Yebisu, the newest izakaya with touch screens and happy waving cats, has hit our shores offering some decent Japanese fare and a good whack of fun
“Once you order it cannot be cancelled." So says the Dymo label on the top of the iPad bolted in place on our table. You’ve got to wonder how many people get touch-screen fever and end up with a bunch more food than they bargained on. Once you’ve committed to your ‘stewed wagyu guts’ (we didn’t, incidentally) the food comes out extremely quickly. You can even check on its progress via a little flashing icon on your screen.
It was Wagaya who kicked off this restaurant craze, offering touch screens at every table and ‘sushian roulette’ – the spicy game of chance where one in six pieces of salmon nigiri is filled with an uncomfortable amount of wasabi. Mizuya followed suit then upped the stakes with private rooms offering food, drinks and karaoke all at the swipe of an index finger. And now here’s Yebisu.
For maximum fun-per-second, you need to take a crew. It’s all about ordering a fistful of beers and a jug of frozen Margaritas and loosening your tie. On the flipside, it’s also a good place to take kids (there’s peach Fanta and white fizzy grape juice!), provided you’re happy with letting them take charge of the screen.
Either way, you can’t go wrong with their miso-glazed eggplant (nasu dengaku) or fried (karaage) chicken. Their house-made tofu is like a giant, bland savoury pudding. Pep yours up by dipping the cooling hunks into a dish of soy, or make sure to get a decent whack of the green onion garnish.
If you’re here to smash big Japanese beers and order off the sake cart (literally a little box on wheels like an airline trolley complete with hostie), go for the gyoza, which come sizzling on a cast-iron platter. Their little bottoms are dark golden and crisp, while the sweet pork insides are tender and juicy. Or maybe it’ll be the mixed frankfurts in all their lurid glory, served with a couple of steamed broccoli florets, a pile of mash and a bowl of tomato sauce mixed with grain mustard.
As fun as ordering things off a touch screen is, it’s far from infallible – two of our dishes go walkabout and still appear on the bill. From where we’re sitting right now, the real threat of computers taking over the world isn’t so much they’ll become sentient and kill us all, it’s that we won’t get all of our lunch.