KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen

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Japanese food is one of my go-tos in the warmer weather, given that fresh sushi and sashimi is refreshing as it can get. Kuu has been on my radar for a while now, and I managed to pay it a visit before the cold front crossed Melbourne all of a sudden.

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9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box – $17.50

I made sure that we went to KUU on a weeday morning so that we could order the 9 Piece Shikiri Bento Box, truly a breakfast fit a king. KUU tends to change up the variations quite regularly, and on this occasion, I particularly enjoyed the crunch of the chicken karaage, the sweet and sour fish tofu, and the spam onigiri, combining two of my favourite things.

Although a lot of thought had clearly been put into the construction of the bento box, it was a bit too frilly for my liking, and the content left me feeling underwhelmed.

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KUU had what seemed like a winning formula on paper; attentive service, quirky interior and a Japanese inspired brunch and lunch menu. Although I didn’t enjoy the meal much, my dining partner quite liked her order of the Karaage Japanese Fried Chicken, so maybe I just got the short end of the stick this time round.

How to get here:
Catch tram #1 and get off at Moray Street/Park Street, and the cafe is a minute walk away. Alternatively, catch tram #12 and get off at Park Street/Clarendon Street, and the cafe is two minutes walk away.

KUU Cafe + Japanese Kitchen Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya

From its name, it’s obvious what Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is, an izakaya, duh. Izakayas are Japanese-style pubs, serving up a range of dishes aimed for sharing.

Unlike izakayas back in Japan, Ichi Ni Nana sprawls over four levels, with the top being a rooftop bar, a good place to grab a few drinks while you’re waiting for a table. There are a range of types of seatings available, including larger tables in the courtyard and intimate booth.

The menu was extensive, ranging from traditional Japanese tapas such as nasu dengaku, chicken karaage and gyozas, to sushis and sashimis, with Western influence throughout.

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Tori Soboro – $14.00

Chicken mince piled on ricecake skewers, this was not something that I’ve had before, and I really enjoyed it. The chicken mince were flavoured with a touch of soy, and were very morish when had with a bite of ricecake.

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Nasu Dengaku – $15.00

This eggplant dish is one of my favourites in Japanese restaurants, and Ichi Ni Nana has put its own twist on the traditional dish. Sections of eggplant were covered in the miso sauce that was oh-so-addictive, and left us wanting more.

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Gyu Tataki – $20.00

The thinly sliced scotch fillet were seared perfectly and very tender. The salad on top added some extra texture, I especially enjoyed the fried garlic pieces that’s hiding underneath the green leaves.

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Soft Shell Crab Tempura – $22.00

Still on the soft shell crab bandwagon, we picked it from the tempura section. The batter was light and crispy, and the soft shell crab were as good as all soft shell crabs, though nothing out of the ordinary. Also, the portion was on the small side.

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Chicken Gyoza – $10.00

We picked two varieties of gyoza on the night, the first being the chicken. The chicken filling was again, light and flavoursome, and the skin was extremely thin.

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Pork Gyoza – $10.00

The pork gyoza were equally as delicious, tasting more meaty than its chicken counterpart. My only complaint about the gyozas is that I wish they had a crispier bottom.

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Soft Shell Crab Roll – $25

Continuing the soft shell crab trend, the first sushis we ordered was the soft shell crab roll. The roll was filled with soft shell crab, avocado and cucumber, and topped with tobiko and Japanese mayo. Although not a traditional sushi, the roll tasted fresh, and the soft shell crab added more texture to the plate.

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Dragon Roll – $25.00

Being an even more untraditional dish, the dragon roll was an inside out sushi roll with seared tuna, cucumber, avocado, and topped with tobiko, Japanese mayo, spring onion and chilli sauce. Every bite of this was a flavour explosion, and dish was also very visually appealing.

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Ichi Ni Nana Platter – $150.00

The star of the night, and probably the most instagrammed dish from Ichi Ni Nana. The platter had all sorts of sushi and sashimi, including but not limited to sashimi in the forms of (because I can’t remember them all oops): salmon, tuna, kingfish, octopus,  cuttlefish and scallops. The sushi included all of the above, as well as tamago, prawn, salmon roe and eel. All the seafood were very fish, and this platter not only looked spectacular, but also left us feeling very content.

Offering a large variety of dishes that accommodates both Japanese lovers and those who are still being introduced to the cuisine, Ichi Ni Nana is a good place for group gathering, intimate dinners and the like. If you are going in a big group or on a busy night, make sure you make a booking ahead of time, or, be prepared to wait for a bit on rooftop bar, which certainly isn’t the worst thing in the world.

How to get here:
Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya is located on Brunswick Street, catch tram #86 towards Bundoora RMIT and get off at the Brunswick Street/Gertrude Street stop, and the restaurant is 350 metres away. Alternatively, catch tram #11 towards West Preston from Parliament Station and get off at the Hanover Street/Brunswick Street stop, and the restaurant is 100 metres away.

