Izakaya Kuuraku extended us a warm invite to try, and provide feedback on their new Omakase menu for November. Omakase in Japanese means ‘I’ll leave it up to you’, empowering the chef to choose what dishes they choose to serve. I really liked this idea as I’m trusting the chef, while they are trusting us for our honest feedback. Trust is very important when you’re dining out, because without it, well… you should just eat at home!
We arrived and was politely escorted into a private dining area. We were seated down as part of a group in front of a sushi preparation area, and a Yakitori grill station. I could tell that they were using a Japanese charcoal called Binchōta. Binchōta is known for its clean burning properties, and its ability to imbed amazing aromas and flavours to the food. This grilling section was enclosed with glass and they also had huge ventilation fans on top.
They provided us with one sushi and one Yakitori tasting menu. I was foolishly looking for the soy sauce to dip my first piece of sushi, then I realised that the sushi chef had already brushed it on the piece for me. This was exactly how they did it in ‘Jiro Sushi of Dreams’! If you haven’t watched this yet, it’s available on NetFlix – great documentary based a 3 Michelin star sushi chef. I remembered in the documentary that they present the sushi to you at the perfect rice temperature, and that it was important to eat it straight away. As soon as the sushi was placed down, I was in a frantic rush to snap a quick photo, then plomped it straight into my mouth!
It was a truly special experience as each piece of sushi was of the highest quality. We were served an assortment of sushi pieces including kingfish, salmon, flathead, tuna, and one was even seared with a little truffle oil. The fish was fresh, with the texture and flavour of the rice reminding me of the quality we got in Japan. Izakaya Kuuraku had a goal to bring true Japanese dishes to Australia, and I’d say they succeeded with this. My favourites were the flathead and kingfish sushi, but I think this was just a matter of personal preference. I learnt something new from the sushi chef when I commented on how fresh the fish was. He told me that all the top restaurants get their fish from the same supplier, but the preparation of the fish can change the texture and mouthfeel. He further explained that the thickness, the sharpness of the knife, and the way the fish is cut plays a huge part in this. I was absolutely gobsmacked as I did not know this, and had always given full credits to the fish! There’s so much learning to do in the world of food.
The Yakitori menu was equally satisfying. I loved the sauces which accompanied the skewers. It added a different dimension, yet doesn’t take away the grilled taste. My favourites were the wagyu beef and mushroom skewers. The wagyu was just soooooo tender, and flavourful. The charcoal accentuated the mushroom taste, almost like a flavour booster. The Yakitori menu was more filling because they finish it off with a beef curry on rice, whereas you don’t get that with the sushi menu.
Overall Izakaya Kuuraku was faultless, and the Japanese food here was next level! I thoroughly enjoyed my experience here and would not hesitate to come back. If you guys are keen, you should ring ahead to see if the Omakase menu is available. It really doesn’t get much better than this, two thumbs up from me!
Approx $65 AUD per person
Address: 131-135 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000
Phone: +61 3 9939 1516