Australia is one of the countries in the world with the highest numbers of Japanese residents. The Melbourne metropolitan area alone is home to more than 20,000 Japanese residents. These are the kinds of numbers that help to explain the sheer popularity of Japanese cuisine in Melbourne.
In fact, in some cases you might have to spend quite a lot money to really make sure you get the full Japanese dining experience. Sure, there are plenty of more affordable restaurants that feature Japanese cuisine, such a the terrific Yakimono restaurant located at the 80 Collins development (see latest Yakimono menu prices).
But for the following Japanese restaurants, you better make sure your credit cards are in good standing:
Its location in Lygon Street is a mystery, since the whole area seems dedicated to Italian cuisine. But perhaps the brains behind Kazuki’s chose this location to really make sure that this Japanese restaurant, with some influences from classic French cooking methods, will really stand out.
The place gives patrons the expected Japanese vibes without too much fuss. The walls are bare, with rather simple gray-blue colors. The carpet that minimizes the noise is soft yellow-gold. Here, you have a couple of large paper lanterns, along with the perfectly imperfect (wabi-sabi) ceramics.
The same “everything counts” principle applies to the food preparation as well. When they add a 2-leaf chicory garnish to the aged duck breast, it’s not just there because it looks pretty. It’s also there to add its bitter flavor to the combination of black garlic, radicchio, and shiitakes.
While you can get a 7-course meal here for $160 per person, the better way (and not just the more affordable way) is to opt for the 5-course option for $130. The first course can start with 4 snacks, which may include the small but meaty Goolwa pipis on the shell with ginger and soy. Then there’s the combo of chicken liver parfait with Davidson plum and umeshu jam, with the plum dust sprinkled on like icing sugar.
Then there’s the house furikake, with small duck hearts grilled on the hibachi. You also have thin nori crisp topped with cream made from taramasalata and salmon roe soaked in sake.
Try the Skull Island tiger prawn here, with the hibachi-grilled shellfish featuring the subtle umami of the shio koji glaze. It’s then doused in sake beurre blanc that’s dotted with salty flecks of avruga.
You can go with the fantastic duck, with that distinctive gamy flavor resulting from hanging the duck meat in the coolroom for 7 days, before they add the black garlic powder and the radicchio puree. Even the salmon option here is great, with the New Zealand King Ora lightly cured with kombu, and then served almost like a salad with cucumber, radish, and pomelo.
This restaurant in Bourke Street is only a few years old, and it’s still not easy to find for newbies. But it’s worth all the hassle of finally finding it. Besides, there are only 16 seats around the kitchen here, so you’ll really feel blessed to get a seat here. It’s worth the expense as well.
As any fan will tell you, the best way to get acquainted with the Ishizuka menu is to go with the $220 per person option, with at least 10 courses. This is a lengthy procession of small plates that can take more than 2 hours to complete, but it sure makes for a terrific evening of dining.
This is the course that best exemplifies the restaurant’s focus on kaiseki meals, which is like the Japanese counterpart to multi-course French gastronomy. A kaiseki meal gives you lots of different courses made from painstakingly perfect technique, using premium ingredients and then served in ceremonial steps.
It usually starts with a ceremonial bowl of sweet ginger tea that warms your stomach, before you get to other courses. These may include creamy edamame tofu with sweet scampi, a spoonful of genuine caviar, and just a bit of wasabi.
Then you can get a tray of smoked salmon made with cream cheese, made with the kind of painstaking attention to aesthetic details that eating this makes you feel like Godzilla destroying Tokyo. For the soup course, you may get the sweet crayfish soup with the dashi broth, spiked with yuzu and the gelatin-like junsai water vegetable.
The duck course is great, with the duck breast simmered in a thick liquid that’s somewhere between a sauce and a soup. It comes with veggies and little blobs of gluten for texture. The snapper sashimi comes with bottarga powder and wasabi stem, while the pale toro sushi and wagyu are just fantastic.
Finally, you have the kuzu nankin (pumpkin and red bean) for dessert. All in all, this is one evening of Japanese cuisine you won’t forget.