Head to the best Japanese restaurants in Melbourne for sushi train, bento sets, rare Kobe beef and sake on tap.
If discreet fine dining with dramatic Japanese flair is on your wish list, enter the world of Akaiito. Dark and moody, lit by a rosy ribbon of light overhead, it’s tailor-made for clandestine catch-ups. Take your seat by the show kitchen to watch as the robata chefs and sushi masters prepare your eight-course set menu. From the Wagyu tartare to the robata chargrilled kingfish collar, it’s a gourmet degustation.
Visit Tokyo in Melbourne at this cosy hidden gem. Pop-in for a quick lunch at Onsen Japanese for its signature flavour-packed tonkotsu ramen and choose the spicy version if you like a good kick. Or try 'soupless' mazeman ramen, crispy karaage fried chicken, katsu curry and more authentic bites.
Akaiito's 'younger brother', Ototo is not to be overlooked. The comfortable dining space with booth seating is ideal for big groups of friends. Unlike Akaiito, Ototo presents a more casual vibe. Choose from a selection of Asian-inspired tapas and snacks, sharing plates, or the signature feed me menu.
Melbourne's first Japanese soup curry diner is now open on Little Bourke Street. Seek out Waku Waku for this special dish from the snowy island of Hokkaido. Choose from flame-grilled chicken, Wagyu beef or vege tempura then dig into this warming dish with an aromatic broth. Feeling extra famished? Snack-able sides like bear-stamped rolled omelette, crispy karaage are also on the menu.
Mr Ramen San
Hidden in one of Melbourne’s most underrated arcades, Mr Ramen San is a cosy spot serving some of the city’s best ramen. The soup is made in the traditional Kyushu style, with pork bones in white broth. Charsu (roast pork) is char-grilled with peppercorns before serving. Vegan and vegetarian options are also available.
Ride the lift to join Tetsujin’s Tokyo-style train. The bright tiled station takes centre stage, with the darker robata grill to the side. Tempura pumpkin nigiri and lobster inari are around $4, with assorted sashimi from $9. To make your meal complete, order a summery watermelon cocktail from Tetsuijin’s legendary bar. Find it on level 4 of Emporium Melbourne.
The first of its kind in Melbourne, Dohtonbori is a popular export from Japan specializing in okonomiyaki. Plate up fresh cabbage pancakes at the helm of your personal teppanyaki hot plate, then load it with kimchi, lobster, pork belly and more.
Sake on tap, whisky highballs and a ‘hallucination cocktail’ made with mushroom infused gin. Sakedokoro Namara is one of many new hidden neighborhood gems you need to discover in North Melbourne. Pair your sake flight (or happy hour tipple) with the chef’s ‘omakase’ box. It’s nine small bites like rolled omelette, scallops, torched unagi and more.
Now open in massive new digs at Emporium, Calia is all about premium Japanese fusion cuisine. Top eats include crispy roast pork, melt in the mouth Japanese Wagyu and umami fries. Order the matcha lava cake to add a touch of theatre to your meal. Then pop into the retail section for golden truffle salt, Japanese plum wine and gourmet instant noodles.
'Robata' is a centuries-old Japanese grilling technique and that's what the crew here do best. The menu is designed to be shared, so you get to try a little of everything. Order yakitori and kushiyaki skewers cooked on the charcoal grill, and fresh sashimi. Expect fun and casual dining, with neon lights and street signs cascading from the ceiling.
What’s cooler than a tiny robot-themed laneway bar projecting anime from the ceiling? The neighbouring ramen shop with a secret basement bar. Located down Bligh Place off Flinders Lane with essentially no signage, it’s not hard to skip right over Mugen. But it’s worth a detour for their classic ramen and tsukemen (dipping ramen). Order side dishes to share and crack a few bevs downstairs.
Never tried Teishoku? Make a beeline to Torissong and right that wrong ASAP. A curated selection of rice, pickles, soup and rotating main is served here on the daily in neat wooden trays. Opt for teriyaki lamb ribs, char-grilled eel and pork katsu. Sides include curry, runny onsen egg, sashimi and more. They even have a cute mini bento for kids under 12. .
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