Step into Maedaya and you are greeted with a traditional chorus of “Irrashaimase!”, which means welcome. Bookings are advisable on weekends and for groups but if there’s only one or two of you, you might just get lucky with a seat at the bar. From here, you can watch the busy waitstaff pour sake and beers and pop bowls of delicious Japanese snacks onto the counter for each new arrival.
Once you’ve received your complimentary bowl of lotus crisps, you’ll probably need to order more (trust me, you’ll want to – these are dipped and deep fried in something that is seriously more-ish). Then, open up your oversized menu and take it all in.
Sure, the experience is a bit like trying to read The Age newspaper on the tram (your neighbour or dining partner will get to read right along with you – or cop an accidental elbow in the process). Ordering is always a bit of a blur as you try to navigate the multitude of options. But never fear – you can always order a bit more if you feel like it later on (and I usually do).
Whatever takes your fancy from the menu of grilled skewers, which are cooked over hot coals. N. loves the yakitori (chicken thigh) and kawa (crispy grilled chicken skin) and I love, love, love the shitake mushroom skewers – they are beautiful and saucy and very smokey in flavour. The prawn and scallop skewers are also good and the tofu ones are ok – worth a try. (Or just double up on the shitake.)
The okanomiyaki (vegetable pancake) is not your usual food court fare. This version is pan fried and crispy on the outside, and soft and delicious on the inside.
The salty, peppery soft shell crab is great (and very reasonabley priced) – just add a squeeze of lemon and eat it all up.
The prawn dumplings are cooked on the grill for added depth of flavour.
Don’t forget to try the scallops – these came out on a sizzling hot plate and were perfect to share between two (i.e. there were generous serves of scallops – enough to go around!).
Also, the gyoza is good – there are vegetarian and pork options, so I usually get a plate of vegie ones just for myself.
If you’re still feeling peckish, just order up another round of grilled skewers or brave another read of the menu – the service here is super swift.
For a completely different experience, there is a Japanese BBQ room upstairs, where you order slices of meat (or in my case, vegetables) and cook them yourself over hot coals. It can be fun (if not smokey) as a group, but to my mind, I’d much rather entertain myself with consuming lotus crisps and leave it in the very capable hands of the sumiyaki chef.
Maedaya Sake and Grill
400 Bridge Road, Richmond