Monthly Archives: January 2016

Fujiya 1935, Osaka

FullSizeRender-18Chef: Tetsuya Fujiwara     Website:    Cuisine: Innovative Spanish

A common mistake many foreign food enthusiasts make when visiting Kyoto is to sample as many three Michelin starred restaurants that all offer kaiseki menus only. After all, kaiseki is a cuisine that follows a certain formula of dishes, utilising only seasonal ingredients so visiting one three starred restaurant is more than sufficient for ones visit. My friend and I had already booked a table at Kichisen (Kaiseki), Isshin (Beef) and Seto (Chicken) and were looking for something different to try. When we exhausted looking at options in Kyoto our attention switched to Osaka where we found one restaurant that fitted that bill. What’s more, it had a bonus of three Michelin stars and was extremely affordable at 7,000 yen only for lunch.

FullSizeRender-17 We hopped on a train at Arashiyama and arrived in Osaka with a great sense of optimism. Despite having pre-loaded our maps on our phone, the restaurant was slightly difficult to spot as the signs were not jumping out, but then again that’s just Japan for you. After locating the entrance we had to wait outside for half an hour as we had arrived too early so we decided to read up on the chef. Chef Fujiwara came from a family of chefs and had trained in Italy and subsequently in Barcelona at L’Esguard; a one starred restaurant owned by a chef – neurosurgeon. He came back to Japan in 2003 to take over the family business and re-establish the restaurant as Fujiya 1935; the year being the formal incorporation of the family restaurant. The food at Fujiya 1935 was described as innovative with a Spanish twist so we were expecting some exciting dishes.

IMG_0987As the heavens started to open we managed to just make it inside and were seated in their front lounge room. It was a very calming room that could not have been more different from the busy main street the restaurant was located on.

IMG_09841st Course – Mushroom soup: A cup of warm mushroom soup was served to us whilst we sat in the lounge. The concentration of mushroom flavour was remarkable with a very long aftertaste. It was soothing and delicious, but hardly anything innovative or exciting.

IMG_09712nd Course – Chestnut bread with bubbles: It was a light and fluffy bread that we were advised to eat like a hamburger as  it would collapse into itself. The ricotta cheese cream was almost like a purée with a good textural contrast to the bread. The flavours were very subtle but the sweetness of the chestnut was very obvious.

FullSizeRender-123rd Course – Radish Wasabi Cream: A crispy radish was served on a slab of ice with a silky wasabi cream dip. The radish was very fresh and had a good bite but again this was hardly anything earth shattering…

FullSizeRender-9A box of bread was presented to us and served on a slab of warm stone to keep the bread warm. A thoughtful touch though I didn’t think it was necessary as it disappeared very quickly with the accompanying…

FullSizeRender-10 … two butters. The one on the left was from Takayama in the Gifu prefecture, and the one on the right was a sesame butter made with butter from Hokkaido. The sesame (goma) butter hands down was our favourite with its slight sweetness. The bread was nothing worthy of highlighting.

FullSizeRender-144th Course – Tomato Soup, soy beans, basil sauce, sea bream “Tai”: A rather bizarre combination of flavours which I personally didn’t find harmoniously working together. The quality of the sea bream sashimi from Akashi was evident but the clear tomato soup and nutty edamame just didn’t gel together. It also felt a bit busy with the shiso (beetle leaf) flower, okra flower and olives as well.

FullSizeRender-75th Course – Parent sweet fish “Ayu”, sauce of river seaweed: The confit fish was grilled and not too dissimilar to that of a grilled mackerel, but meatier. The slight bitterness from the intestine of the fish was balanced against the sweet edamame. It wasn’t a bad dish but again it was not what I would have called innovative in any way, let alone Spanish.

FullSizeRender-46th Course – Spaghettini, saury, new ginko nut, dill: The saury (sanma) sourced from Hakodate, Hokkaido was delicious despite my reservation with this dish. The marriage of spaghetti with Japanese food is a rather odd invention that I never understood (other examples include the salted roe tarako spaghetti or the stinky fermented beans natto spaghetti). The saury was beautifully cooked with a crispy skin and almost rare inside, and just melted in your mouth. Whilst the spaghettini was al dente, it felt like comfort food that lacked any inspiration.

