Friday, January 23, 2009

Shoya, Melbourne

Shoya Japanese Restaurant

My short trip to Melbourne, was indeed, very too short - and hence, our eating-out choices were limited (time-wise and money-wise). After a short debate, I voted for Shoya as the place I absolutely have to go to. Why? because I was extremely enticed by one of their dishes (you'll see which one soon).

Greeted by very enthusiastically friendly waiters, my partner, two friends, and I were seated upstairs, where we observed "two" sushi/sashimi chefs hard at work.

Nice and simple

Sushi-chef at work on our ice-bowls!

The waiters promptly handed us the drinks menu - allowed us to order drinks - drinks came... and we drank... and drank... and drank...

After a fair passage of time, we finally received the long awaited for food menu.
Our waiter informed us that if it was our first time at the restaurant, we would be better off ordering the chef's "omakase" (the "leave it to the chef"), as we would be "confused" if we wanted to order separately. After a brief glance at the menu, my fellow eating-mates and I were inclined to agree. The menu was all words (japanese and english) with no pictures. We might as well just leave it to the chef (the owner-master-chef SHIGEO NONAKA and his team)!

So, four omakase's it was! The only thing that bothered us a little was that the price was from $100. Hmm... what does the from mean?!?!?!?

Our very (slightly over) attentive (and eavesdropping) waiter was quick to unravel the mystery. For the $100, you get the basic omakase, comprising of 10 courses. For $120, you get an extra "hatching sea egg" course. And for $140, you get an extra good cut of super marbled beef (the sirloin), and extra good cuts of sashimi and extra good cuts of basically everything.

Hmm... hard choice - I (and my two friends) stuck with the basic whilst my partner opted for the extra course (all for the sake of my photos ofcourse!) :P

So - our first course! It was a lightly miso marinated eel with crab salad, salmon roe and black truffle (oh, and the edaname bean!). Out waiter explained that the way we're supposed to eat this was to pick it up with your fingers and shove it in your mouth in one piece (he explained it more eloquently). Eel is one of the things I don't eat, so I happily picked up my crab salad, roe and black truffle and shoved it into my mouth~ Mmmm.... sooooo yummmy!!! My eel-eating friends thought the dish was absolutely delish as well. Also, before this day, I had not tasted black truffle (or atleast, I don't think I've tasted it). I've heard lots about how much of a delicacy black truffle is - but really, it's over-rated. Black truffle tastes like... hmm... not much. :P
1st course: Miso-marinated eel with crab salad, salmon roe and black truffle

The second dish was miso-marinated cod with foie gras, tuna salad/pate (??) and...(oh, and the edaname bean!) [ok ok, I admit, I was just so excited about getting and photo-ing the dish, I wasn't paying much attention to the waiter...]. Again, the waiter said that this was best eaten with your hands in one bite. And that was harder than it sounds as the cod was slippery and warm and you really had to be quick with your hands to manage to get the whole thing in your mouth at once! Nonetheless, when it did eventually arrive in my mouth, it was bursting with flavours and tasted nice and miso-y and pastey.

2nd course: Miso-marinated cod

Then my partner's additional course came - the 'hatching sea egg'. The tiny little egg came in a huge straw lined wine box. The egg was lightly poached and topped with spinach jelly-like substance and a deep fried piece of scampi. I did sneak a taste - and it was interesting. Very much like a softly poached egg with spinach! LOL. Interesting texture - but was it worth $20 for a little egg?

Extra course: Sea-hatching egg

And now, the reason why I elected to come to Shoya as opposed to the hundreds of other good restaurants in Melbourne. It's for this absolutely awesomeness sashimi in ice-bowl. Yes - the whole thing is ice!!! When I asked the friendly waiter how they make the bowl, he said that it was a "trade secret". *sighz*. friends and I figured that they just freeze a whole sphere of ice - then one of the two guys at the sashimi bar goes in and blow-torches a hole in the sphere. Sounds logical huh? :)

3rd course: Sashimi in Ice-bowl

Anyway, I think that it's a totally awesome way to keep your sashimi cold (and they said that they don't reuse the bowls for hygienic reasons...hopefully that is true). We got three slices of salmon, tuna, and kingfish. There were also roe wrapped inside a slice of whiting fish. Then the yellow thing was sea-urchin, topped with a bit of gold foil. On the whole, I guess I've had better and fresher sashimi - but it wasn't bad. And the presentation factor~ Woah - that wins my vote!

