There is something very Japanese about the look of this small establishment in the quiet end of a little laneway in the China precinct of the CBD. The masonry-built house is Yamato Japanese Restaurant, and the boxy space inside the door is worth being nicknamed the "Little Japan" of Melbourne.
On the other side of the door, smothered with Cheap Eats stickers, is its own world. Crowded yet never cluttered, small tables and chairs are occupied by enthusiasts chattering away in every corner. Almost every inch of all four walls are covered with antique paintings and ads from old Japan. Nostalgic.
Drink menu consists of local favourites with a good addition of Japanese imports. It lists all major Japanese beers, sake, and light cocktails, including Cassis Orange and Choya umeshu plum soda, which are the expected entries for izakaya bar restaurants in Japan.
When served on a bed of rice, tempura, deep-fried shrimp and vegetables, is heavenly, especially at Yamato. Tentoji-don is served with a small bowl of soy-based soup with an egg cooked in it. Simply pour the soup in your tempura rice bowl and enjoy the warm heartiness.