Hype is generated from above while buzz comes from the bottom up. Melbourne's sugoi new Japanese "bar lounge" has plenty of both right now
The hype is for their Shinkansen-quick ordering technology – a newly introduced IPAD2 menu at each table – and the buzz is for their plush-but-not-pretentious decor and finely curated mise-en-scène. You feel a part of something grander as soon you set foot in the place, all crimson-hued seats, violet ottomans, manicured brown wood blinds, Kubrickian bowl seats and robo-house music.
The super-attentive waitress asked for a credit card from the outset. Smart thinking, as our drinks-for-two escalated into a 10-strong Friday night debrief.
"I'm a fast runner," I offer before handing over my Visa, gauging the geijin vibe.
"So am I, especially when I'm running after boys," she retorts, bringing us three Mr Miyagis shortly after. The Mr Miyagi (RIP Pat Morita) is a rugged little fellow, blending 12-year-old Yamaki whisky, raspberry puree and Framboise served in a plant pot used for succulents. Another cocktail that did the trick was the Bitter Sweat Symphony but the Pornstar Martini and Fukushima (go easy, it was on the menu before the nuclear disaster) are incongruous titles that need to be changed.
Though sadly not dressed in full geisha get-up, our waitress (a former hostess in Osaka) brought us moreish Chicken Teriyaki servings and copious amounts of edamame while moving us three times to more salubrious spots as our posse grew, promoting lively roundtable discussion and, of course, sake consumption.
Oh yes. About that sake. There is great sake and there is holy-crap-I-can't-beleive-they-polish-each-grain-of-rice-then-age-it-under-snow-so-it-tastes-like-I'm-licking-a-cloud sake. The more affordable Dassai 50 is in the former category; servicable, subtle and crisp as a fresh lettuce leaf. Little Red Pocket's renowned mixologist David Van Iersel is some kind of sake Jedi, having handpicked (polished?) an extensive selection that ranges upwards of a few hundred clams if you can wrangle an expense account.
As you'd expect, all this potent rice wine had the place pulsing with conversation as a futuristic soundtrack bumped along in the background (I trainspotted a few very tidy Aeroplane and Little Red remixes). The sound was a little muffled but at pretty much the right volume, encouraging an intellectual crowd – more "We should all go and see Project Nim!" than "Why did you go and fuck up that project, Tim?" Let Mr Miyagi be your sensei and get you buzzing after work. Bottoms up.