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  1. Five seats sit at a wooden long bench against a sleek preparation space in a restaurant with a lit artwork of marble effect behind
    Photograph: Lucas Allen
  2. A person picks up caviar on top of wagyu and uni with black chopsticks
    Photograph: Warabi
  3. The sign for Warabi spells out the name in gold lettering. Behind the glass is a sheer curtain
    Photograph: Lucas Allen

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

Melbourne’s omakase moment finds a home at the W Hotel

Going by the omakase craze taking Melbourne and Sydney by storm, there are plenty of diners willing to pay big bucks to witness a chef pursue perfection.

Think of it as an ultra-boutique Japanese banquet running headlong into performance art and theatre. Omakase is a showcase of skill and showmanship, although Warabi deformalises the experience with an emphasis on chef-diner interactions. The cross-counter chat proves a welcome pressure valve to those gathered in the serene, timber-lined cocoon lording it above Collins Street – at least before the sake has its chance to do some mood-loosening of its own. 

The rules of Warabi engagement are as follows: 12 ringside seats, $245 a head. Like a stage production, it waits for no one: kick-off is 5.30pm and 8pm, with a two-hour sitting time proving long enough to transport you to Tokyo’s glittering Ginza and back. 

It’s a 10-course sensory overload of chawanmushi with spanner crab meat and Yarra Valley roe, a subtle hit of wasabi sparking its central nervous system; of precision-sliced sashimi; of supremely buttery black Alaskan cod licked by a jellified combo of eggplants, leek and shiitake with white miso, roasted buckwheat kernels adding their nutty crunch. The high-end ingredients come thick and fast, then an ethereal bowl of dashi made with three types of miso and harbouring a sesame-nutty orb of tofu proves equally heavenly. 

There’s plenty more. Three rounds of sushi include an exquisite kombu-marinated piece of King George whiting and end with a huge puck of pale pink, ultra-fatty tuna loin fished from NSW waters, harmonising with a subtle pickle. All hail the mouth that can follow instructions and consume this in one bite.

It’s telling when the lobster course is the least memorable. You can see the logic: after a parade of exquisite, technique-driven dishes seasoned with unicorn’s tears, the palate is crying out for the circuit breaker of something salty and fried. 

But these lobes of crunchy-coated crustacean, dressed with salted cod roe and matcha salt, are just a breather en route to luxe-in-triplicate of fatty slices of chargrilled wagyu girdled by sea urchin sauce and a thicket of black truffle. 

Omakase does follow some rules not of its own making and there is dessert. Sake lees ice cream, chestnut puree, mochi... it could be called 'textures of' and it’s entirely pleasant, although its real role in this progression is to let the air out of the tyres and signal the end.

Two hours of omakase power later, the chef show is over. The temptation is to clap, but even this dining spectacle demands some deference. So let’s make up for it now. Applause. 

Written by
Larissa Dubecki


W Hotel
408 Flinders Ln
Opening hours:
Tue-Sat 5.30-10.30pm
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