Feb 27, 2017
Forget the cliché that Japanese food is all about sushi served in hushed surroundings. In actual fact, there’s a kaleidoscope of flavours and eateries that range from refined to raucous – and you’ll find it all right here in Melbourne.
Ichi Ni Nana
The cool two-storey Ichi Ni Nana anchoring 127 Brunswick Street – the multi-level dining destination previously known as the Old Colonial Inn – sets the dial to party time. A greatest-hits menu includes karaage tori (fried chicken drumsticks), crisp sansho pepper whitebait with Kewpie and soft-shell crab tempura.
127 Brunswick Street, Fitzroy; (03) 9417 4127
Way down in the CBD’s lawyer-land lies this stayer, which has served fine sushi to the salarymen and women of Melbourne for longer than many would care to remember (since 1989, to be precise). The surroundings might be conservative but Hanabishi’s menu contains surprises such as cedar wood-wrapped miso-marinated sea perch, salt kiln barramundi and duck breast on king brown mushrooms.
187 King Street, Melbourne; (03) 9670 1167
As refined and revered as it is recherché (it hides its light under a backstreet Richmond bushel), it’s hard to get a seat at this sushi temple. That said, Minamishima is certainly worth the effort; persevere and you’ll be rewarded with Australia’s best sushi, from fatty flounder fin to rich tuna belly and scampi with bursts of finger lime.
4 Lord Street, Richmond; (03) 9429 5180
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Above the venerable Kappo lies the distinctly high-end Japanese bar known as Hihou, where the snacks are so good they can maketh a meal. Start with shichimi-spicy tuna sashimi cigars wrapped in brik pastry, move on to the vegetable gyoza with ponzu sauce and finish with the Hihou pork hotdog in sesame brioche.
First floor, 1 Flinders Lane, Melbourne; (03) 9654 5465
Saké Hamer Hall
It doesn’t get much more glamorous than this sleek Saké outpost, which hugs the Yarra riverside at Hamer Hall. In surroundings that demand your best shoes, tuck in to luxe raw seafood – Hokkaido scallops with silken tofu and fried capers or the signature kingfish with jalapeno and yuzu soy – along with big-flavoured options such as Wagyu tataki with soy-cured egg and charred onion or pork belly with mustard miso.
100 St Kilda Road, Melbourne; (03) 8687 0775
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Wabi Sabi Salon
A Smith Street favourite, this homely den is the place to go for healthy Japanese food served with maximum cheer. Realign the chakras with Wabi Sabi Salon’s lunchtime salad of buckwheat soba noodles with carrot and ginger dressing or the tempeh and grain vegan salad. At night, a warming dish of Wagyu meatballs with red miso sauce is true comfort food.
94 Smith Street, Collingwood; (03) 9417 6119
Look for the queues outside this ramen specialist, which has a reputation as Melbourne’s best. Hakata Gensuke’s tonkotsu (pork bone) ramen is the order of the day, the long-simmered stock rich and creamy with collagen. You can customise it with varying chilli levels and noodles, then add ingredients such as pork chashu, nori sheets, soft-boiled egg and cloud ear mushrooms.
168 Russell Street, Melbourne; (03) 9663 6342
QV Square, 200 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne; (03) 9650 4579
4/860 Glenferrie Road, Hawthorn; (03) 9819 2558
Westfield Doncaster, Shop FC8, 619 Doncaster Road