Tag Archives: Japanese food

Wagaya Melbourne

I was recently contacted by a global marketing agency, aiming to promote Japanese restaurants and culture. After working on the Sydney scene, they’d moved on to Melbourne and I was kindly invited to try Wagaya in Melbourne. Continue reading

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Shizuku Ramen

Almost a year later (ok not quite), I find myself back at Shizuku Ramen to try their new and revamped menu. I quite enjoyed it the first time, so was looking forward to giving it another go.

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Their new menu has a wide variety now, compared to the last time I visited when it all fit onto one page. They’ve now expanded into more options for ramen and plenty of entrees and sharing dishes.

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Dropping by on a Friday night, the place felt a little cramped as it was full of people, but it was also a feel-good atmosphere of everyone enjoying their dinner and a catch up.

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I enjoy their hip decor and the empty alcohol bottles they use for water. They also provide complimentary popcorn, powdered with something lightly brown and addictive on top, so much that I couldn’t stop until it got too salty at the bottom. It was something different to your average prawn crackers and really emphasised their take on modern cuisine.

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To start off, we ordered some crab meat croquettes ($8) below. It felt a bit plain despite the description of fresh crab meat, corn, white wine and we would have probably preferred a bit more plum sauce to liven up the taste. I did enjoy the deep-fried exterior, but who doesn’t like something deep-fried!

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A cold rainy night, we also ordered some Japanese tea to warm the souls. We then ordered two sliders after asking about how big they were and decided one would not be enough.

We ordered the lobster ($6) and pork ($5, below) sliders. The lobster tasted great but it felt really cold, like the lobster meat had just come straight from the fridge. The pork had BBQ sauce and was nothing to rave about – my friend also found the meat a little dry. Out of the entrees I think we liked the lobster slider the best, but still think it could use a little work.

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For our mains, my friend went with a ramen burger ($15) as she’s not really a ramen fan and so I recommended this. You may have read my last post and discovered I really enjoyed it and luckily my friend did too on this occasion. She did it the classy way though and asked for a knife and fork, which actually seemed to serve their purpose quite well.

We both think the attractive taste of the burger comes from the dark sauce. I’m still not sure what’s in it but it seems similar to plum sauce and works well with the candied pork belly.

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I also wanted to try something different, and after already trying the ramen burger, I went with the Shoyu Ramen Super Dry ($15). I was lucky as they thought they may have run out of serves for the night but there was still two left.

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It comes with Shoyu broth on the side to provide that much-needed winter warmer, but the noodles itself were drenched in a tasty caramelised Shoyu sauce. In trend with the other sauces, it had a dark brown hue.

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On first glances, it looks like there’s not a lot of topping with several slices of char siu (BBQ pork) but the sauce adds a lot of flavour and depth to fill you up along with the soup. The soup had a slight tang of something that made it a little salty. I didn’t mind it and it performed its job of balancing out the dry noodles, but I think I prefer the Shoyu broth at Fukuryu Ramen.

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I’m glad that I was able to try the dry ramen as it was something a little different to normal. I think the main attraction here would be the ramen and ramen burger, so I wouldn’t mind coming back to try their other types of ramen and maybe give something from the zensai (hors d’oeuvre) menu another try.

Shizuku Ramen is located 309 Victoria St, Abbotsford and is open everyday 11.30-2.30pm and 5.30-10pm.

Mon’s Adventures was invited to dine as a guest at Shizuku Ramen.

Shizuku Ramen on Urbanspoon

Sushi Hotaru


I was finally able to try a sushi train the other week, after debating over which one to try. The mixed reviews for Sushi Hotaru made me a bit reluctant but many people I know gave me firsthand accounts of liking it, so it felt like worth trying.
20140606_174624It’s a place you have to know about to find, as it’s up a few levels in Mid City Arcade on Bourke St, between Swanston and Russell St. Just go up the escalators and you’ll eventually see it (and perhaps a line in front of it)!

It doesn’t take bookings and I’d read that it would be quite a wait if you get there after 6pm. We managed to get there a bit after 5.30pm, thus we were given a number and we were only subject to a fifteen minute wait until our number was called.20140606_180006After we were called in we were promptly seated at two stools. You don’t really know where to put your jacket so I saw a lot of people just sitting on theirs’.

