Update 31/12/2014: Iku had a bit of a makeover this year and has been rebranded as Shinwa Izakaya.
October 25, 2013
Iku's been quietly doing its thing on Sydney Rd for as long as we've been visiting Brunswick. We stopped by for some dumplings while moving house, noticed their Yasai (vegetarian) Banquet ($30pp) and liked those dumplings enough for a revisit.
Other special dietary requirements aren't clearly catered to, but we'd guess that most of this meal was vegan (okonimyaki mayo and ice cream excepted) and that coeliacs might fall afoul of all the soy sauce.
Iku starts everyone off with complimentary edamame - sadly these ones were over-boiled.
I was much more impressed with the miso soup, rich and savoury with spring onion, a little seaweed and a few tofu cubes. I find seaweed salads tough to handle, so I picked at the fresh salad leaves and left the jelly-ish threads to Michael.
Pan-fried tofu arrived in a puddle of soy sauce and chilli powder, garnished with some very intense pickled ginger.
The okonomiyaki was thick and just barely cooked through, almost like mashed potato in the middle, but still sturdy enough for mopping up stray mayonnaise and okonomi sauce.
Teriyaki tofu was submerged in a watery pool of sweet sauce, and accompanied by more salad greens and pickled ginger.
The dumplings had a mystery green mush for filling, but it'd take a lot more than that to ruin potstickers.
The vegetarian sushi would have been plain standing alone, but were a refreshing follow-up to the dumplings. I really liked the sweet-skinned inari stuffed with vinegary rice.
The mushroom and eggplant yakitori skewers were also winners, nicely basted with smoky grill marks.
The meal finished with supermarket-standard icecream.
Our Iku experience was enjoyable but flawed. The staff were very friendly but missed a few marks (no water glasses, not enough chopsticks). Most of the food was great, particularly the yakitori, but it seemed to lack the care and attention to detail that I've encountered at many other Japanese restaurants. Melbourne has some awesome mid-price banquets, and I'm not convinced that this one quite measures up. Nevertheless, I'm happy to have Iku in my neighbourhood, and would pick out my favourites of these dishes for a more modest meal.
Iku's vegan options have been enjoyed for the most part by In The Mood For Noodles and easy as vegan pie.
Elsewhere online, Iku has been positively reviewed on Dinner Date Melbourne and things i see, think & eat, and with some ambivalence on My Pharmacophore, Foolish For Food and Nurikko Visits.
139 Sydney Rd, Brunswick
veg banquet $30pp
Accessibility: Iku has a ramp, a wide entry and clear corridor through the middle. There's a few standard-height tables at the front but most are low to the ground, with cushions for kneeling and extra leg space below (see top photo). We ordered at our table and paid at a high counter.