For the month of March 2010 and in support of the official Melbourne Food and Wine Festival , Beer DeLuxe, at Federation Square, will showcase Japanese culture, beers and food as part of the Shinobi Japanese Secret Beer Garden. Just in case you are wondering, Shinobi means Ninja in Japanese. Also in support of L’Oreal Melbourne Fashion Festival and promotion of young creative talent, this secret garden is especially designed by Tokyo-born and Melbourne-based graphic designer, Nami Kano and University of Melbourne Master’s of Architecture student, Olivia Fielding.
** This manga menu is especially designed for the beer garden. And you can even take it away with you!
I was thrilled to receive an invite from Beer Deluxe to the garden and had a taste of some of the Japanese offerings that is served here for a short time only. I had been to Beer Deluxe a couple of times before after work when I used to work in the CBD. They have a big repertoire of beers from around the world and I believe about 8 – 10 different beers on tap. And I was totally surprised how the outdoor area facing Flinders Street has been transformed. It is such a pity that this set up will be taken down early April as it’s a great outdoor area for beer lovers.
We were warmly greeted by our lovely host, Janis, which took some time off her busy schedule to give us more insight into this beautiful set up. Hitachino is one the brands that were introduced to us. We opted to try the Hitachino Nest Red Rice Ale ($12.50). I did not expect a red beer! It was lovely. It had a sweet undertone, kind of fruity and had a creamy like texture. It is somewhat a little different from the beer that I have ever drank. And most importantly, it is gluten free! My tummy and head usually has a bad reaction to beer but this seems to work for me. Have I found beer that I can drink? For those that prefer a crispy and clean finish, try the Hitachino Nest White Ale ($11).
I like nibbles when I have drinks with friends. So what better way than to have beers and order some beer food or rather Otsumami! These are some of the little dishes that we tasted. I will recommend the Gyu Tataki. It is a lightly seared rare beef fillet with citrus ponzu sauce. So tender and it went so well with the red wine ale
And if you like something deep fried, how could you go wrong with the Karaage (deep fried chicken marinated with soy, garlic and pepper)? I would have preferred it to be hotter but I might have left it too long as I was busy chatting away.
And there are options for the vegetarians like vegetarian california rolls, Zaru soba noodles, wakame salada and more.
What makes this place even more special is the unveiling of a new beer by Temple Brewing Company (brewed and run by a local couple) called the Temple Soba Ale. It is available on tap at Shinobi. To make this even more special, this beer is made with a significant percentage of lightly toasted seeds of the local buckwheat plant. Hence, its very unique nutty flavours and a nice clean finish.
For non beer lovers, no fear! There are non-alcoholic Japanese soda, like Fuji Ramune, Calpico, green teas and the least goes on. There is just something for everyone. Sake, Shochu and even specially concocted Japanese cocktails!
Janis insisted that I had to try the Ginger Ninja. It is a concoction of Jasmine tea infused 42BELOW Vodka and Gekkeikan Sake muddled with cucumber and pickled ginger and served in a tall glass with ice and topped with ginger beer. It was sweet, refreshing and highly addictive. If I did not need to catch up on work after, I would have greedily finished this cocktail.
The outdoor installation is very much Japanese influenced. The structure is built from bamboo pole and cloths screen creates a private space. Hand made white lanterns are suspended from above the tables and large ‘noren’ curtains provide the privacy from Flinders street. I really wish that they could keep this structure but was told that Federation Square is really strict and so this space will come down after the festival.
Before we left the place, we were given a bunch of fortune paper ‘Omikuji’ to choose from. Mister and I chose one each, read it and we had to tie it onto one of the robes that lined the entrance of Shinobi. The robes are mostly laden with all these white paper. It is suppose to give us good fortune! I love this special ritual. It does add a nice touch to the whole place.
I will like to thank Janis for being such a warm and patient host. Shinobi Japanese Secret Beer Garden is opened daily from now till 31st March. I will recommend that this is a go to place for all beer lovers. Enjoy the outdoor secret garden and I will definitely say TRY the TEMPLE SOBA ($8.50)! I doubt you can find this anywhere else at the moment.
How will you brew your own beer? Or do you have a preference?
Please note: Jeroxie (Addictive & Consuming) were guests at Beer Deluxe