FullSizeRender-37th Course – Free range chicken Nanatanijidori, manganji (shishito) pepper, myouga: The thigh and breast of a free range chicken sourced from Kyoto was served with a mushroom sauce, beans, shishito peppers, myouga ginger and mountain vegetables. Great execution again in the preparation of the chicken but it was similarly lacking in creativity. I’ve definitely had better chicken in many other places. The myouga ginger also didn’t belong on this dish, though I could see the chef wanted something to cut through the rich mushroom sauce.

FullSizeRender-68th Course – Warming grape, Cool grape, blueberry from Murou: The Okayama grapes were served naturally and as a sorbet with flaky and crunchy nuts. This was hands down the best course of the meal and extremely sophisticated. I was surprised at how the flavour of grape was retained in the sorbet  and the blueberry brought a second flavour to avoid this becoming one dimensional. It had textures, flavours and different temperatures. Divine.

FullSizeRender-59th Course – Chestnut pudding: A box containing roasted chesnuts was brought to our table. The waiter proceed to open the box to reveal the chesnuts and the smokey aroma that reminded us of autumn. It had a soft texture with ample sweetness and smokiness in flavour. On the side was…

FullSizeRender-1… a Jelly of the rum flavour, which essentially had coffee jelly, chestnut foam and a dash of rum. The combination of the sweet chesnut, bitter coffee and the rum was spot on, and who could say no to a glass of liquor to finish the meal with a choice of rhubarb, fig or a medicinal tasting herb?

FullSizeRender-11So what was our verdict? We felt the trip all the way to Osaka was not worth it even at 7,200 yen making it the cheapest Three starred meal ever. The caveat here, however, was that the lunch course was half the price and size of dinner so we probably missed out on the more elaborate courses. Saying that, what we did taste was at best well executed but generally lacked inspiration or creativity. What was apparent was that the chef was far better at preparing the dessert courses than the savory ones but even the desserts were not of three or two Michelin star calibre. I think Michelin got this one wrong, and quite wrong. It was definitely not “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey”.

Jimbo-cho Den (神保町 傳), Tokyo

photoChef: Hasegawa Zaiyuu    Website:   Cuisine: Modern Kaiseki

(Some photos courtesy of Framed Eating)

During my culinary research for Japan I came across one particular restaurant that was creating quite a buzz across several social media and restaurant rating websites. Hell, bloggers appeared to be flocking there en mass, claiming it to be one of the most exciting restaurant in Tokyo. The restaurant was of course Jimbocho Den, opened and owned by Chef Hasegawa Zaiyu in 2007 at a mere age of 29. Since then he made the culinary headlines again for getting his second Michelin star only three years later in 2011. Unfortunately, he was to lose that second star in 2014. The loss of the star, however, does not appear to have diminished the shine on the young talented chef.

photo 5-10My reservation at Den looked uncertain for a while as Chef Hasegawa, who has a wide network internationally, was planning his overseas trip for the period of our arrival. Luckily we managed to catch him a couple of days before he took off.

The cuisine at Den was essentially a modern and creative adaptation of the traditional Japanese kaiseki cuisine. Chef Hasegawa utilises contemporary influences that have shaped the modern Japanese culture as inspiration for his cooking. He is notorious for being creative and inventive, using seasonal ingredients to reinvent classic dishes and flavours. His vision is to create a customer friendly restaurant focused on the happiness of his diners; an inspiration from the Japanese philosophy of omotenashi.

photo 4-11We began our dinner with a rather unconventional but thirst-quenching glass of the Monte Rossa Franciacorta, Prima Cuvee.

photo 3-111st Course – Monaka (最中): Monaka is a traditional Japanese sweet with two crisp wafers made from mochi (rice cake), sandwiching a red bean paste. This, however, was rather different.