The nice overly friendly and chatty waiters gave us time to enjoy our ice-cold sashimi. He was also fascinated by our fascination over the ice bowls (yes, I am easily entertained!). At long last, he managed to collect all the bowls (before they turned into a plate of water) and whipped out the next dish for us. This next dish was very interesting - or atleast I thought so. It was beef tongue wrapped in green tea soufle (type thing)... (oh, and the edaname bean!). The beef tongue I'm used to eating is thinly sliced, mostly char grilled. This was super thick cut, 2-3cm, and super soft (kind of like beef brisket... but even softer). It was very tastey, but I think I prefer the normally textured beef tongue better. Oh, and the green thing it was wrapped in didn't do it for me either - it was soggy and wet and... yeh... I'll just order my tongue grilled next time!

4th course: Beef tongue

The next to come were giant tempura crab legs (supposedly shipped straight from Hokkaido). Notice how one of them is on a plate of its own? That was my partners, and although it really looks the same as ours, it was big big bigger! Crab leg is awesomeness! Crunchy on the outside, tastey and soft and tender and crabby on the inside and sprinkled lightly with green tea salt. Soooo much crab meat! (oh, and the edaname bean!) Mmm... if only the artificial crab meat I buy from the asian grocers taste as yummy.

5th course: tempura crab legs

After the appetisers and entrees, the first of our two mains arrived. My friends were expecting a big (or atleast a decent sized) slab of fish. But... it looked around the same size as our entrees LOL. This was swordfish wrapped with crisp konbu seaweedy stuff (oh, and the edaname bean!). Interesting - the fish was not as tender as I would have liked (but probably the most tender you can make swordfish), but the saltiness of the crisp seaweed complemented the fish very much well.

6th course: Swordfish

The next main came in a bigger portion. It was a marble score 8+ beef steak with potato stacks, black truffle (which again tasted like not much), chilli (oh, and the edaname bean!). The steak was sooooo super yumminess. Mmm... reminded me of the time my partner and I paid AUS$160 for 100g of Matsuzaka beef in Kobe (google it if you haven't heard of it before). Awesomeness and rich in flavours I like.

7th course: Marbled steak

Then there was miso soup and rice (garnished with edaname bean). Yes, I was expecting the little green bean to be in my soup too! Miso soup was... miso soup. And the rice was slightly sticky and soggy. I quite like my rice that way - but by now, I was completely stuffed. I tried to off-load some of my rice to my partner, but he's no fan of soggy rice (oh, and what made it soggy was that they seemed to have cracked an egg into it near the end of the cooking process).8th course: Miso soup
9th course: fried rice

Onto dessert now. My friends and I got 'sea-urchin' cheesecake with black sesame (green-tea dusted) panna cotta, whilst my partner got chocolate mousse with panna cotta. They didn't tell us what they added to the mousse, but I'm sure there's something in it, cos it didn't taste like normal chocolate mousse! As for my sea-urchin cheesecake... well, I'm just glad that the sea urchin taste was not profoundly infused (as I'm not too big a fan of the yellow slimy thing). My vote still goes with the panna cotta. Sooo yummy and black sesame tasting! (and where's my edaname bean???)

10th (and final) course: dessert!!!

Overall, I was very happy with my meal (and my companions seemed to be so too). The service at this place is good (almost too good), and somewhat into eavesdropping on our conversations... Nonetheless, the ambiance is awesome for a quiet chat and catch-up with friends whilst being fed with extremely tastey and somewhat exquisite foods. If nothing else, you just have to come here for the ice-bowls!

Well done owner-master-chef Shigeo Nonaka on preparing a fab meal!

Food - 8.5/10
Service - 8.5/10
Ambiance - 8/10
Value for money - 8/10
Overall - 33/40

Shoya Japanese Restaurant
25 Market Lane
Melbourne, 3000
Tel: (03) 9650 0848


missklicious said...

Funny how the bean makes an appearance in almost every single dish!

The ice bowl for the sashimi is awesome!

bag said...

hahaha... love the commentary with the photos of our dinner!!