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Tuesday, 31 December 2013

Pabu Grill and Sake

With recent additions Shop Ramen, Hinoki Japanese Pantry and BistroK, plus long-stayers Peko Peko, Easy Tiger, Wabi Sabi Salon, Wood Spoon Kitchen and more, Smith Street, Collingwood is slowly turning into an Asian food haven, with a strong focus on Japanese cuisine. Woohoo!

One night after some ramen, friends and I decided we needed dessert, and sake. (Essential.) We walked past the freshly minted Pabu Grill & Sake (190 Smith Street, Collingwood) and decided to give it a shot. We sat at the front communal table and were given very attentive service by the host. I was particularly keen to sample the sake flight and one of my favourite all-time desserts, mochi. (See my previous rave about them here.) The green tea ones were okay, but the plain and melon flavoured ones were delicious.

A selection of MOCHI !!!

Pabu (Japanese for 'pub') pitches itself as a modern Izakaya, or Japanese tapas bar - that is, a casual establishment where the food is designed for sharing. It also has a decent array of sake, Japanese-inspired cocktails, beer and wine to choose from, and enticing lunch specials that make me wish I worked in the area. After our li'l pop-in that night, one friend decided to have his birthday lunch there. This meant much more opportunity for photo-taking :)

Courtyard greenery

This time, we were seated in the courtyard, which was much more private and relaxed-feeling. We went for a banquet menu option of 9 or 10 courses for $55 per head (or $75 including a sake flight), and it did not disappoint.

Pretty menu

We had a "Taste of Pabu"

Sake goodness

Arguably the best bit

Here were our dinner eats (my faves were the spicy salmon and the crunchy prawns):

Beef tartare



Spicy salmon salad



Crunchy prawns

Well hey there little fella


Mixed meat skewers

Aaaand our drinks. Apparently the Kill Bill cocktail wasn't all that. Also, I later heard from another friend that Pabu offers a flight of the same sake served at different temperatures to bring out different characteristics. Worth a try next time, methinks!

Pretty sake flight

"Kill Bill" umeshu cocktail

Hiding behind her Kirin

I liked the fit-out: loads of dark wood, low lighting and a modernised traditional feel, if that makes sense. Design can be attributed to EAT Architects, who were also responsible for Maedaya (another Japanese grill) in Richmond.

The crockery is in earthy tones of blue and brown, and there's a nod to kitsch culture through old movie posters and some pretty pleasant, cruisy tunes (we heard MGMT, the Jackson Five, M83 and Bon Iver).

This time again, we received extremely attentive service from the host. Although friendly and full of helpful information, we did feel he was a bit long-winded in his explanations and would have preferred to be left to our own devices a bit more. Some customers require extra help, sure, but others like to fly by the seat of their pants -- and we are definitely pantseatflyers.

Conversely, there were times when service was lacking, for example too many dishes arriving at our table at once, when previous plates hadn't been cleared. We took to piling used plates on the next table to make space. These are, of course, small service touches that one hopes will improve over time. Otherwise, I found Pabu to be excellent value and a pleasant environment. Staff endeavoured to fulfil all our requests, and the food was fresh, delicious and beautifully presented.

Pabu Grill & Sake Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato