Food and Drink


Pabu Grill and Sake

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I admit Pabu Grill and Sake slipped under the radar. Opening on Smith Street earlier this year I’d shuffled by the orange sign many times but hadn’t considered popping in. Well, after a recent recommendation from a Japan-o-phile friend I’m jolly glad I did.

Pabu, meaning ‘pub’ in Japanese, is a sleek izakaya that sits somewhere between casual Japanese dining and the higher end stuff, according to owner Khoa Nguyen. Inside there’s timber tables, low hanging lights and striking bird artwork by Hiroyasu Tsuri.

The best seat in the house is by the bar, where you can see, smell and almost taste the barbecue goodness as the chefs work the Yakitori grill. Pabu’s food and sake list is extensive, some might say exhaustive. The trend is toward sharing plates. I let others do the choosing and went for the 10 dish Chef’s Banquet, a steal at $55pp or $75pp with matching sake.

I bypassed the sake to sample Pabu’s beer list and started with a crisp Kinshachi red miso lager. Pretty soon a catwalk of generously sized treats started appearing. Edamame gave way to a gentle gyu tataki, one of my favourite dishes. The procession continued with a tuna and salmon salad smeared with soy then himanchi  – kingfish with jalepenos and citrus soy. For me this was was the highlight, fresh with a balance of heat and sour tones. Less persuasive were the crispy marinated prawns which lacked crunch and zing.

I paused for breath with miso before launching into the successful final act of kushi mino, an assortment of surf and turf from the grill. The scallops wrapped in bacon scored gold with their mix of smoke and sweetness.

That sweetness continued with the sweet plate of green tea brulee, house made ice creams and seasonal fruit. Perhaps the best dessert I’ve had a Japanese restaurant.

I think Khoa’s being overly modest about his izakaya – the quality of food is closer to Nobu but without the prices. Highly recommended.

190 Smith Street, Collingwood
9419 6141
Mon – Thurs 10am – 10pm
Fri 10am – late
Sat 5pm – late
Sun 5pm – 10pm

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