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Gaijin
135 Commercial Rd
South Yarra

Taking advantage of the hot weather on Good Friday, we decided that a nice dose of refreshing, cold japanese was what we needed. Our lovely dinner plans were foiled however by the inclemency of Melbourne weather and by the time we got ourselves organised and made our way to south yarra, it had started to pour with rain.

Unfortunately no one had bothered to adjust the air conditioning inside so we were greeted with icy galacial blasts as we ran into the restaurant fresh from our drenching. Sigh.

Nevertheless! We pressed on, huddled in a mishmash of jumpers and cardigans and generally being an embarrassing contrast to the ambient decor – sleek dark wooden tables, nice modern light fixtures and soft billowing curtains…

Now Gaijin markets itself as serving ‘fusion japanese’ cuisine, which I believe means that they’ve just westernized a whole lot of traditional japanese dishes – and from looking at their menu, mostly by adding cream cheese. So maybe it’s not the most delicate and innovative of ‘fusion’ cuisines around, but they do have some interesting flavours and textures (tempura crunch seems to be a big feature in their special sushi rolls). And the seafood is undeniably fresh, so a thumbs up there.

We started with a starter of Gaijin Special Salmon Salad ($9). Plump fatty salmon slices with a creamy dressing – not sure what it’s called, but its the one that has the hint of sesame? Whatever it is, addictive. Not much of a ‘salad’ though, more like salmon on a few slices of cucumber.

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Spider vs Dragon Roll ($13): tempura crunch, soft shell crab, mayo, cream cheese and unagi slices. I’m pretty sure this is what I was thinking when I made the order: heaps of tasty ingredients together = awesome end product! Hmmm… not quite. Tasty, sure, but the individual components didn’t really come together and the cream cheese was just a bit odd. Dunno, probably just not my thing.

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Crunchy Spicy Salmon Roll ($13). Tempura crunch, raw spicy salmon, gaijin sauce. Well we actually ordered crunchy spicy scallop, but at the time of photography I hadn’t yet realised the mistaken order. But for all intensive purposes they pretty much looked the same, variations on a theme. This one was really good, I’m a big fan of spicy and found this combination gave the sushi a bit of kick and bite.

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The chicken udon ($18). This was the dish to help warm us up after all the cold platters and did its work nicely. Thick, soft udon in a delicious umami broth with generous portions of well marinated chicken on top. Yums.

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Overall I thought it was quite a tasty meal, and not too expensive either. Good for a bit of fun and something different to your average Japanese food.

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Kappaya

1 St Heliers St
The Abbotsford Convent
Abbotsford

Tucked away between Lentils as Anything and the Convent Bakery, Kappaya is a cheery japanese eatery serving soul food – simple and healthy fare which is beautifully presented and delicious.

The menu is simple, serving several varieties of onigiri, side dishes and desserts. You can choose these on their own, or as a part of a set.

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We started with a non-alcoholic sparkling grape juice to share, refreshing.

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The bento boxes. Lovely presentation which highlighted the simplicity of each individual dish.

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The yakisake (grilled salmon) and kinpira (sweet and spicy vegetable) onigiri. The rice had a few different grains in it and I liked that it was quite textural and well balanced with the fillings. In the background you can see the side salad, which was mostly cabbage with some shoots and beans accompanied by a sweet and slightly vingegary dressing. Crunchy and light.

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The saku saku, tempura vegetables (I gave in and ordered the one deepfried option on the menu…). This was a bit cold and hard, as if it had been sitting there for a while before being brought out, but went really well with tangy pickled onion it came with and I ended up really enjoying it.

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Mushi Dori – tender steamed chicken sitting on top of soft pumpkin in a light broth. Such a simple and clean dish.

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Goma Pudding. How cute is the presentation? I loved the little wooden spoons, and the little pitcher the size of a thumb hiding behind the pudding cup. The pitcher had a molasses-y syrup in it which really brought out the sesame flavour of the pudding.

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I love that kappaya serves such simple, honest food. It’s so wholesome, you’ll feel that much healthier for coming here.

Kappaya on Urbanspoon

Kenji Japanese Dining
10/1405-1411 Toorak Road
Camberwell, VIC 3124

A much delayed post on this little japanese place out in the suburbs, which was highly recommended by friends. We made a mid-week trip about a month ago, loved it so much and were back within a week for more.

It’s located near the corner of Toorak and Warrigal road, inside a little arcade with ample 2P parking behind. The shop does both take away as well as dine in, which reflects in their contrasting set up. There’s a nice cosy dining area with timber furniture, bamboo partitioning, traditional paintings and a sushi bar along the back wall – but also an entrance with pre-fried goods sitting in bain-maries and pre-cut sushi as well as self-serve cutlery and hot tea.

They have an extensive menu with a highlight being their wide variety of sashimi, and all at an extremely affordable price. Think ~15 for an entree sized sashimi platter, ~ 9 for ramen/rice dishes.

Our first visit:

Miso Soup!

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Nigiri (entree size). Salmon, tuna, kingfish, scallop, ark shell and prawn. Really fresh, delicious. Possibly the first time I’ve tried scallop as sashimi – absolutely amazing, such a plump little serving and so sweet. Yums.

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A Bento box. I think this was beef (I’ve forgotten exactly now), which was tender with a yummy marinade/sauce. The sides were good, with all the friend components contributing to a very filling serve.

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The miso ramen with chicken. The winners for me in this was the chicken which was glazed and a little crispy on the edge and the bamboo which added to the flavoursome and hearty broth.

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Already enormously satisfied with our meal thus far, we proceeded to further sacrifice our waist lines for the good (and completeness) of this blog via the dessert menu.

The green tea creme brulee. Good matcha flavour, but not as smooth tasting or as delicate of a flavour as the one at Shira Nui in Glen Waverley. However, at about half the price of the latter and about double the serving size, it’s not a bad alternative.

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Red bean dorayaki. We should not have skimped on ordering a side of ice cream with this as alone it was a bit… dry.

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I think this place has the potential to be a serious contender at the finer end of japanese dining a la shira nui, particularly as they offer a sashimi omakase (which I still want to try), but at the moment is still a little rough around the edges in terms of of presentation.

Completely fine by me though, the food is fresh and delicious, and I’ll definitely be back here for more.

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