P1160068It was essentially a sandwich of foie gras, guava paste and white miso which created a delicious combination of a rich, salty and sweet flavours. The guava worked ever so well against the rich foie gras. It was all gone too quickly…

photo 4-102nd Course – Softshell Turtle Soup / Suppon (スッポン): A container with the shell of the softeshell turtle and its skull was served to reveal…

photo 2-11… the skin and meat of the softshell turtle inside. The clear soup, made from ginger and turtle meat, had a surprising depth in flavour and a very clean aftertaste. The rice cracker scattered on the soup provided a nice textural crisp. This was my first suppon and it was surprisingly pleasant.

photo 5-83rd Course – Dentucky Fried Chicken (DFC): We were entertained with another thoughtful and playful dish from Chef Hasegawa. Aside from the obvious humour, the box contained other elements of a personal touch.

photo 3-9A personal note was placed inside each one of our boxes thanking us for our custom. Underneath the note was…

photo 5-7… another personal touch for each diner. I recalled at the time of making the reservation that I was asked about where each diner in my party was coming from. As I was coming from Australia I received an Australian flag and a sponge chicken!

photo 4-8Finally on to the food itself. A piece of chicken was nestled under all the prop. The chicken had been de-boned and stuffed like a Brazilian faijoada (beans) but using instead cashew nuts and purée. It was then cooked in a stock made of various meats (including pork) and subsequently deep fried, dried, to wipe off the excess oil, and finally quickly grilled last minute to crisp up the skin. It was a lot of effort for fried chicken… but it was worth it. It was one of the best chicken I’ve ever had.

P11600974th Course – Yellowtail / Buri () with spicy (karami) daikon: It was a surprisingly oily piece of fish and possibly the best preparation of buri I have ever had. Buri is normally served in the colder months where they become fatter to insulate themselves from the cold water so I was surprised to come across one of this quality in September. The spicy daikon made from soy sauce and wasabi was a clever component to cut through the oily fish.

P11601135th Course – Pacific Saury / Sanma Houbayaki: Houbayaki originated from the Gifu prefecture in the mountains. Traditionally a combination of meat, vegetable and miso paste is wrapped in magnolia leaves (houba) and then grilled.

P1160114At Den, Chef Hasegawa used Pacific Saury (Sanma) with its liver, miso paste, cous cous, ginko, roasted buckwheat. The combination of the miso and the leaves scent was particularly appetising and the fish was very representative of autumn. Sanma is my favourite grilled fish in Japanese cuisine and this one was just phenomenal. The cous cous, which replaced the rice, was a clever adaptation as it soaked up the flavours better than the rice would have.

P11601246th Course – The ‘Garden’: This was a similar dish to Michel Bras’ famous Gargouillou. All the elements on the dish was supplied by Chef Hasegawa’s sister who is a farmer. The vegetables were prepared in various ways, some raw, grilled, fried and poached but what made this dish amazing was the sheer quality of the produce. There was rocket, red chard, nasturtium, spinach, begonia and mustard leaves as well as a carrot poached in sweet vinegar (amazu) and covered in houji-cha powder, tomato with a hint of vanilla, mountain yam (tororo imo), burdock (gobo), potato from Hokkaido, pumpkin, edible flowers, radish, turnip, peppers and gingko.

photo 5-37th Course – Matsutake Soup: Made from Matsutake dashi, conger pike (hamo) with yuzu. It was good, as far as matsutake went, but again I am not the biggest fan of matsutake. I think there are mushrooms that cost a fraction of the price which taste better.

photo 3-4Some pickles to go with the next two courses of rice dishes served in a donburi nabe.
photo 2-5Two types of rice dishes were served that evening starting with…

photo 1-58th Course – Ikura Donburi: The first was hands down my favourite. Salmon roe was poached in dashi over rice. I’ve never seen such a geneorous amount of ikura served over rice!

photo 2-1Chef Hasegawa wasted no time in mixing the ikura into the rice before serving each of us a bowl of the mixture. As I looked at him serving the last bowl for me he caught my eyes staring at the donburi and chuckled saying “don’t worry, there’s plenty more for seconds.”