The novelty of the experience is the iPad touchscreens for where you are sitting. You’ll find most dishes on the train become repetitive but this is why you should take advantage of the iPad.

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The system is quite easy to use, with the menu divided into comprehensive sections such as hand rolls and nigiri (where the meat/fish is on top of the rice). You also use it to order drinks or call the staff – when we ordered water it came in a mere few seconds.

Furthermore when you order from the iPad, the staff in the centre of the room are continuously making fresh sushi to put on the train and also the ones that have been ordered. In a few minutes, they will hand it directly to you and the iPad will show a symbol to indicate it has been delivered. Technology!

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Each dish is $3 unless you see a sign indicating they are a special gold plate – they cost about $7.90, but I didn’t have any. You’ll get typical sushi such as salmon and crab drifting past you, but they look a bit plain compared to the gems you could order on the iPad.

It’s hard to remember what everything was, but I think the above was a spicy seared salmon nigiri, whilst the below seemed to be the salmon and onion nigiri. I love Japanese seared food so they were really enjoyable with their subtle, smoky flavours.

20140606_181418The hand rolls were also good value for the same price, the one we chose below was the obvious choice to us – soft shell crab! I enjoyed that this came out freshly made and quite hot, preferable to the sushi that has been on the train for a few rounds.
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The same goes for this crunchy crumbed prawn – it came out nice and warm, so that the crispy exterior was really prominent.

20140606_182649It’s hard to remember what every dish was – this below dish kept coming across on the train and we finally decided to try it. I think it was just teriyaki chicken with a lotus chip on top, thus not very exciting.
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I didn’t take pictures of everything but another favourite was one of the scallop sushi whilst dishes such as the eel cream cheese (bottom right) were interesting, but not necessarily winning creations.

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I enjoy this concept and wouldn’t mind trying another train such as Sakura Kaiten Sushi or the new one at the Emporium. What’s good about this one is the cheap prices compared to these other options and despite negative reviews, service was swift for me.

The moment we clicked the call for our waitress on the iPad, she was over and ready to count our dishes for our bill. The experience was very efficient. The dishes weren’t amazing, but it’s hard for a $3 sushi plate to cause that many sensations.
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I would definitely recommend ordering a lot, rather than waiting for it to come around. Then you’ll even get the benefit of a hot dish being passed over to you.

The beginning is the only slightly confusing part, as there’s no sign indicating how the queue works. The door to the restaurant had a green “Push to open” button and makes it look a bit intimidating to walk in and ask. We did eventually go in and we were given a number. But if you never walked in, you would be standing outside in line without a number and a bit lost, so just make sure you are definitely in the queue!

Have you tried the other sushi trains? Comment below about your experience!

Sushi Hotaru is located on the first floor of Mid City Arcade, Shop 118 200 Bourke St Melbourne CBD. They are open Mon-Sun 11am-10pm.

Sushi Hotaru on Urbanspoon

Rice Workshop (Emporium)

A rare day of public transport failures meant I was able to take the little sister (ruining my photo below) out to eat whilst we waited to get picked up. I rarely eat at casual places in the city now that I work full time in the inner suburbs, so I took advantage of this opportunity to try Rice Workshop, which had been recommended to me.

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They recommended the original store, but I heard that a new branch was opening at the Emporium. I hadn’t had a chance to check out the Emporium, so it was like two birds with one stone. I knew it would be fast takeaway and although it was around 6.30pm, I knew we would still be able to order and eat before the centre closes at 7pm.

Overall, the Emporium is quite brightly lit, spacious and inviting. However, I couldn’t take in any atmosphere, as it was close to closing time and many shops still haven’t opened, so the centre felt very dead.

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The menu is simple and direct, offering regular and large sizes of a decent range of rice and noodle dishes. I think the prices are also a great selling point, with regular dishes around the $7 mark whilst the large are all less than $10.

Unfortunately the service met the sub-standard levels of a food court. The staff seem new and nervous as it’s a new store, and the girl who served me didn’t seem to have a great knowledge of English nor the menu. My little sister ordered the regular chicken teriyaki ($7.20, right). I am fairly sure I ordered the curry pork katsu ($7.90, left), but they gave me a normal one instead, which in hindsight was probably a good mistake as I was debating between the two in my head.

