Bite-sized Summary: One of the most vibrant and fun newbies in town! The team behind Bang Bang have managed to capture the laid-back yet spirited vibe of a back alley izakaya bar. Draped in neon red light, its a feast for the senses with a killer cocktail menu to match. With an extensive menu, there’s a lot to choose from, unfortunately, the dishes we tried were a little hit or miss…
Red light spills out onto Steam Mill lane, giving passersby a glimpse beyond the dark metal roller door, which is punched with bullet holes and lined with diners waiting for a seat. Around 6 pm on a Friday night, we are seated at a small table made of stacked Kirin crates within 10-15 minutes.
It’s like entering one of the many small bars in a back alley of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district, complete with neon street signs and glowing lanterns, pedestrian crossings and bike lanes painted on the floor, a vending machine lined with bright Japanese sodas, and even a karaoke box encased in soundproof glass.
Frozen Pina Colada Hai
First things first, when it comes to izakaya dining – drinks! In addition to beer, wine, and sake, Bang Bang offers an extensive cocktail menu divided into three sections: Rojiura; made up of citrus shochu and whisky highballs inspired by Japanese back alley “rojiura” drinking culture; (not-so-classic) Classics with a Bang Bang twist, and Otakuastic; party mixer cocktails for sharing, served in a polished silver butler pump with shot glasses.
From the Rojiura menu, we chose a couple of the Frozen Pina Colada Hai ($15.80); a refreshing and sweet blend of Horouma Mugi Shochu whizzed with coconut cream, pineapple, and ice. Delicious!
Shinjuku Cosmopolitan (top) & Okami San (bottom)
At Bang Bang, the classic cosmo is given a sophisticated makeover with ultra-concentrated blackberry purée instead of cranberry juice. Shaken with vodka, Cointreau, and a touch of lime, the Shinjuku Cosmopolitan ($16) is sweet and strong.
My friend chose the Okami San($17); tequila, mango purée, bitters and egg white “shaken hard,” then sprinkled with crystallised ginger bites. Surprisingly, sweet mango was the prominent flavour as opposed to tequila in this cocktail.
Bang Bang Mini Brioche Sliders
Unlike Japan, where most izakaya and small eateries specialise in just one type of dish, Bang Bang offers a bit of everything; from small bites to sushi and sashimi, tempura, karaage chicken, robata BBQ, yakisoba, and omurice. Surprisingly also consistent with the Japanese izakaya theme is the price! Affordable and fun, but adds up quickly, especially if you’re in the mood for cocktails (and when aren’t we in the mood for cocktails).
Reminiscent of my favourite little katsu sliders from Ms G’s (read about it here), we ordered a couple of the Bang Bang mini brioche sliders with pork katsu and prawn katsu from the ‘Small Things’ section. At $6.80 a pop, this was definitely one of the less value for money options, in my opinion. The pork was juicy and tender, enveloped in a crunchy katsu batter and paired with a simple Japanese mayo with shredded cabbage and lettuce. Delicious, but nothing particularly memorable.
Sukiyaki Agedashi Tofu
An interesting twist on a classic, this starter consisted of delicate cubes of silken tofu deep fried in a light, crispy batter, with sliced wagyu beef “cooked sukiyaki style”, served with a dashi broth ($10.80). Sukiyaki is Japan’s version of hot pot, traditionally consisting of thinly sliced beef slowly cooked at the table. Succulent and full of flavour, the wagyu was a delicious addition to the dish, together with the light, savoury dashi, which worked to tie everything together.
Akin to a classic inside-out California roll, minus the crab stick, Bang Bang’s version features fresh poached prawns with avocado, tobiko and tangy mayo ($10.80).
Salmon Lovers’ Roll
Like the California Roll, the Salmon Lovers’ Roll ($14.80) tasted very fresh. The waitress recommended eating the roll topped with radish first, working towards the gunkan maki sushi (with no explanation of why, but we went with it!) I found it to be a subtle transition from light to richer flavours, which I actually really enjoyed.
The first roll was a burst of fresh, vibrant flavour lent from the unexpected addition of yuzu. The second, a more classic salmon aburi nigiri with a sweet soy. The third; gunkan maki topped with small cubes of salmon sashimi marinated in miso.
For our final course, we couldn’t go past the lava omurice ($16.80). Featuring ketchup fried rice draped with a fluffy Japanese omelette and covered with homemade demi-glacé sauce. Overall, I was very disappointed with this dish as it simply lacked flavour and seasoning! Saved somewhat (but not really) by a silky and fluffy omelette, unfortunately, this was a very bland dish.
The team behind Bang Bang have managed to create a truly electrifying venue, which genuinely reflects a back alley izakaya in downtown Tokyo. From the Japanese vending machines to the neon signs, its a vibrant feast for the senses coupled with a buzzing atmosphere.
If you do visit Bang Bang, make sure to try a delicious cocktail or two from their extensive menu, which offers something unique and exciting to the Sydney bar scene. The food was a little hit or miss, and unfortunately, there’s nothing that I’m dying to return for. However, with so many options on the menu, together with fun vibe and killer cocktails, I’d definitely give them a second shot.
This post is based on an independently paid visit to Bang Bang Izakaya.
Bang Bang Izakaya Bar
Shop/14 Steam Mill Lane, Haymarket 2000
(02) 8591 7818