Ichi Ni Nana Izakaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Oko Oko

Oko Oko is a small but functional restaurant that is located right next door to Melbourne uni, it does a range of okonomiyaki, as well as some classic Japanese rice dishes, such as curry katsu don and beef bowl.

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Chicken Karaage Oko Pancake – $10.9

For those unfamiliar with the dish, an okonomiyaki is essentially a vegetable pancake, that has a lot of different veggies, and very little flour. It’s cooked up on a hot plate and formed into the shape, Oko Oko adds all sort of toppings onto their version of the traditional Japanese dish, and we opted to share the one with the chicken karaage. The pancake itself was thinner than I’m used, but the shredded veggies added some nice crunch to it. The karaage was nothing to write home about, but how bad can fried chicken be really?

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Pork Katsu Curry – $11.90

The dark colour of the curry sauce looked extremely promising, and the flavour was definitely there with this dish! The pork katsu was not all that substantial, but if you are in need of some extra protein, there is that fried egg up top, which I thought was a bit of a random addition. Japanese curry is a lot milder in flavour, and uses less pungent spices than say, Indian or Malaysian curry, and a big bowl of this is comfort food at its best.

Oko Oko doesn’t have the most authentic nor creative Japanese food in town, but I don’t think that’s where it aims to shine. With most dishes around the $10 mark, and its convenient location of being right next door to Melbourne Uni, it is an easy place for students to grab some food in between classes.

How to get here:
Oko Oko is located on Swanston Street, catch any of the tram heading out of the city from the Swanston Street side tram stops at Flinders St or Melbourne Central, and get off at stop #3 Lincoln Square, the restaurant is two minutes walk away.

Oko Oko Carlton Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Hakata Gensuke

Having just gotten back to Melbourne after a trip to Japan and Korea (don’t worry, blog posts about that will be coming up), I thought it would be fitting to review a ramen restaurant, and not just any restaurant at that, Hakata Gensuke is often said to make the best bowl of ramen in Melbourne, having tried their classic pork ramen on various occasions, this time, we decided to visit its newest addition, specialising in chicken ramen.

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Black Tori Ramen – $13.00

The black tori ramen gets it colour from the black sesame paste added to the soup, as well as copious amount of special fried garlic, resulting in a very intense soup. Although the soup itself was on par to its pork counterpart, the chicken cha-shu just doesn’t have the same oomph as pork, I mean, it wasn’t dry by any means, however, it definitely wasn’t melt in your mouth either.

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Signature Tori Ramen w/ Soy-Marinated Egg – $12.00 + $2.00

Of course I also had to try their signature tori ramen. It still surprises me that the soup can be so full of collagen given that it’s made of chicken, the thickness is more obvious in this photo without the dramatic colour of the previous one. The egg was extremely flavoursome, the noodle was cooked perfectly, again, my only complaint is the chicken slices themselves.

I will pick pork over chicken ramen anyday personally, although if you are looking for something different, do come and try the chicken ramen at Hakata Gensuke for yourself.

How to get there:
Hakata Gensuke is located in an alleyway in QV, right across the road from Melbourne Central.

Hakata Gensuke Ramen Professionals Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Maedaya

Over the years, so many people has recommended Maedaya to me, both in the blogsphere as well as my regular friends, because Richmond is filled with so many great restaurants, it took me a while to finally pay Maedaya a visit for dinner with a friend before she embarks on a two-months volunteering trip to Cambodia and Laos.

Maedaya Sumiyaki Set – $15.00

One of the main feature that sets Maedaya apart from other Japanese restaurants in Melbourne is their large selection of grilled skewers! The skewers are being freshly grilled by the chef in the middle of the restaurant, and the smoky aroma hints at a good time ahead.

Because there are a myriad of choices and it was our first time, we decided to get two platters to try out a bit of everything.

Top:Yakitori
Bottom:  Chicken Balls w/ Mayo

The Maedaya Sumiyaki Set came with chicken balls with mayo, two types of yakitori, inari kushi, and a beef skewer. The chicken ball was juicy and tender, and the yakitori’s glazing made it so morish to eat.

Inari Kushi

I thought this was sliced pork at the start, but it turned out to be beancurd sheets which have been rolled and grilled, with a sprinkle of chilli over the top.

Top: Yakitori
Bottom: Beef Skewer

The yakitori was topped with spring onions rather than the glazing, which meant you could enjoy the simple flavour of the chicken. The beef skewer was also seasoned simply with some salt and pepper, and had a bit more bite to it, with a ton of beefy flavour coming through.

Maedaya Tsukune Set – $11.00

The chicken ball set was flavoured with a range of sauces and spices, including wasabi mayo, spicy mayo, chilli flakes, pepper, and garlic. My favourites were the spicy mayo and pepper, and my friend can’t eat spicy food, which meant her favourite was the garlic.