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We both enjoyed our food, my pork was crumbly and not dry, but my sister found the teriyaki sauce was a bit too sweet so by the time she got towards the end of the meal, it became overpowering. Like some other fast/takeaway places, I felt that the rice tends to fill the bowl up a lot underneath the toppings. Thus your meal seems more packed than it is – in the end I had a lot of rice left.

I noticed some chicken karaage ($1.90 – fried chicken) on offer and ordered this too. I didn’t realise they were skewers and placed at the front of the takeaway counter like your usual Asian takeaway. In addition to this, I don’t think the girl knew what chicken karaage was and just went to find a chicken one.

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I think we were given a normal chicken skewer instead, but I would avoid the skewers and try a proper restaurant if you want quality. Or perhaps you can take your chances here if it seems you have just arrived after they’ve been freshly cooked.

The Chinatown branch of this place might be better, as they seem to have quite good reviews. I think this branch is good if you happen to be by the Emporium and would like a cheap but filling meal of good quality. Otherwise, I would willingly pay a few extra dollars somewhere else for a decent dine-in Japanese meal with atmosphere. The staff here need to do a bit of brushing up on their menu knowledge and for anything other than the main dishes, look elsewhere.

Rice Workshop is located at the Emporium, 321 Lonsdale St on Level 3. They are open from 10am-7pm Sat-Wed and 10am-9pm Thurs-Fri. Check out their menu here.

Rice Workshop on Urbanspoon

I’m Sorry Miss Jackson…

I hope I got that song (Outkast – Ms Jackson) stuck in your head now. I had to get it stuck in yours, because that’s exactly what happened to me when I visited one of the cafes below. This is a bit of a miscellaneous post, as I haven’t explored enough for them to warrant their own articles, so here it goes.

Mr Burger
I’ve heard so many people raving about this food truck, that I had to try it out to see what the fuss is. The opportunity arose when my friend told me they were at Federation Square, and in a flash, I was there.

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I was surprised to see not many people lining up, considering how popular I’ve heard it is. But on a Friday night, people in the city probably had plans to go somewhere for a proper dinner.

I chose the Mr Meat ($10) burger with beef pattie, bacon, cheese, lettuce, pickle, caramelised onions, BBQ sauce and mayonnaise.

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The cheese oozed throughout the burger making it look disgustingly good. It’s a good value burger that satisfied my hunger, but I don’t see the specialty of it. In the end I felt like I was having a glorified and more filling McDonalds or fast food burger.

In the meantime, I’ll still declare my love and dedication to the burgers of Beatbox Kitchen, but I still have to chase up burger recommendations from friends at places such as Tree of Us and Spot on Kebab Station.

Mr Burger is a roving food truck. Keep an eye on their movements here and check out their menu here.

Mr Burger on Urbanspoon

Miss Jackson
Our staple cafe near work is Green Eggs and Ham, but their special didn’t entice us last week so I scoured the web for another place nearby.

This gem is located in what looks like it used to be a house off Grey St. The staff are very casual and quite friendly. They led us towards the back of the cafe, which was located near a door where staff kept venturing in and out. This is what made us feel like we were in a house, and our seating seemed to be in what used to be a separate room.

20140424_125430 After we had trouble with deciding what we wanted from the menu, my friend chose this warm chicken piadina with bacon, avocado and basil mayo ($11.50). She enjoyed it, but not enough to finish it all, as the flavour became a bit repetitive. 20140424_125415Meanwhile, the rest of us got reeled in by the Spanish baked eggs with chorizo, char grilled capsicum and olives ($16). This displayed great presentation, but olives are a refined taste that not all of us could stomach. I enjoyed a few but couldn’t finish them all. The rest of the dish was great, the capsicums soft, and the tomatoes provided a nice flavour to eat with the bread. A bit more chorizo would have helped make it more filling, but the bread helped to do that in the end.

Miss Jackson is located at 2/19 Grey St and is open Tue-Sun 7am-4pm. You can view their menu here and keep an eye on their specials on Facebook.

Miss Jackson on Urbanspoon

Green Eggs and Ham Pt.2
If you haven’t checked out my previous post on this cafe, click here. It’s our favourite cafe near work, so it might be out of the way for other people unless you’re nearby.

