You don't have to travel all the way to Tokyo to experience the delights of Japanese cuisine. We've found five restaurants in Melbourne that serve up delicous sushi, sashimi, tempura, donburi and more.
While trendy restaurants come and go, Kenzan, which opened in 1981, continues to nourish and flourish. Downstairs in Collins Place, near the Kino cinema, Kenzan has a loyal band of followers. Serving some of the best sashimi and sushi in Melbourne, the banquet menu is particularly good value. Favourite dishes include agedashi tofu in mushroom sauce, teriyaki salmon or melt-in-your-mouth steamed prawn dumplings.
Relax in the warm comfortable dining room or opt for a shoeless meal in the private tatami rooms. Perfect for a special night out.
The good news is long-time Northside favourite café, Cibi, has moved to new and bigger digs down the street. Best known for its Japanese breakfast (miso, omelette, greens, rice and grilled salmon), the soba noodle salad, chicken soboro and Japanese teas (plus Australian coffees) are also worth travelling for. The original café was a cosy spot with a quirky range of Japanese kitchen and household goods. The new café, which opened in October, is a warehouse with a big kitchen where Meg Tanaka can experiment with her Japanese-Australian home-cooking recipes. Look out for house condiments, locally made products and longer daytime hours.
Saké Restaurant & Bar
Saké Restaurant & Bar’s prime riverside spot on the Yarra makes this a great place to admire Melbourne’s ever-growing, impressive skyline. It’s also a favourite for pre-theatre diners because it’s right beside Hamer Hall or a short dash to Arts Centre Melbourne. Although if you want to savour the food in this glamorous eatery, you should take your time with a multi-course banquet. Try the miso-glazed toothfish, popcorn shrimp or nori crisps and tuna. Of course, you can always slide up to the sushi bar and watch the skilled chefs in action. Celebrate with cocktails, sake or Japanese beer for the full experience.
For those who like some bling with their sushi, buzzy Kisumé is the place to visit. Stationed on trendy Flinders Lane, Kisumé is a sibling restaurant to popular Chin Chin, Kong and Hawker Hall. This sophisticated eatery adds an interesting twist to many Japanese staples—watch out for the gold leaf sushi. The ingredients are top class, carefully sourced fish and local wasabi. The deluxe sushi box is as delicious as it is pretty and, if Instagram’s your thing, order the miso soup with chrysanthemum tofu. The bamboo-topped sushi bar on street level is hard to pass, or you can sip and snack at the Chablis Bar and most swear by the omakase (chef’s choice) menu.
Don Don (198 Little Lonsdale Street, Melbourne. 9670 7113) is a tiny simple no-frills restaurant, that has been feeding students and office workers for years. Choose from 11 donburi specials such as tofu curry, teriyaki chicken and the don don box. Known for its speedy service, you won’t be queuing for long. There’s limited seating inside or in summer students like to eat nearby in front of the State Library. Hearty, satisfying comfort food for those on a tight budget.