I was excited to attend the food blogger's dinner at Pabu last week. Hosted by Khoa Nguyen, owner of Pabu, a degustation was organised to taste a cross section of dishes with sake matching.
This grill and sake restaurant is the culinary product from all of Khoa's travel experiences to Japan. Pabu, meaning 'pub' in Japanese, is his take on pub or izakaya style food, which has been modified slightly to cater for the Melbourne dining scene. Khoa is also the Sake Master at Pabu, who has also spent time learning under Toshi Maeda from Maedaya. I love the concept of serving small foods, making it easy to share and try a lot of various flavours.
|Interior of Pabu|
As nibbles, we were first served thinly sliced fried lotus root (renkon chips) and lightly salted soy beans (edamame). The renkon chips were crunchy and had a complimentary mayonnaise-based dipping sauce. Both were perfect to kick off the dinner, giving a little bit of saltiness to the palette, to get the mouth watering.
|Renkon chips & edamame|
For entrée, we were given three beautifully presented elements - kaki fry, kamo tatki and kaibashira. Each were delicious with the kaki fry probably being my favourite. It has a crispy, lightly crumbed exterior with a deliciously smooth oyster inside.
|Kaki fry, kamo tataki and Kaibashira paired with Rihaku Tokubetsu|
The beef tataki was thinly sliced seared porterhouse beef. It was great to see the colour gradation between the seared exterior and the vibrate red centre of the beef. The combination of dressing and sauces was a real treat, making it a delicious dish.
|Beef Tataki with citrus soy red ginger, sesame and spring onion |
paired with Hatsumago Jamai
Fresh raw kingfish was served in a light dressing with little hints of heat from the garnish of jalapeño peppers. It was perfectly paired with a chilled sake - heaven. I must admit, I'm not a sake connoisseur by any means, but I really found that the cold Tateyama Ginrei beautifully enhanced the flavours of the kingfish.
| Hamachi kingfish with Ponza, white radish, jalapeño and spring onion |
paired with Tateyama Ginrei
The eggplant was a lovely dish - a dish I would be more than happy to have more of. We were advised to enjoy the eggplant with the skin and I was not disappointed. The soft interior of the eggplant is offset with the slightly crunchy texture of the skin.
Oven baked then grilled with sweet miso & spicy miso
paired with Kohro Tokubetsu
The standout for me with the Buta Asparagus was that real smokey taste and smell. The bamboo charcoal grill really took this from basic ingredients to something with depth and packed with flavour.
Thin slices of Pork Belly wrapped around asparagus on the bamboo charcoal grill
The Watari Kani Maki was delicious. I love all things sushi, sushimi and maki. The soft shell crab was delicate however had a lovely crunch as well. I was very interested to try the wasabi fish roe as I hadn't had it before. To tell you the truth, I didn't taste much difference between the normal orange flying fish roe and the wasabi green fish roe, however I think that's because I have wasabi with maki pieces anyway.
|Watari Kani Maki|
Soft shell crab, Avocado, spicy mayo, cucumber,
wasabi fish roe and toasted sesame (inside out sushi roll)
paired with Onigoroshi Jumai
We were surprised with an additional dish, which was the Maguro & Sake Salad. I enjoyed this dish. It was fresh, simple and I thought really highlighted the fresh tuna and salmon pieces. I was intrigued at how deep red the tuna pieces were. It was also nice to have a little bit of crunch and texture from small pieces of fried lotus root which were garnished on top. I thought this is the kind of salad I could attempt my own version of at home.
|Maguro & Sake Salad|
Fresh tuna and salmon topped with rocket tossed with
sesame soy served with our chef secret spicy sauce and mayo
The Ebi Capsicum Aye were delicious. I highly recommend this dish as I could have easily eaten more of these. The tiger prawns were all very large in size and were tempuraed in a light batter.
|Ebi Capsicum Aye|
Tiger prawns in a light tempura tossed with onion, capsicum
in a creamy spicy mayo and black sesame
paired with Nara Toyosawa
As a lover of all things sweet, I was very excited to try Pabu's Dessert Moriawase. It had a lot of elements which I hadn't had before including the melon flavoured mochi ball and green tea crème brûlée. The real standout for me was the black sesame icecream. I would come back just for a scoop of this icecream. The citrus sorbet packed a punch with its real pieces of zest combined throughout. All round, a mix of interesting dessert flavours and textures, perfect for trying and sharing. We also had Choya Yume wine which is a sweet, easy to drink plume wine. A great way to cap off a great dinner.
| Green tea crème brûlée with home made citrus sorbet, |
black sesame icecream, melon mochi & mixed fruits
paired with Choya Yume wine
The interior fit-out of the restaurant is very cool and contemporary - designed by Architects EAT, who do great hospitality design work around town. I like the attention to detail at Pabu, where menus, signage and interior have all been brought coherently together. I really like the large abacus-like ceiling detail and the hand painted wall murals. The one thing which I wasn't a fan of was the unpadded porcelain/china stools. After sitting down for a while, they're not all that comfortable. Also, as the seating at our table didn't have backs, we had to put our belongings, including coats and bags, on the ground. Call me old, but I do prefer comfortable chairs over funky looking stools. With this said, I did notice that some of their other tables had chairs with backrests.
|Interior of Pabu|
|Interior of Pabu|
Pabu is a great Japanese grill and sake restaurant with a wide mix of dishes (and sake) on offer. I really couldn't flaw the dishes we tried. All were different, in tastes, temperatures and textures. I'd definitely want to pop back in for some more of their delicious food.