Melbourne showcases some of the most excellent restaurants in Australia

Shining a spotlight on some of Melbourne's best restaurants.

8 Min Read
Egg custard at Kisume restaurant in Melbourne's CBD.

Melbourne is full of superb dining experiences.

Melbourne is full of great food, whether you’re looking for local eateries, food markets or fine dining. We shine a spotlight on some of Melbourne’s best restaurants.

Kisume Chef's Experience.

The Chef’s Table at Kisumé

Kisumé is one of those Japanese restaurants that keeps you coming back, especially when the chef’s table is involved.

Kisume’s The Chef’s Table in Melbourne CBD is all about traditional Japanese cooking with Australian and Japanese ingredients.

Kisume pearl meat.

“The Chef’s Table experience encapsulates the long-held Japanese tradition of respect and hospitality,” a Kisumé spokesperson explains. “Our menus are based on the evolving nature of seasonality and draw on the immense richness of our land and sea in Australia.”

Tonight, we’re in for a treat, starting with fresh oysters in a piquant daikon dressing. After this, we have pearl meat (the pearl oyster adductor muscle). This delicacy is less common because its expensive and it’s flavour is subtle, but it’s brought to life lightly seared with a Kakadu plum sauce.

Oyster pearl meat at Kisume Restaurant.

We also try some unique combos, including salmon sashimi with grilled corn, and chawanmushi (savoury egg custard) with a glazed top like that of a creme caramel and speckled with enoki mushroom.

Chawanmushi (savoury egg custard) at Kisume, Melbourne.

We have cold somen noodles in a roe and calamari broth that’s delightfully refreshing. Then it’s time for sushi, featuring everything from Japanese toro and Tasmanian uni (sea urchin) to seared salmon and prawn. Our chef masterfully crafts each morsel. He also tinctures it with just the right amount of salt, vinegar, heat (wasabi) and decadence (caviar).

Sushi at Kisume, Melbourne.

We end the savoury part of the meal with cuttlefish glazed with sweet soy before we head to a dessert of honey, mango and white chocolate “pebbles” in a bed of lemon cream.

Our menus are based on the evolving nature of seasonality and draw on the immense richness of our land and sea in Australia.

Kisumé

It’s not only an evening of great food but it’s also informative. Our chef explains why he chose each ingredient, where they come from and how they got to us. The pace of the evening is also good – not too fast and not too slow, and our sommelier has sound knowledge of the sake pairing.

Honey dessert at Kisume, Melbourne.

Freyja

Another of Melbourne’s best restaurants is Freyja in the CBD. In Nordic mythology, Freyja is a goddess of love, beauty and fertility. The restaurant, led by Michelin-star chef Jae Bang (formerly of Daniel in New York and Re-naa in Norway) takes a “new Nordic” approach to Australian dining.

“The result is a multi-sensory dining experience that offers a very special taste of Scandinavian gastronomy and hospitality traditions, but also uncovers elements of local history and culture,” according to the restaurant.

The result is a multi-sensory dining experience that offers a very special taste of Scandinavian gastronomy and hospitality traditions

Freyja

On the menu are fresh oysters in a rhubarb and kosho (fermented chilli pepper) vinaigrette and thick slabs of sourdough with a light, whipped cultured butter. We don’t take long to finish the bread and butter, and the oysters work a treat.

Oysters at Freyja, Melbourne.

Moving on, we have beef tartare with tarragon and quandong, which we eat from crisp rye.

Beef tartare at Freyja, Melbourne.

Mr Two Chat Food orders the wine pairing but we are a little disappointed on two fronts: the sommelier only gives one-line descriptions of the wine and he doesn’t serve the wine that’s supposed to be paired with Freyja’s signature dish: the waffle.

We can see why the waffle has earned signature status. The interior of the waffle itself is cushiony and it’s exterior is crispy. Smear it with smoked sour cream and top it with salmon roe. Simple yet satisfying.

The salmon roe waffle at Freyja, Melbourne.

For the mains, Mrs Two Chat Food has John Dory with lettuce, brown butter and capers, and Mr Two Chat Food has duck with endives, mostarda and finger lime. The respective meats are well cooked, and the accompanying flavourings are thoughtful.

The duck at Freyja, Melbourne.

We complete the evening with bowl of rhubarb, apple and aquavit, with a hint of lime.

We love the way the flavours of each dish at Freya come together. The experience was only let down a little by a sometimes slow and non-attentive service.

Rhubarb and apple dessert at Freyja, Melbourne.

Yugen

Our last dining experience in Melbourne is Yugen in South Yarra. We take the Yugen Chef’s Experience, which starts with a bang with a delicately constructed sashimi platter. We have snapper, ocean trout, kingfish, paradise prawn and hapuka. The restaurant elevates them with condiments like kombu soy, a wasabi salsa, chives and sesame oil.

Sashimi platter at Yugen, Melbourne.

We like Yugen’s take on classic prawn toast. The toast is chewy Chinese doughnut and the prawn is minced and crusted with sesame seeds. It tastes just like prawn toast.

Prawn toast at Yugen, Melbourne.

This follows with MBS 9+ wagyu rump cap skewers with roasted sesame seeds and a herb dressing. It’s hard to fault meat like this. However, the remaining courses don’t match the quality of the starters.

Next up is sushi, including toro, salmon, kingfish, imperador and ocean trout. The seafood isn’t to the standard we expect and neither are the cuts nor the condiments. The same goes for the sushi rolls, even though they should work in theory: spicy tuna with chilli lime salsa and spanner crab.

Yugen sushi.

We finish the meal with coconut ice-cream on a bed of sago, beautifully presented in a chocolate shell mirroring that of a coconut. Mrs Two Chat Food finds dessert too sugary but Mr Two Chat Food thinks it’s just right.

Yugen began with lots of promise but let itself down with the mains. On the night we dine, several patrons are more interested in having their photos taken in front of the restaurant’s decor, making it hard to move through the space. They appear to have come from the bar below, part of the same establishment. On that note, the music is similar to that played at nightclubs so don’t come here if you’re after softer vibes.


Freyja
477 Collins St, Melbourne

Kisumé
175 Flinders Ln, Melbourne

Yugen
605 Chapel St at the Capitol Grand, South Yarra 

Experience more culinary adventures at Two Chat Food and follow us on Instagram: @twochatfood.

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