P1160140I absolutely destroyed this dish and devoured the first serve in seconds. The rice had soaked up that lovely dashi stock and the the gooey juice from each salmon roe went ever so well with the rich dashi stock. I loved how the texture interchanged between the occasional chewy Japanese rice and the pop from the salmon roe, not to mention the generosity of the chef with the portion size.

photo 2-4Our second donburi made its appearance shortly after…

photo 1-49th Course – Black wagyu cheek donburi: It was another triumph of a dish.

photo 5-1It was very interesting because I’d never tasted something that had such an intense flavour of premium beef without a meaty texture.

photo 3-210th Course – Moss from the Garden: More humour from chef Hasegawa. This time he served the dessert course on a garden spade complete with ‘used garden gloves’. This was a tiramisu in a deconstructed fashion made of cheese mousse, green and brown teas and charcoal. I loved the humour in this interpretation of a classic dish.

P1160155We were fast approaching 11pm and one last installment was awaiting us…

photo 1-311th Course – Star Comebacks: A deliciously humorous finale to end a great meal. The adapted logo of starbucks was used to express the chef’s humour in trying to get back his second Michelin star he lost in 2014. I liked the fact that he was happy to poke fun at himself. The content of the mug was what appeared to be a cappuccino at first glance but was actually pudding and sugarcane.

photo 4-1The dish took seven hours to cook to create a thick caramel before a layer of custard and black truffle from Australia were added. It was a very adult flavour of bitter and sweetness.

photo 2-2Short of 15,000 yen for a tasting menu, Jimbocho Den was definitely value for money in the fine dining scene in Tokyo. Add that to the consistently high calibre of dishes that came out from the kitchen and you can understand why Den was so popular. What personally attracted me equally was the professionalism and focus of the team in their disciplines as they effortlessly managed to make each diner feel personally welcome. This level of omotenashi was definitely not something I found readily in other establishments, even as a Japanese person. Den to me represented a new generation of Japan.

Gastro Park, Sydney

P1180297Chef: Grant King     Website:    Cuisine: Molecular

It’s true, Australia IS being invaded. The Kiwi’s are taking over…. Well at least in the food world where they are certainly making a scene in the fine dining scene across the big Australian cities. My first encounter was that of Ben Shewry, who I still think is my favourite chef currently in Australia. However, I recently found out that there has similarly been another Kiwi chef making a name for himself in Sydney but in the discipline of molecular cuisine. His name is Grant King and his restaurant is Gastro Park.

P1180233King worked his way through Europe under big names such as Gary Rhodes, Bruno Loubet and Gordon Ramsey. More recently he cemented his place in Sydney’s fine dining scene at Pier under the supervision of his mentor Greg Doyle. He finally went solo in 2011 opening Gastro Park where he rapidly achieved two hats within four months. He is renown for combining molecular techniques and creative ideas with fresh seasonal ingredients. This ensures his menu continues to evolve every day, keeping him challenged; not something any ordinary chef would take.

P1180236 The perfect opportunity came up for a visit when my family and I were catching up with friends from the UK Guild of Food Writers who were in Sydney for holidays. One of the lovely things about Gastro Park is that they accept BYO. As it was a special occasion I had popped a bottle of my 2006 Greenock Creek Roenfeldt Road Shiraz in my luggage and,  for a mere $30 corkage fee, the sommelier took the bottle to decanter as we took our seat and ordered the 10 course Tasting menu. It was going to be a great afternoon.

P1180243Course 1 – Grissini wrapped with wagyu and parmesan: The first course was technically made up of a few snacks. The first was a generous portion of thin raw wagyu slice that completely covered the grissini stick. The saltiness of the parmesan drew out the flavour of the meat. Simple but clever and tasty.P1180246 2nd Course – Earth tartlets with buffalo mozzarella: This was very light and slightly cheesy in flavour. The wafer thin shell of the tartlet was a good textural element.

