Bar Wa Izakaya
by Stephanie Williams
Sitting at the bar on a busy Friday night, my partner and I immediately have flashbacks of a ski trip we took to Japan a couple of years back. After skiing all day, the izakaya, (a Japanese version of a pub) became our go-to each night for dinner, drinks and fun. Bar Wa Izakaya, on Elizabeth Street between the city and North Hobart, is a cranking little spot which feels about as close to authentic as you can get this side of Tokyo.
Spying Sapporo on tap, my partner grabs one of those to start while I spy the wine list, heavy on the Tassie grapes. I end up ordering a mojito, which ends up matching well with the bar snacks to come.
The menu is designed to be shared. Traditionally izakayas are all about pairing drinks with snacks – think delicious morsels that go well with a cold one.
We start with the Bar Wa take on salt and pepper calamari ($16), this time dusted with black powder with a little salad of zesty yuzu soaked bean sprouts, cucumber and spring beans. Next up it’s the house pickles ($8), a colourful plate of pickled cucumber daikon and cabbage sprinkled with sesame. It’s refreshing and sets our tastebuds up for the next dish, pork gyoza. The pork gyoza ($12) is a generous five dumpling serve which comes with a chilli oil and dipping sauce. A drizzle of the oil elevates the gyoza to proper drinking food with just the right amount of heat to leave you wanting a sip of your chosen drink.
By this stage my partner has moved to a Japanese rum which he describes as ‘flatter’ than an Australian rum but enjoyable nonetheless. Yakitori skewers are next and we try the Nichols Chicken thigh with house made soy tare ($4.50 each) and the pork belly with Sansho pepper salt ($4.50 each). Both are satisfying but my preference is for the less fatty chicken skewer.
I can’t go past a dessert that features salted caramel so I order the house made shiro miso ice cream with salted caramel sauce and yuzu biscuit crumb ($7). Shiro miso is sometimes described as ‘sweet’ or ‘mellow’ miso, probably because it’s been fermented for a shorter time than darker varieties and is lower in salt. But in this pairing it brings a beautiful saltiness to the ice cream, which isn’t overly sweet. I’d be heading back for that dish alone, and not sharing any of it!
While it’s a good idea to make a reservation, we did nab a couple of bar seats on a busy Friday night so walk ins aren’t out of the question. Sitting at the bar added to the genuine izakaya feel, but I’m reliably told Bar Wa works just as well for a group too. ■
216-218 Elizabeth Street, Hobart,