Sometimes I struggle to find good Japanese places in Melbourne, which are also cheap and convenient – the decent places are usually a bit higher priced. Maedaya is one I’d heard very good reviews about, but it’s located in an area of Richmond that I never venture past...I’m one of those people who only goes to Bridge Rd for shopping, and this Japanese restaurant is located a couple of blocks after where the boutiques end.
My extended group of uni friends rarely manage to meet up these days – especially rare are those occasions when the entire group are able to attend. Last Saturday night was one of those precious occasions, and we wanted to go somewhere cheap and tasty.
Word on the street is that Maedaya is super-busy, and since we were a group of 8, I rang up for a booking for a table downstairs, in the ala carte section.
Surprisingly, when we arrived, it wasn’t packed at all. Actually most of the restaurant downstairs was empty, with only a couple of tables filled. Perhaps our booking for 8.15pm was past their peak time...
Our waitress started us off with a small glass of complimentary plum wine, which was delicious – it was probably the thing I enjoyed most! I’m not usually a huge fan of wine, but this was really yummy.
Now, we had one vegetarian in the group – The Boy Vegetarian – so we’re forever double checking menus first to ensure there is at least a couple of non-meat items available. Thankfully, there were quite a few options for Boy Vegetarian to try.
Offering a tapas style menu of many small dishes and skewers, we each decided to pick a couple of selections each and share them among the table. Insufficient as this may sound, because the dishes offered varied so greatly in sizes and portions, it worked out to be perfect – we were all very full by the end.
Sumiyaki Set – 5 skewers of sumiyaki chicken balls, Yakitori Chicken Thigh, Chilli Inari Bean Curd, Gyu Kushi Beef & Butakushi Pork Belly
Cold Soba Salad
Salmon Hot Pot
Chicken Namban – deep fried buttered chicken with sweet vinegar sauce topped by tartar sauce
Soft Shell Crab
Tsukune Set – skewers Tsukune combo topped with 5 different flavours: wasabi mayonnaise, spicy miso mayonnaise, black pepper, garlic chip, nanami chilli pepper
While I thought everything tasted fine – some dishes were good, some average – none of them had the wow-factor. I couldn’t distinguish much difference between the flavours of each topping in the Tsukune set. The best food of the night was probably the soba salad (which couldn't even begin to compete with the one from Vegie Bar in Fitzroy) and fried chicken.
The bill came to $20 per person, which is not bad at all. If you’re after totally awesome food and fancy settings then don’t come here, but it’s definitely a great place to just casually sit and chat and order many little dishes as you please. Perhaps during a busier period they might rush you out once you’ve stopped ordering, but because we came later, it was quiet and we were able to hear each other talk right across the large table, which was good.
Good value, but quite average food. I would go back if I was in the area or was in the mood for a casual place and cheap food, but it's not worth waiting in line for half an hour to get in...
Ratings (based on my own experience, on this occasion):
Food – 5 / 10
Service – 7 / 10
Value for money – 7 / 10
OVERALL CONSENSUS: 2.5 bags (out of 5)