P1180247 3rd Course – Salmon with yuzu: The last installment of the snacks was a beautiful slither of salmon with a dab of a light yuzu sauce that cut through the oiliness of the fish.

P1180248 Some home made bread with butter prior to the first main course being served. The bread had a good texture.

P1180251 Our waiter brought us each out a set of closed shells clouded in a mist only to reveal our next course of…

P11802564th Course – Scallop & Pomegranate ceviche: A generous portion of king scallop morsels were scattered underneath slices of marinated soft onion. It was dressed with a slightly tart pomegranate juice which was well balanced against the sweet scallops.P11802575th Course – Seared lobster, coconut, apple, sorrel and kaffir: Seared lobster tail cooked perfectly with a light smokey flavour. It was a beautiful light summer dish and the flavour combination was not too dissimilar to Thai flavours. P1180260 6th Course – Liquid butternut gnocchi, mushroom consommé: This dish has featured on the menu for a long time due to its popularity. The butternut gnocchi spheres were sweet and burst in your mouth with little effort like an egg yolk. The mushroom consommé had a lovely deep flavour and the onion crumb elevated the dish, creating a perfect balance of sweetness and earthiness. Based on the press, I expected this dish to be more gimmicky but I was absolutely wrong.

P1180263 7th Course – Crispy scaled wild jewfish, salt baked celeriac, roast bone sauce: The edible fish scales idea was inspired by Spanish chef Martin Berasategui. The scales were pushed backwards so they stood up before being doused in smoking olive oil until they fried into edible crisps which crackled and popped. The richness of the roast bone sauce and the crispy fried enoki mushroom worked ever so well with the fish. A truly delicious dish. Impressive.

P11802738th Course – Roast pork belly, spanner crab, carrot, pork pebbles: Another winner of a dish with the cracking ‘pork’ pebble crackling. Who would have thought that the creamy spanner crab would work so well with pork belly? This dish was all about the texture and flavours and by god it went down so well with our bottle of 2006 Greenock Creek Roenfeldt Road Shiraz.

P1180276 9th Course – 48 Hours slow cooked Riverina short rib, smoked eggplant, pea & pods: Beautifully pink inside from the sous-vide preparation and yet with a delicious sticky glaze on the exterior with the robata grill finish. The garnishes were simple but complimented the beef, the star of the show. The smokey eggplant was my favourite garnish.

So far, I was quite impressed with the variety of techniques and styles of dishes Chef King created for his savoury courses. I hoped his desserts were equally interesting…

P118028110th Course – Sheeps milk yoghurt, strawberry and pint grapefruit icy pop: Perfect palate cleanser that was equally beautiful and playful. However, I wasn’t sure whether this should have been called a course as it disappeared in two quick bites.P118028511th Course – Robata Pineapple, yuzu ice cream, buttermilk, fennel: Why did I even bother worrying? This was a stunning dessert. The sweet caramelised pineapple and the tart yuzu ice cream was a marriage made in heaven. I even found that liquorice / aniseed flavour, created by the use of fennel, rather enjoyable. P118028812th Course – Chocolate, honeycomb & vanilla sphere, cardamom, saffron, ginger: The finale quite literally went with a bang…P1180290… after cracking the chocolate sphere. A lovely chocolate mousse, vanilla and honeycomb (which had been delicately spiced with a mixture of an cardamom, saffron and ginger) oozed out of the sphere. The spices lifted this dish from becoming a heavy and mundane dish. It divided us down the middle. Two dinners loved it and the other two were not too sure. I for one thought it was clever and delicious, although not as good as the previous dessert dish.

P1180232Gastro Park was far more than just cutting edge molecular cuisine. Chef King clearly had a great palate, creativeness and a sense of playfulness that made his food rather unique in Sydney. I expected some dishes to have more style over substance but I was wrong. For all the wizardry and playfulness, Chef King never lost sight of what was most important – good tasting food. To top it off, the service was also very good, particularly given that our party included two 1 year old babies who occasionally felt like reminding us that they were there. We were very grateful for the care and attention of the staff. We left the restaurant with a smile (and our daughter asleep in her stroller), only to realise then that we had been dining for four hours.

