As part of a recent judging stint for Metro magazine, I volunteered to check out a Japanese restaurant in Kelston.
A place called Happy Japanese sounded like the best idea ever after the day I’d had, but I did nervously wonder if the name was an oversell. Apparently not. Excellent food and super happy service. Happy Japanese indeed.
This restaurant was definitely a steakhouse in a former life, the whole build screamed of Westie grill. It’s a huge place and seems to be a real weekend joint as on this particular Tuesday night we were the only patrons (I was later informed it’s busy in the weekend). I enjoyed the mad, fun feel to it and would love to see it in full swing.
Strangely, being the only people in this cavernous space didn’t mar our enjoyment. This would definitely be due to the quality of the food – and the fact that women talk so much when they go out that they don’t notice other people anyway.
We ordered the Sesamed spinach ($6), the Agedashi Tofu ($7), the Tofu Cheese Spring Roll ($8) the Spicy Sashimi Salad ($12) and the Squid Legs Karaage ($12) to share. They were all excellent although I thought the Tofu Cheese Spring Roll needed a stronger cheese to counteract the blandness of the tofu.
The Agedashi Tofu was well-executed: pillowy soft tofu in a lovely light batter surrounded by that gorgeous warm dashi/mirin/soy broth and sprinkled with the usual adornments. And I loved the Squid Leg Karaage – a personal favourite of mine – squid tentacles deep fried within an inch of their lives in a heavily seasoned crunchy, addictive batter. Much less delicate than the tofu but appealing in a totally different way. Let’s face it, no matter how bad it is for us, we all like the taste that deep frying brings and the salty contrast with the tender delicately flavoured squid inside was a great combination.
The Sesamed spinach was magic with that wonderful combination of sesame, spinach and soy. The nuttiness of the sesame with the salt of the soy lifted the spinach from the ‘something my mother made me eat as a child’ category to ‘where can I get more of this?’ Amazing what adding a bit of light seasoning can do to green leaves. Their just-cooked texture and still vibrant green colour only added to the appeal.
The Spicy Sashimi was the most interesting dish of the night. A huge salad, laden with generous amounts of super-fresh raw tuna and salmon and doused in hot sauce, it was certainly a twist on the norm. It was really good and we finished the plate but I could have done with the fire dialed back a bit (especially as it was a raw kind of heat). This was definitely amazing value for money at $12, considering the quality and quantity of the sashimi.
The menu was enormous with a lot of real isakaya-style food that you don’t often see in Japanese restaurants here. If you live out west, this should be your go-to for fun ,tasty Japanese food, especially with a large group. From the moment you are greeted with a beaming smile and a huge “Irasshaimase” as you walk in, you’ll see why this place is aptly named.