For my Weekendnotes article covering my more recent visit, click here. This trip included some great aspects such as this cute iced coffee served in a beaker!

20140417_130023 Meanwhile, the special that day, which all five of us ordered, was a delicious Japanese pancake (okonomiyaki) with a generous amount of teriyaki chicken. Don’t miss out on their next amazing special!

Green Eggs and Ham is located at 22 St Kilda Road and they are open Mon-Fri 7am-4pm.

Green Eggs and Ham on Urbanspoon

Heirloom

In the mood for Japanese, but something different from your standard dons and bentos, I decided to try Heirloom, a bit of a higher-class and modern take on Japanese cuisine. When you pass it on Bourke St, you won’t realise it’s Japanese and might mistake it for an upper class bar.

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Well, perhaps it is, but with a strong focus on Japanese food and drinks. The service was prompt and faultless. Our waitress did not have the best English skills but she was attentive and willing to help. The overwhelming part was when she provided us with about five different menus. This might be an area that they want to brush up in. One standard booklet would be sufficient rather than separate sheets with her explanation of what each one was.

You’re probably curious as to what they were – they included small and large tapas, some degustation courses, sushi degustation, bar food and their drinks menu. She also pulled a sheet out of her pocket and started to recite the specials. It might be helpful to display this somewhere for forgetful minds like us!

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After pondering over the many menus and finalising our order, I realised I might want some greens. So our first dish we received was the tofu salad (above). I feel their menu is quite more extensive than their current menus online. I can’t remember prices but this dish was fairly cheap at $10 or less.

The dressing was light and the tofu chunks were large and cold. Thus the tofu was understandably plain but I found it the perfect dish to have on the side, especially to balance out any accidental tasting of wasabi. My friend on the other hand wasn’t a big fan. Usually, I tend to like cooked tofu in nice sauces, but this did the trick as a healthy side dish.

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The wasabi happened to be in our order of salmon sushi aburi shio nigri (top, $7.50 per 2 pieces). This means the salmon is slightly grilled and I really enjoy that Japanese style of cooking, which provides a subtle smoky feel. There were bits of wasabi hidden underneath the salmon. I know they are making it traditional but perhaps they should ask about it in the future, as I know a lot of people who prefer no wasabi (yes we’re weak).

I also ordered a drink but not wanting to splurge on a cocktail, I noticed that they had an offer of shochu (Japanese spirit) mixed with various fruity flavours and soda for $9. I picked the lychee flavour and both my friend and I enjoyed it, along with an actual lychee.

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Next up were the sliders. I was tempted to have these after seeing another friend’s photos. I think they were only $5 each or so. We had the ebikatsu (fried and crumbed prawn, left) and pork belly (right). They were both so delicious that we couldn’t quite figure out which one was our favourite. They are both complimented by shreds of slaw and their own, rich sauces in soft brioche buns. There’s not too much of anything and the sizes are perfect for a non-messy fare.

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After trying the nigiri sushi with the salmon on top, we went for the soft shell crab sushi roll (above, $14 for 4 pieces). Each end seemed to have a great deal of crab, whereas the middle pieces seemed to only have avocado and a tiny piece of crab. This wasn’t too special and I preferred the nigiri.

In addition, I almost we forgot we had the wagyu kaburi skewer ($4 for about 3-4 pieces of scotch fillet). By itself, the skewer is pretty plain. For skewers I would try somewhere like Pabu Grill and Sake, as it’s more of their specialty.

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We managed to remember one of the specials, so we ordered the teriyaki salmon ($18). It was served with orange/mandarin pieces, which I found a bit weird drizzled in teriyaki sauce. However, I really enjoyed the sauce, which seemed to have an extra sweet kick from the mandarins, and the salmon was cooked perfectly.

These dishes didn’t exactly leave us hungry or full so we dived in for one last dish – dessert. We went with the Houji tea sticky date pudding (below, $13). This included caramel apple pieces, vanilla ice cream, (Japanese) nikka whisky caramel sauce topped with a sort of biscuit. The staff were happy to provide the whisky sauce on the side, so my friend wouldn’t need to avoid the alcohol.