Minamishima, Melbourne

P1170598Chef: Koichi Minamishima     Website:    Cuisine: Edomae sushi

One of my greatest disappointment in Australia to date has been the poor quality of authentic Japanese cuisine, particularly in Melbourne. Sure, Sydney has a handful of old school institutions like Juju but when it came to the matter of sushi, Australia has a lot of catching up to do. I was therefore very excited when I heard about a place in Richmond, Melbourne that opened up in 2014 and had attained two hats almost immediately. It specialised in edomae sushi. This, I thought, was the answer to my prayers…

P1170599Unlike many overseas sushi restaurants that have been opened up by successful chefs from Tokyo, Minamishima is headed up by chef Koichi Minamishima who spent his formative years at Kenzan, Melbourne. This was a sticking point for me as Kenzan had not impressed me in the past. More importantly it wasn’t known for sushi. However, I had heard good things so I decided to keep an open mind.

There’s only one menu at Minamishima which both makes it easy for the undecided and ensures the best seasonal fish is utilised for all customers. AUD $150 buys you a 15 course meal which can be complimented with matching sake or wine. There were also three additional courses offered that evening, two starters and a dessert, for an additional cost…..which cumulatively matched the price of the 15 course menu.P11706031st Course – Ootoro with Italian beluga black caviar (supplementary course at extra cost): It wasn’t cheap but was definitely worth every cent. The tuna was sourced that same week from Tsukiji market in Tokyo. The fatty ootoro (tuna belly) and the salty black caviar went ever so well together. The mother pearl shell spoon was obviously a must when eating black caviar for the purists.P11706052nd Course – Grilled broad beans with shiitake salt: Not too dissimilar to edamame and I liked the earthy salt in combination with the beans.

P11706093rd Course – Fugu tempura (Supplementary course at extra cost): Minamishima-san explained that the fugu had been professionally prepared in Japan by a qualified professional before it was delivered to him in Melbourne. Much like most fugu’s I’ve previously tried, the flavour was very subtle and delicate. The tempura was surprisingly of good quality, not oily and quite crispy.

P11706144th Course – King Dory: Cured king dory, a native fish only found in the southern Australian coast, New Zealand and South Africa with no Japanese name. A pinch of sesame and a squirt of lime blew some life into this thin slice of white meat.

P11706155th Course – Garfish / Sayori (サヨリ): Topped with thinly chopped spring onion and ginger, and some shiso hiding underneath the fish. The fish had been dressed with Minamishima’s home made soy sauce. Another delicate fish with a jelly like texture.

P11706206th Course – Cod fish / Tara (): Topped with shiso. My least favourite nigiri of the evening with unfortunately very little flavour.

P11706277th Course – Sea Perch / Suzuki (): Finally on to a decent piece of sushi. This was what I was hoping to encounter! Great meaty texture and fattiness. The classic combination of ponzu and grated daikon (Japanese radish) with the sea perch worked well. Here’s to hoping there were plenty more like this ahead!

P11706309th Course – Calamari / Aori Ika (アオリイカ): Served with sea salt and shiso leaves. A decent nigiri but not the best calamari I’ve had by a long shot. It had a beautiful creamy texture but I found the flavour rather bland.

P117063310th Course – Scampi / Tenaga Ebi (手長蝦): The scampi was sourced from New Zealand and was sweet, juicy and slightly crunchy. However, it’s definitely no contender to the classic superior choice of the kuruma-ebi which has a far more inviting aroma.

P117063811th Course – Scallop / Hotate (帆立): The scallop, sourced from Hokkaido was, in my view, not treated with respect. The charring left a slight burnt aftertaste and ruined the soft and creamy texture that scallops are renown for. I did however like the smoky component and think this dish could be refined to a lighter degree of charring to make it perfect.

