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Multicultural Cuisine of... Japan
Multicultural Cuisine of... Japan
Kagu Ra Zaka
266 Toorak Rd,
(03) 9827 2608
I've recently taken quite a liking to Japanese food. I'm not talking about the commercial, stock-standard, mass-produced shopping centre sushi. I mean real Japanese food. Sous-Jeff had a not-so-great Japanese experience at a Teppanyaki restaurant with a group of his work colleagues - being the big, manly man that he is, he was bitterly disappointed to get tiny portions through out the night, leaving him still hungry and arriving home with a McChicken burger. So, naturally he was a little hesitant when I suggested going out for a Japanese lunch. I reminded him that he actually really enjoyed our lunch at Wabi Sabi (which I've also taken my mum and sisters to), and that if he ordered the right things he would get a substantial feed. "OK then," he replies, "but I'm trusting you to order for me!" No pressure.
To my great delight, we arrive on a blisteringly cold Melbourne winter's day, to find an authentic, little, warm, Japanese sanctuary. With proper, authentic Japanese "booths" to eat in! Win! Nothing better than getting to kick of your shoes and relax over lunch!
Being the little nerd I am, I've already sussed out the website before our lunch date, and find out that the restaurant's head chef, Mr Jack Itou, has shown off his culinary skills on the Japanese TV network, with IronChef Ken Kenichi! Very cool!
We take off our shoes and crawl up into our seats. Our table is set with beautiful blue and white patterned plates and our chopsticks (which I'm still slowly learning to operate in a more graceful manner than simply stabbing my food).
Sous-Jeff takes a look at the menu, written partly in Japanese, flicks through a few pages (not entirely sure what he's looking at), and asks, "so, what are we having?!" Another win for me - I get to choose our lunch menu! "Let's get some edamame beans to start," I say, having fallen in love with them a few years ago at another Teppanyaki restaurant. He nods along... "what???" That was my question too, when I first ate them - they're green soy beans, salt boiled in their pods and squeezed out to eat.
To me, they have a sweetish flavour, and taste absolutely amazing when combined with the vinegar-spiked soy sauce.
After a bit of practice, I even got the hang of using my chopsticks to eat them!
Next on my list were the gyoza (pork mince and vegetable dumplings), and they were spectacular!
|Gyoza (5 pieces), $7.00|
Soft shelled, without being mushy, and a beautiful flavour - strong, but not overpowering. Absolutely loved them!
And my final appetiser choice were the spring rolls. Being the personal trainer/sport teacher, healthy duo that we are, Sous-Jeff and I cannot go past anything deep fried.
|HaruMaki (2 pieces), $4.50|
Not much to say about these - they lasted all of 4 seconds and were perfect. They made the most incredible sound when we bit into them, and tasted great with the left over vinegar and soy sauce mix we got with the edamame.
Time for a main - we decide to share, as we have a dinner that night as well, so we don't want to go in pre-filled! We decide on something we'll both love - the chicken teriyaki, served with veggies and a homemade teriyaki sauce.
|Teriyaki (chicken), $17.00|
Well, I'll be the first to admit, the veggies weren't amazing... they were just a standard salad/cabbage/cucumber/tomato mix. But the chicken...
Dotted with sesame seeds and drenched in the sticky, sweet teriyaki sauce, the chicken was tender and soft and cooked to perfection. We were suddenly regretting our agreement to share. Luckily we had some steamed white rice to soak up all the sauce - there was a fight for that too.
|Steamed rice, $2.00 per serve|
Bellies full and tummies content, we prepare to tackle our next challenge - getting out of our little both with our dignity intact. 5 minutes and a few giggles from our lovely waitress later, we were out, shoes on, and ready to leave. Overall, it was a fantastic experience, the food was really great (I'd rate it on a par with Wabi Sabi, which I continue going back to!), and I can't wait to go again!
Over to you - any favourite restaurants that have encouraged you to go and try that same cuisine elsewhere?!
Would rate it 8 out of 10.
P.S. It's just occurred to me that I really haven't given any bad restaurant reviews since starting my blog... how is this possible that I haven't stumbled onto anything terrible yet?! It isn't intentional, I swear I'll tell you when I hate something! And I didn't think I was that easily pleased.... might have to be more critical from now on!