Best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne
Ishizuka is a new Japanese restaurant specialising in a kaiseki menu. In a commitment-phobic world it almost requires a session with a therapist to sign up for a 10-plus-course, two-plus-hour procession of miniaturised dishes for $220 a head, sans drinks. But Ishizuka is worth the time, expense, and trouble of finding it.
The opening of a restaurant from Chris Lucas, the svengali behind Melbourne greats Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, Kong and Baby, is generally accompanied by the kind of media hoopla reserved for retiring members of the Royal family, so here’s the deal: all you have heard about Kisume, the Lucas Group’s three floors of Nipponesque dining power, is true, and then doubly so.
Being almost impossible to find, and seating just 12 people, Hajime is definitely at the expensive end of the range. This is a real tempura house, and the quality of these morsels of magic compared to some of the Japanese available in Melbourne is like the difference between line-caught blue fin tuna and the fish John West rejects.
Brace yourselves Japanophiles: Ganbare Kaz on the Windsor end of Chapel Street is set to become your new destination for creative, top-shelf sushi, with low prices and a fitout that will impress the fussiest of hipsters.
Melbourne, say hello to an avocado worth the kvetching about spendthrift Millennials. Served with zen-like simplicity – a triumvirate of wasabi, nori salt and mayo with the sweet calling-card of Kewpie – the half avo quickly seared on the robata and served in its skin with a sexy pool of sweet ponzu in the dimple.
If you loved Congress’ pigs head sanga, you’ll be pretty happy with Future Future’s crumbed meatball katsu-sando. Recipe: take one fat puck of beef, introduce it to a fryer, slap it in spongy white bread with a shameless amount of Kewpie mayo and tonkatsu sauce, then salvage its dignity with the fresh crunch of daikon.
On a Carlton corner, Ima Project Café is breathing new life into smashed avo. Japanese twists on archetypal breakfast dishes can also be found in Ima’s miso-infused tomato baked eggs and the porridge drizzled with Mitarashi syrup, a traditional Japanese sauce made from soy sauce and sugar. Plus, the classic Japanese breakfast set of fish and rice is on the menu.
The reason you’ll want a queue plan for Hakata Gensuke is because you’ll always face one. This outpost of a ramen chain from Fukuoka chef Kousuke Yoshimura, and it holds Huxtaburger-like status among Japanese expats. For good reason. They only deliver tonkotsu broth, and the result is some of the best in city.
Don’t expect a bandana toting crew screaming ‘irasshaimase!’ when you walk into Pat Breen and Lydia Wegner’s soup joint. These two are ramen renegades, who roll their buckwheat noodles in a pasta maker and are pushing an eclectic mix of Japan’s favourite soup, Chinese-style pork buns, frosty shakes and caramel pie. Party down.
More of Melbourne's best eats
Unless you have the metabolism of a nine-year-old, and the finances of a Kardashian, you never stand a chance against Melbourne's ferocious dining machine. The openings just don't stop and ain't nobody got time to keep on top of what's what. Except us, that is. So behold, our eat-and-destroy list – a guide to Melbourne's 50 best restaurants.