If you google squid in Japanese, you'll see the word Ika, with a pronunciation (ee-ka) that sounds like there's an 8 at the end of it. The name of IKA8 aka The Giant Squid was derived from the Japanese word for squid, with the added measure of not just the lucky 8 added at the end, but a forecast of 8 ways and 8 flavours to come.
Located at 24 Irving Street, Footscray, with a side entry instead of a street front entry, it's right opposite the Footscray train station which makes it easy to get to via public transport. Failing that, there's a multi-storey car park with very reasonable rates right next to it. Street parking for me on the day was nigh on impossible at this very busy little corner of the world, especially with a train station and the Footscray Market at its doorstep.
Open only since 20 Oct 2018, it appears to be gaining speed as a local favourite. You can get your squid on a stick fix from 11am to 9pm daily. They're not kidding calling it the giant squid, and prices are beyond reasonable at a price range of $5-$12. Aside from the flavours, the squid on a stick concept and its location across from the train station is reminiscent of food hawkers at Asian train stations selling all kinds of skewered food for the train journey.
It's a pleasant surprise to walk into IKA8 and find it's not your usual quick service joint. From its impressive giant blue and white shopfront signage to its decor that is crisp and fresh in the same colour scheme, it's pretty classy. Keeping to its under the sea theme, it has a porthole on the wall and waves are reflected in the curves of the borders from ceiling to counter and the facade of the service area.
The work of the design team, Principle Design, an award-winning graphic design studio who designed the eye-catching exterior artwork, and Architects EAT (architecture and interior design practice), who designed the store interiors that reflect the colours of the artwork, it has modernised takeaway and taken it to new heights.. With over 26 years of experience between them in food and marketing, IKA8 Directors CJ Duong and Jenny Pham, and head chef Eddie Huynh, with over 17 years experience in the food industry under his belt, has got the Giant Squid under control.
Chatting to Eddie on the day, he is passionate about his squid, which he points out is all protein and no fat. He is inspired to evoke memories of street food flavours at corner stalls in Southeast Asia. For him, those are the real foodie destinations, and what IKA8 is aiming to recreate. Accompanying his mum to the markets on the weekends from the age of 9 or 10, he learnt how to pick and choose fresh from the best and it stands as second nature to him now. Helping to prepare food for the family since the age of 16 or 17, only further ignited his passion to follow his food dream.
Excited to bring something fresh to the community of Footscray, he also looks forward to drawing new people to the suburb with his squid on a stick. It definitely stands as a convenient BIG snack that's crispy on the outside and tender on the inside, with the convenience of being on a stick making it easy to eat as you're perhaps running to catch a train.
The Giant Fried Squid ($9.99) consist of The Classic All SEAson with IKA8's herbs and spices, The Golden Singapore touched with special salted egg sauce, and The Thai Tom Yum Yum which is hot and tom yum spicy. The Giant Grilled Squid has but two flavours with The Japanese Ink & Soy with a soy and ginger sticky glaze, and The Spicy Korean with Korean spices and super-hot chilli spice.
Other small bite options at $5-$7 reflect the big bites with The Classic, The Golden Singapore and The Thai Tom Yum Yum. The Rings at $6 has a choice of original herbs and spices or Sichuan chilli sauce, while the Squid Balls at $5 are on a skewer with a choice of the Tom yum sriracha chilli sauce or the ginger and garlic sweet soy glaze. The IKA8 Fat Chips are sprinkled with furikake and bonito flakes which somehow make them still flavoursome even after they've slightly cooled.
Your Meal Bites at $12 are a two-step operation in choosing first your squid, from 5 choices and its flavour, and then your sides of which there are 3 choices. Frying and grilling squid as big as your hand every single day, why not try one on a skewer to eat on the go, or enjoy eating-in, on the few seats at the eatery. If you're a seafood or squid lover like me, you'll be in tender squid heaven.