Tamura opens a two-storey Japanese Izakaya in Fitzroy
Words by Sofia Levin
Fitzroy’s Tamura Sake Bar has opened a two-storey izakaya and Japanese bluestone pub on Smith Street with beer-friendly snacks, sushi, original cocktails, live music and even a lounge warmed by a fireplace.
Since gracing Gertrude Street across the cobbled laneway from Marion in 2019, Tamura Sake Bar has become a firm Fitzroy favourite. But with limited bar and outdoor seating only, owners Fumi and Takako Tamura have been on the hunt for a larger venue to open a pub-style izakaya in Melbourne since last year. They found the perfect spot in February after strolling past what was previously iconic Italian restaurant, Mamma Vittoria (with the exception of a very short, post-lockdown stint as Lazerpig pizza).
“We don’t have many classic izakaya in town. We have a lot of fusion Japanese nowadays, but not Japanese izakaya owned by Japanese people,” says Fumi. “I have been back to Japan two times since lockdown and felt in Japan what I missed here.”
Izakaya by Tamura is spread over two levels of a heritage bluestone building. There’s a 50-seat Japanese-style bar downstairs with six spots at the bar, while upstairs is a table-service dining room and lounge dotted with vintage chairs (original fireplace included), which seats around 100. Fumi has renovated the interior while retaining the building’s original character, thanks to brick and bluestone walls that lead to a soaring, timber-beamed ceiling.
Like Tamura Sake Bar, there’s a big focus on music at Izakaya by Tamura. Along with vinyl beats, Fumi is excited to pump ‘90s hip-hop and host acoustic jazz bands. There are DJ booths upstairs, too. The best way to find out who is playing is via Instagram.
Takako is in charge of the menu. There are ubiquitous Japanese snacks, like gyoza and edamame, but for something more traditional, order una kyu (eel and cucumber) or gyusuji nikomi (stewed beef tendon). Unlike Tamura Sake Bar, Izakaya by Tamura also has a sizeable sushi and sashimi menu.
Agemono (fried) food is the pick when drinking one of four local brews (including a rice lager collaboration with local brewery, Stomping Ground), or a handful of bottled Japanese beers. Think prawn croquettes made with sake lees, Japanese fried chicken and chicken katsu. Squid, salmon, wagyu and assorted skewers make up the grill section (yakimono), or you can sit at the bar solo and order a larger dish, perhaps mazesoba (umami-rich chicken and prawn dashi with thick ramen noodles that originated in Nagoya) or a wagyu steak with chips. There’s also a $70 chef’s selection menu, which is required for groups of five or more people.
Although there’s sake, umeshu, shochu and a small selection of wine available, Fumi's main focus is on cocktails. That could be one of four highballs through to an original concotion, like the toki doki, made with Japanese whisky, almond syrup, citrus and orange bitters.
Izakaya by Tamura is open Wednesday through Sunday for lunch and dinner, with the bar staying open until 1am on Friday and Saturday.
343 Smith Street, Fitzroy, izakayabytamura.com
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