Japanese food will never be a trend in Melbourne, thanks to how delicious it is. It is desirable in winter when noodle soups and ramen are the order of the day, and in summer when cold, fresh bites like sushi and sashimi are all you want to eat. These are the city's finest places to enjoy sushi, sashimi, sake and so much more. Whether you want to dip into a cosy inn-style café or hobnob with the glitterati at Melbourne's stable of very fine Japanese diners, you'll find what you're looking for here.
The best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne
From elegant sushi bars to izakayas, Melbourne has it all.
Best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne
Ishizuka is a 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 $285a head, sans drinks. But Ishizuka is worth the time, expense, and trouble of finding it.
Chef Kazuki Tsuya hails from Akita in Northern Japan and has been trained in classic French techniques, and you'll see this clearly from the menu offerings. There are several ways to tackle Kazuki’s, but our advice is to go for the seven-course tasting menu that will run you around $200 per person, sans wine matching.
The name of this upscale Japanese restaurant stems from the words for rice (kome) and knot (yui), with the combination signifying the connection and unity felt through a shared meal. And if you're after traditional, authentic and high-quality Japanese cuisine without having to board a plane, allow your tastebuds to be whisked away to the archipelago with dishes by chef Motomu Kumano.
Don't let the unassuming exterior fool you: behind the wood-panelled front entryway of this establishment lies a luxe Japanese dining experience that is actually unparallelled in Melbourne. Wagyu Ya is one of only three restaurants in the entirety of Australia with a licence allowing it to cook and serve Kobe beef, the rarest and most expensive beef in the world.
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 bluefin tuna and the fish John West rejects.
Supernormal is no longer just Tokyo-inspired; it now lends its flavours to some other big cities like Seoul, Hong Kong and Shanghai as well. Dishes like the New England lobster roll and the twice-cooked duck leg bao have never left the menu, but newer items like the Wagyu flank served with kombu butter and Tropea onion and the peanut butter parfait topped with salted caramel and soft chocolate are almost as good as the classics.
It's a half-hour drive from the city, but Shira Nui is definitely worth the trip if you're a lover of Japanese cuisine. For lunch, you can get sashimi and nigiri specials with miso and salads. Otherwise, share a platter with friends or choose from the sushi menu. Call and book because these guys fill up fast.
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.
What if belly-warming food could be also wholesome and healthy, satisfying without tasting soporific? Leave it to Neko Neko, a cosy little eatery cooking homestyle vegan and pescatarian Japanese for which it has amassed a loyal following. Forgoing dairy and red meat, staff instead pack dishes with vegetables cooked, raw and pickled while working in plenty of seeds and whole grains, elevating dishes that would usually leave you feeling comatose into lighter but no less satiating weeknight dinners.
This stylish Richmond joint describes itself as a Japanese restaurant filtered through Melbourne eyes. It pays homage to traditional Japanese dishes while also introducing some contemporary elements. enjoy a chef's menu for dinner, and be sure to pair it with one of the bespoke cocktails or with a glass of Japanese whisky.
The opening of a restaurant from Chris Lucas, the svengali behind Melbourne greats like Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, Kong and Baby, is generally accompanied by the kind of media hoopla reserved for retiring members of the Royal family. We're here to tell you that all you have heard about Kisumé, the Lucas Group’s three floors of Japanese dining power, is true, and then doubly so.
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.