Nutritionist & Life Coach
Meeting all requirements to call myself so (i.e. none)
Published April 9th 2012
A rule my father adhered to while dining in 1970s Australia was that you could gauge the quality of a Chinese restaurant by the amount of Chinese people in attendance. These days the rule does not apply quite so much given you're likely to see as many Chinese-Australians in a suburban KFC as you are at your local Chinese take away. However at Shoya, the amount of Japanese ex-pats dining in the restaurant does tell you something about the authenticity (and not to mention quality) of its cuisine and ambience.
Located in Market Lane off Little Bourke St in Melbourne's Chinatown, the restaurant has a number of levels with different dining experiences. On my way to a cosy booth on the third level I could see some Japanese style BBQ (similar to a tepanyaki restaurant where the chefs cook in front of you) and some traditional Horigotatsu style seating (which actually means no seating, diners kneel at the table in traditional Japanese fashion). I am also reliably informed that the higher floors contain an executive dining area, a sushi bar and a karaoke bar. They must have heard about my singing in advance because no one mentioned the karaoke level to me.
Feeling adventurous and flinging financial responsibility to the side for the evening my companion and I elected to partake in the $120 a head Omakase (read degustation) menu. This may seem a bit steep but I can assure it's well worth the money.
The size of the first three courses did leave me concerned that I would still be hungry by the end of the meal. By course number five however I was just as concerned that I may not be able to fit everything in.
Typically of quality Japanese cuisine each course was so beautifully presented it was almost a shame to eat it - the Sashimi Course in particular, presented in a hollowed out ball of ice that evoked images of a mystic's crystal ball, was something to behold. Accompanied by fresh wasabi root, grated at your table, it was undoubtedly the best sashimi I have eaten.
Shoya's Sashimi Course
Our waitress was knowledgeable on what the chef was presenting to us and we were well briefed on the finer points of each course. Having promptly forgotten the said details she had supplied regarding the Hatching Ocean Egg Course, I did manage to mistake some sea salt for mashed potato (with an understandably unpleasant surprise) however I can hardly blame her for that. Fortunately with a cold Asahi close at hand, the situation was swiftly retrieved.
I won't describe each course in detail, please click here to view Shoya's degustation menus. Suffice to say that each course was spot on. The combination of flavours, the presentation and the timing of delivery demonstrated a fine efficiency that was oh so Japanese.
If you have $120 to spend on a special night out, I definitely recommend the Shoya degustation. Finish things off with a plum wine to accompany the delicious dessert course and you will have to make a physical effort to prevent yourself from purring.