On paper, Minamishima is the best Japanese restaurant in Melbourne.
Because no one else is offering the same thing.
Or should I say, no one else bothered?
Flying in fish from Japan, making sushi on the go, having two kitchens to deal with counter seats and private dining areas, while restraining its design to be conservative and not screaming with neon lights and social media flamboyance?
I also heard that the restaurant pays employees for their time to taste new dishes from the menu.
This is a passion project, hands down.
Alright, a disclaimer:
I'm not going to explain our 18 dishes one by one. My bro-date was surprised that I didn't bring my camera, but from my experience: Sushi is sushi. There're already plenty of sushi images from Minamishima on the internet. It's my first fine dining experience since my wife had a baby so I just wanted to enjoy myself - the phone is sufficient.
1. My dining partner's pregnant wife works here, so we were greeted with complimentary champagne. Then fugu sashimi - the jelly made from the fish broth was great. Also free was the black abalone with liver paste mixed with rice - so special it was served on a red plate. Towards the end, we were also served a 9+ marbled beef dish from the kitchen.
2. The Hokkaido octopus was great.
3. Fresh ginger, how I missed you.
4. Surprised to know that Victoria is producing yuzu now.
5. Salmon fish roe from Yarra Valley was refreshing. I actually prefer them than the ones in Japan.
6. I like the broth (come on, can't we say soup?) served towards the end with stingray that reminded me of one of Chika's dress.
7. I love the different green tea chocolate dessert to finish.
8. The toilet tap. OMG the toilet tap.
And things that made me go 'er':
1. I'm not sure of the shiny plates? It leaves 'snort trails'. It seemed like a pain to clean, and when they did it's still smudged.
2. The sinew (chewy fibre-ry tendon bit) in my tuna otoro. Granted my partner said his was fine, so maybe I was just unlucky.
3. Also, why was everything being 'aburi'd? Flame-torching is a good spectacle, but I couldn't help but think they were afraid to serve them raw?
4. The rice from my anago sushi kinda fell apart.
5. I was expecting something more - like sea urchin, or, giant scampi, or the Beluga caviar and golden foils I saw online. It might be a seasonal thing, but having bonito, flounder, mountain yam, and mackerel felt a bit, pedestrian? My wife's remark came to mind: they probably fine-tuned the menu to please Australians rather than Japanese now.
6. My partner wasn't impressed with the beef. I agree that 'dashi foam' is kind of a blast from the past, but hey, we're in a sushi establishment. At least they tried something out of their comfort zone.
7. The sushi chefs kinda mumbled while describing the dishes. I was embarrassed to ask them to repeat a 3rd time so a few dishes I kinda let it slide.
All in all, Minamishima deserves its three hats.
The other two options are Attica - which is twice the price and sucks 6 hours away from your life, and Brae which is in, well, Brae.
Or you could buy a ticket to Japan just to fork out another $500 to achieve 'authenticity'.
The more restaurants I shoot and observe, the more I realise $180 wasn't too bad for the effort to be Melbourne's best.
I enjoyed my time and for a brief moment, forgotten that I was in Richmond.
Like I said in the beginning, you can't find this elsewhere in Melbourne.