It is not hard to find unique restaurants in Melbourne. This multicultural city helps us to find many foods from the really authentic foods to some East-meets-West type of fusion foods. J Café Restaurant has both of those elements.
Ever since my friends mentioned the Sushi Burger in J Café Restaurant, I had been curious to try it. In the last weekend of July, in the middle of our adventure exploring Melbourne Open House 2011, we finally decided to drop by to have our lunch there.
The first thought that came out in my mind when I found the place was the restaurant should be named the Sushi Burger restaurant. There was a big "Sushi Burger" banner and A3 name plate which leads one to mistakenly call the restaurant - The Sushi Burger Restaurant, even though the actual restaurant name is J Café Restaurant.
The place is small where the tables are closely packed. Just inside the doorway is their takeaway counter with a display window of plastic models of the different sushi burgers on offer. As I walked in, the waitress welcomed us by saying "Irrashaimase!" which means "welcome" in Japanese. As usual, the place is so full of people who want to eat in or take away- which is actually a good sign of judging a restaurant. I felt lucky that I didn't need to wait to get a table as I came during lunch hour.
I like the fact that the Japanese waitress was so polite to us and repeated our order back by reading each item to confirm the order. However, there is one rule- if you plan to eat-in, you need to spend minimum $12 per person on foods and beverages. So if you have a budget or just want an entrée before going to another place, take away is a better option.
As a Japanese food enthusiast, I knew what would come out on my plate. If you expect a sushi burger is a sushi with bread like the usual hamburger, then you are wrong. A Sushi burger is basically a new way to eat sushi. It is still using the same ingredients that you usually find in sushi hand rolls but there is a twist, as it's layered with wasabi, lettuce, and special sauces in between two sushi rice patties. So the shape is like a burger, but it's tastes like a usual sushi.
It took time for us to decide what we wanted to order, as everything seemed delicious. My friend ordered soft shell crab sushi burger ($7.50), yakiniku sushi burger ($7.50), and black sesame smoothies ($5.80). Not having a sweet-tooth, I kind of hesitated to take a sip of her black sesame smoothies but surprisingly it was good. I myself ordered sushi burger bento box ($18.50) which was consist of 1 choice of sushi burger, 1 choice of meal, gari (sushi ginger), miso soup, seasoned steamed vegetables, salads, and fruits. For choice of sushi burger, I chose Teriyaki Salmon while I preferred Tatsuta Age (deep fried marinated chickens) for my choice of meal. Ocha-Japanese green tea ($2.00) would be suitable with my heavy food, so I ordered one for my beverage. When I tasted it, the sushi burger was nice. The rice patties were easy to hold and didn't fell off as they were tied up by nori (seaweed). In my opinion, the sushi burger portion can be considered as 2 sushi hand rolls, so you can decide yourself how many sushi burgers you need to make you feel satisfied.
Sushi Burger Box with Tatsuta Age and Teriyaki Salmon Sushi Burger
Despite their famous fusion of the sushi burger, J Café Restaurant is still an authentic Japanese restaurant. The menu range is quite wide, as they serve sushi, sashimi, udon (noodles), Ju (rice dishes) and authentic Japanese desserts (anmitsu, warigashi, etc). They also have a warm sake (Japanese rice wine) and gyoza (Japanese dumpling), which I haven't had a chance to taste, so I definitely want to go back to try other menu items.
I really enjoyed my lunch at there, not because I liked their foods but also because they spoke in Japanese to each other, so I felt like I could test my Japanese listening skills there.
Price wise, it is considered as expensive as you can find other cheaper Japanese food in Melbourne. However, as it is the 1st Sushi Burger in Melbourne according their website and it is freshly made based on what you order, it is worth to try.