Grilled Rice Balls – $2.00

Originally we ordered the rice balls because they just looked so funny, however, it actually turned out to be the perfect accompaniment for all those skewers!

Okonomiyaki – $13.00

The okonomiyaki looked amazing when it was put on the table, the glazing was so shiny and the kewpie laid so perfectly over the top. There was a good amount of cabbage in there, which meant there was plenty of bite to the pancake, however, it was still a lot softer than what I’m used to, maybe because of the thickness? The glaze didn’t just looking pretty, it was just the right amount for the okonomiyaki too.

Takoyaki – $5.50

The takoyaki were a bit cold, possibly because of how long I took to take some photos haha. They had plenty of octopus pieces though, but I wish they were just a tad more crispy.

Soba Noodle Salad – $9.50

We also ordered a soba noodle salad for something more substantial, and to add some vegetables into the mix because #health. The dressing was definitely the highlight of this salad, it was tangy and sweet, providing a lighter end to our meal.

Despite desperately wanting to out some of the desserts, we made the mistake of over ordering, and was so full by this point, surprisingly the bill was just under $60, which is pretty cheap considering how much we ordered, we could’ve easily forgone one or two dishes.

I can definitely see the appeal of Maedaya, and why there was a twenty minutes wait even on a Tuesday night, and I’ve already marked it down for a place to revisit since there is so much more on the menu I’d love to try!

How to get there:
Maedaya is located on Bridge Road, catch tram #48 towards North Balwyn from Parliament, and get off at stop #20, Coppin Street/Bridge Road, the restaurant is less than 100 metres away.

Maedaya Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Samurai

Merry Christmas everyone! I should have some seasonal posts coming up, but no promises. Back to today’s post, Samurai looks like your standard minimal style Japanese restaurant from the outside, with plenty of natural light to make the small space bright and welcoming.

Most people go for the $16 set menu here at Samurai, since that gives you the most value for money, and my friend and I decided to get a set each, and share everything.

Miso Soup

The murky soup were placed in front of me in no time after we ordered, the soup was pretty standard, but I did like the pieces of tofu that are not visible in the photo, due to the cloudy miso.

Osuimono Soup

My friend went for the Osuimono soup, a clear broth with mushrooms, seaweed, and tofu. The soup was a lot lighter, and quite refreshing.

Green Tea Milkshake

The milkshake was $1 extra for the set, but I had to see what the hype was all about. Like everyone before me has said, it’s pretty much green tea ice cream in a cup, as it melts, it becomes easier to sip on.

Takoyaki

The takoyaki were piping hot, however, there was barely any boniko flakes, which I guess was made up with the ample amount of sauce. There were some small pieces of octopus in the takoyaki, and they were very satisfying.

California Rolls

I was surprised to see the shredded carrots in these – clearly didn’t read the menu properly – which I didn’t get them a go. My friend did say that it was your average California roll, but it was very fresh.

Spider Roll

The spider roll had lettuce, cucumber and soft shell crab inside, however, there was mostly batter for the soft shell crab. The rice had a great texture though, and just the right amount of vinegar.

Crumbed Prawn Roll

The prawn rolls were inside out, and only had crumbed prawn inside, the prawn were juicy and tender, and the sesame seeds added a nice nutty flavour.

Is Samurai amazing? Not in my opinion. I mean, don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the food, but at the same time, they are around the same quality as things you would order in a food court. It is clearly very popular though, with a line outside waiting when we finished.

How to get there:
Samurai is located on Glenferrie Road, 5 mins down the road from Glenferrie Station.

Samurai Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Don Don

There’s something extremely comforting in visiting an old favourite, you just know it’s gonna be great. Although there is the chance of tainting a memory forever, but hey, that’s a chance I’m willing to take, for Don Don, that is. Back in the days when they were still at their tiny location on Swanston Street, I was already a regular, since, hello, $8.50 bento that fills you right up, need I say more?
Chicken Curry Don – $6.90

This time, however, I opted for the Chicken Curry Don. For less than seven dollars, you really can’t beat it. The grilled chicken had a distinctive smoky flavour, and they’re not stingy with the portion either!

But what I love the most about the curry don is of course, the curry sauce! As you can see, the rice and chicken is pretty much drowning in curry sauce, and that’s definitely a good thing in my book. The curry sauce has great flavour, and I love mixing it all up and enjoying every bite! Oh, and see, there’s a broccoli, which makes this a nice and balanced meal, am I right or am I right?

I’m glad that Don Don remains how I remember it, but even better, since there are so many more seats available than before, and the tables aren’t even sticky! Definitely a place I’ll always return to.

How to get there:
Don Don is located on Little Lonsdale Street, right outside of the Mecca part of Melbourne Central.

Don Don Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato