Melbourne’s best sushi. It’s a big call. But after encountering Minamishima, it’s one we’re prepared to make
And it’s right here, hiding shyly on a quiet, mostly residential street in Richmond. Talk about hiding a light under a bushel. Not even so much as a press release when former Kenzan sushi master Koichi Minamishima opened in October.
It’s been a two-year labour of love, says Minamishima’s veteran sommelier Randolph Cheung (Azalea, Flower Drum). They wanted to get it right. And how. It seems strange to talk fireworks about a restaurant so elegant, mannered and meticulous. Minamishima is a world away from the sound and fury of so many modern restaurants. The soundtrack is a jaunty if unobtrusive jazz piano. The service is impeccable. Cheung couldn’t be any smoother if he was on rollerskates. His sake matches are inspired.
Such things do not come cheap. It’s $150 for the 15-course omakase selection, which puts you in the hands of Minamishima and his offsider Hajime Horiguchi, formerly of Noosa-notable Wasabi. No choice, just whatever they’ve selected from the market. You get what you get, but you definitely won’t get upset. It starts with a palate-cleanser of smoked and pickled vegetables and then romps through 14 pieces of nigiri sushi: all seafood, all exquisite.
It’s said good sushi is all about the rice (and the rice at Minamishima is indeed perfect in temperature and form) but it’s the proteins that will leave you gasping. You’ll try two types of toro (tuna belly): one like raw prime beef, the next seared and almost like foie gras in its richness. Then there’s the buttery flounder fin – all slippery, textural bite – and some incredible, delicately scored calamari, which brings to mind clouds that have been turned into noodles. There’s scampi with a little burst of finger lime, and funny, frilled Japanese cockle. There’s the smoky umami blast of lightly torched sea perch with uni (sea urchin) and spring onion. The penultimate course is a finely minced puck of calamari in a fragrant fish broth, which soothes the way towards dessert.
So Japanese desserts aren’t your bag? The yuzu granita on a sake jelly moulded to the bowl so it comes away with a satisfying squelch might just change your mind. It’s a bracing, citrus-sweet and sour thing that gives the meal a worthy finale.
It’s a serene fit-out, all crisp cabinetry and perfectly aligned edges, with a lit grooved stone wall backgrounding the chefs and subtly nudging them centre-stage. You’ll want one of the 12 seats along the counter, all the better to watch the knife skills and quick-draw rice work, although if you choose a seat in the dining room a handful of non-sushi hot dishes open up. Next time. Most people will file Minamishima under ‘special occasion’. Make sure you also flag the file ‘totally worth it’.
More of the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne.
4 Lord St
|Opening hours:||Tue-Sat 6-10pm|