap.

Chong and Tanase did the fitout themselves, fashioning shelving from what looks like recycled pine pallets. The effect is interesting, convivial and in no way pretentious.

EN deep fried cheese

Oba cheese. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

The menu is a long list of small, shared plates designed to represent good value and to be eaten while enjoying a session of Sapporo and sake. Dishes include edamame (boiled and salted soybean pods, $3), renkon (lotus root) chips ($4.50), marinated seaweed ($4.50), gyoza ($6.50), sunagimo (salted chicken giblets, $6), crunchy miniature prawns ($8), assorted tempura ($16), curries (from $14.90), sashimi (from $8.50) and nigiri (from $6.50).

Chong and Tanase handpicked most of the Japanese pottery serving dishes and sake flasks and cups – the plates are from Arita and the cups from Tokoname.

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Favourite dish: Cha-Shu ($9). This is EN’s specialty and sells out quickly, according to Chong. The braised and flame-grilled rolled pork belly is finely sliced and served with mayonnaise, soy and spring onion dressing. He says it takes a couple of days to make from scratch.

EN chicken wings and beer

Nagoya style grilled chicken wings. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

Other dishes: The edamame were simple, fresh and tasty, while the sweet potato chips (served with a mayonnaise and honey dipping sauce, $7) were a delicious new experience, though the chips were a little overdone. The Oba Cheese Fry (standard cheddar cheese wrapped in a shiso leaf and deep fried, $6) was served with a little slaw of raw vegetables with a wasabi and sesame oil dressing to cut through the fattiness of the cheese, and the salt and pepper Nagoya Tebasaki (Nagoya style grilled chicken wings, $6.50) were tender and very tasty. Vegetarians are well catered for.

“The menu is still a work-in-progress,” says Chong, “but it’s mainly beer food with a heavy emphasis on texture.”

EN sake 2

Japanese sake is served in traditional pottery cups and flasks. Photo Nat Rogers/InDaily

Something sweet/to drink: Dessert isn’t a big feature on the menu, with just green tea or sesame ice cream offered (both served with whipped cream and red bean, $6.50). If it’s wine or cocktails you’re after, don’t go here. There are six wines on the list, all of which make your eyes immediately rove to the long list of beers and sakes.

“Sake has a simpler flavour than wine, so there’s not as much scope for food matching,” explains Chong, “but it’s good with salty foods and sashimi.”

EN Japanese Bar & Restaurant
Open for lunch Wednesday to Saturday, 11.30am to 2.30pm; dinner Monday to Saturday 5.30pm to 11pm and Sundays 5.30pm to 11pm.
107 Goodwood Road, Goodwood, 8271 6954.

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