P117064312th Course – Flounder / Karei (カレイ): Finally what I was waiting for. Something to blow me away! This was definitely my favourite dish of the entire evening and my god what a nigiri that was! The chef utilised the fin of the flounder from Hokkaido which is normally discarded. He then proceeded by intricately scoring it, lightly searing with a blowtorch and wrapping it with nori. The smell was ever so inviting and looked delicately beautiful. It packed a punch of rich, smoky, oily flavour, and a meltingly soft texture from the natural fat of the fish.

P117064813th and 14th Course – Chutoro (中とろ) and Otoro (大とろ): The blue fin tuna (hon-maguro) was sourced again from Tsukiji. The quality was decent but I was amazed to find quite a bit of sinew in the ootoro. This was a cardinal sin and disappointing. The chutoro was, however, delightful.

P117065915th Course – Seared Ootoro / Aburi Ootoro (炙り大とろ): Whilst I would normally prefer my ootoro untouched and served as it is, this was far more enjoyable than the previous course as any remaining sinew fortunately had melted to create a juicy and fatty slice of ootoro.

P117066516th Course – Sea Urchin / Uni (ウニ): Sea urchin sourced from Tasmania. Lovely creaminess and absent of myoban and its bitter aftertaste, which is typically used to preserve the freshness of uni for those that are imported from overseas like Hokkaido. The flavour however was not as bold and distinct as the fresh ones you get in Japan.

P117066917th Course – Mackerel pressed sushi / Saba Oshizushi (さばの押し寿司): Also known as battera (バッテラ), this is one of my all time favourite sushi that I always order if available. The mackerel was cured well allowing the meat to retain its shape. The rice was infused with the lovely oily flavour of the fish and balanced against the sharpness of the vinegar from the curing process.

P117067118th Course – Salt Water Eel / Anago (穴子): The final dish of the set menu was another pressed sushi of eel. As noted in my previous write up, there’s a lot of skill required to preparing eel that takes years of practice and experience. I found the kabayaki sauce on the lighter side compared to the usual sticky rich sauce you get in Japan. In addition, the flavour of the eel was bland.

P1170674As we pondered on what additional nigiri’s we were going to order, Chef Minamishima’s right hand man Hajime Horiguchi (middle above) joined the chefs to keep up with the order that were piling in. They worked meticulously in sync and the speed at which the sushi’s were being sent out to the bigger tables was truly amazing.

P117067719th Course – Sweet Egg Cake / Tamagoyaki (卵焼き): This one was with a twist. The tamagoyaki was made more like a castella-styled cake which the Portuguese brought to Japan in the 16th Century. It had a lovely sweetness and moisture.

P117068320th Course – Salmon Roe / Ikura (イクラ): In addition to re-ordering the flounder, sea perch and seared ootoro, I could not go away without asking for my childhood favourite of the salmon roe. The salmon roe sourced from Tasmania was firm enough to be individually savoured but in my opinion, marinating the salmon roe in soy sauce would have elevated this dish further.

P117068521st Course – Diamond Clam and dashi: A sweet and chewy clam suimono that washed away the lingering flavour of sushi before jumping on to the finale of the dessert.

P117068822nd Course – Yokan and Cherry Blossom ice cream: The yokan (red bean paste cake) was smooth and washed down ever so well with the hot tea. The cherry blossom ice cream left a floral aftertaste and the bitter matcha (green tea) contrasted ever so well to the sweet and rich yokan.

P1170694All in all Minamishima for me was a success despite a couple of missteps, the sinew of the ootoro for instance comes to mind. However, it shows a lot of promise and certainly exceed the level of sushi I’ve encountered in Melbourne, let alone Australia. Sure, it wasn’t on par with Kanesaka in Singapore or Sushi Tetsu in London but it showed promise with great innovations like the flounder’s fin nigiri which literally just blew me away. It would be interesting to see what creative dishes Chef Minamishima comes up with in the future.