A very traditional Japanese restaurant that seems to have branched out into using luxurious European ingredients like foie gras and truffles to create Japanese dishes served Western-style... a bit like an episode of Iron Chef, really! :)
The highlight of the night was definitely the grilled eel. Luscious but not overly fatty, grilled to perfection and finished with a nice sweet soya sauce. I also had to order a Unagi Canape from the degustation menu to try an Iron Chef styled dish. Topped with a crab salad with soothing mayonaise to complement the smoky grilled egg, and finished with ikura (salmon roe) for saltiness and a wafer of black truffle for an added depth, it was truly a sensory explosion. Very Iron Chef.
The huge menu included many Japanese favourites like Nasu Dengaku, a grilled eggplant with miso that has been reformatted to be a "main course" to be eaten with knife and fork. Not bad, but because it is deep fried rather than grilled, your plate is a pool of oil after you finish.
Similarly, a pork in ginger sauce was served Western style, as 2 slabs of pork from the famous black-haired Berkshire pigs sitting on a potato gratin oozing cheese and drizzled with a very nice ginger sauce. While the texture of the lean pork was a bit of a disappointment, the dish as a whole would have been great with perhaps flash grilled slices of pork with the ginger sauce.
We also got grilled duck breast that had been marinated with miso, giving it a firm and tender mouthfeel. Hiding underneath was a mount of fried noodles with a chilli hit. A nice accompaniment for the smoky duck. There was also a scattering of chopped century egg that was like caviar substitute. Interesting, but probably unnecessary.
The hamachi kingfish sushi we ordered was very fresh sitting on top an exemplary mound of sushi rice, but, at Suzuran, hamachi sushi is almost always paired with a tiny sliver of shisho leaf, and becoming an excellent piece of sushi! The salmon tori aburi was gived a very gentle grilling, resulting in a pretty pattern, but no match for the grilled salmon sushi at Shira Nui which melted in your mouth and oozed salmon juices. The plump scampi sushi was probably the best piece of sushi, with texture like a lobster and a sweetness to match.
The food met our expectations overall, but, apart from the liberal use of luxury ingredients, wasn't terribly exciting. It almost felt as if it was trying not to offend Western senses by sticking to safe territory.
Shoya Japanese Restaurant
(03) 9650 0848
25 Market La
Melbourne VIC 3000
- Shoya, By John Lethlean, Epicure, The Age April 20, 2004
- www.miettas.com.au/Australia/Victoria/Melbourne/Shoya_Jap... Age Good Food Guide 2009 Score: 15.5/20