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The sauce had a strong taste of whisky. I enjoyed it as it still had a base of caramel, but I couldn’t have too much of it, otherwise it felt too rich and strong. I enjoyed the addition of the biscuit on top to provide some crunchier texture and to lessen the sweetness of the dish. The Houji tea (a roasted green tea) made the sticky date a bit drier but with an interesting taste, so the ice-cream and sauce provide the needed cover, and I think it was an innovative take on the classic dessert.

20140411_194519Overall, Heirloom really delivers the service and food for a good night. If you go by your instincts and order what sounds good you’ll most likely be fine. The lights provide a great setting whilst they project anime on a screen in the distance. Service is attentive and swift, so I feel like it’s always going to be a place where you know you will be looked after. It’s not the cheapest but we paid less than $50 per person, so I feel like it’s a reasonable price for the quality.

Heirloom is located at 131 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve a buffet breakfast (who knew!) Mon-Fri 7-10am and 7.30-10.30am on weekends.

They have daily specials for lunch, Mon-Fri 12-3pm and serve bar food 3-6pm. Finally, they serve dinner 6pm-10pm on weekdays and 6pm-10.30pm on weekends. Check out their menus here, but as I mentioned I think they have more items than this now.

Heirloom on Urbanspoon

Wabi Sabi Garden

I’ve been wanting to blog about this place ever since I started work around the area. To start with, it’s most of the office’s go-to lunch time source of sushi. When I stumbled upon it via Google Maps, I was fascinated by the lovely gem I had found. All I wanted was sushi after all – so how exciting could it be?

But their sushi was not your typical flavours, coming with unique Australian fish and tofu in interesting sauces. The variety and wonderful fresh flavours ensure a loyal corporate following at lunchtime.

Furthermore, after deciding I would eat my sushi in and observing their stools shaped as cupped hands at the front, I was led to a whole other room where people were dining, with the intricate lamp above provided a warming atmosphere.

The place was full of surprises. They even brought up my sushi rolls to me nicely sliced, and here I thought I was going to have a casual sushi lunch. I really enjoyed their fish sushi, somehow it just provided a lovely flaky and tasty sensation and I do reckon it has something to do with the fish they used.

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I did notice a back area that looked nicer from where I was dining but assumed it was more for functions and dinner time. However, on another visit my coworker walked right to the back area, through and past the little Japanese garden and pond.

There was only one other couple sitting here, perhaps another two people who knew they would not be refused their request to sit there by the lovely Japanese owners. The area was an open section looking over the mini garden and we were told we could even order from the dinner menu if we like.

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I already knew I wanted the wagyu meatballs, but was also tempted by the tender pork belly as I’d just recently had a wagyu burger that week. But, I couldn’t resist the sound of the Western idea of meatballs accompanied by a combination of Japanese red miso and demi-glace (rich, brown French) sauce. Even better, we were told that the this meal was the “Meat Bento” ($16) of the day, thus all of us ordered this rather than just the the meatballs with rice ($19).

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Another benefit of this place is the option to have brown rice, a win for many of you health freaks out there, as I did above. I enjoyed having the option of a bento as it meant a bit more variety in the meal. They aren’t too quick with food but still fast enough to have for your one hour lunch break. The dumpling in the top right was a little hard, and I was a bit confused if it was from being frozen or the resulting crunchy texture was on purpose. I think they were going for crunchy – but I’m still a little confused.

The meatballs were really lovely and then made me regret having a bento because I wanted more! There were only four in the bento. It was a dark and rich sauce, but not too much of it, and it provided a peppery aftertaste. I also enjoyed the touch of mayonnaise on the vegies. It was a good value meal that I was happy with but not something I feel the need to rave about.

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However, I do recommend this place, for their ambience and decor, their friendliness and fresh sushi. I reckon their dine-in meals might be hit and miss, although I haven’t tried their dinner menu. I enjoy that they are trying to experiment and especially enjoy the display seating in the above picture.

This section is always empty so I assume it must be reserved for special occasions as the other dining sections do not have this traditional setting and seating. More information on the venue and the Japanese owners/chef can be found in this article if you’re interested!

Wabi Sabi Garden is located at 17 Wellington St, St Kilda (just off St Kilda Road). They also have a branch called Wabi Sabi Salon in Collingwood/Fitzroy.

Wabi Sabi Garden on Urbanspoon