EM has checked into ... Minamishima, Melbourne
If I have to pick one country to travel, my answer is and will always be Japan. Both my husband and myself just love the culture, food and scenery as well as how different they treat their cuisine with knowledge and passion. We have been travelling to numerous places in Japan from the south to the north and have tried multiple dining experiences that the country has to offer from fast food to fine dining. And one of the top culinary experiences will have to be the sushi omakase. We have heard much reputation of Minamishima so why not give it a try?
As many would have known, omakase means allowing the chef to prepare and customise your dining experience for you. So there is no menu, you simply go in with suspense and you will walk out feeling surprised and satisfied.
Voyage through the sea - a sentence to summarise my experience at Minamishima.
That's right, my palate felt like it was being tossed up and down and a few occasion of BAM-ness with intense flavour. I could close my eyes and feel like there was a seafood orchestra. The atmosphere is definitely very classy, contemporary and feels like a sophisticated art gallery - not suitable for kids.
Sake to start with
Either it was from Kyoto or Miyagi...not sure...but went with their recommendation anyway
Hang on...let's take a break here
While the seafood journey was certainly remarkable and unbelievable, at this point we felt rushed by the timing of each piece presented to us. Right after we finished biting the piece of sushi, the next sushi was like BAM right in front of us, leaving us without a small break to at least process the last piece of sushi. As a result, we could not fully enjoy ourselves as well as could not have small conversations to make this dinner a fantastic date night out.
Then we noticed something was missing from the beginning - the preparation of the fish. In Japan, the preparation of the fish in front of the customer is common in fine dining sushi omakase restaurants. It is an essential part of the experience to watch the master prepares the fish like an art with exceptionally beautiful looking knifes, summarising its theatre performance for the guest. In fact, the preparation of the fish is like a trailer that you get to watch before accepting the final product. However, at Minamishima, the fish has already been cut out and you only get to watch them assembling the sushi piece, so this was a disappointing factor when you are paying the same price as per a fine dining sushi omakase restaurant in Japan.
Is that what I think it is on the black plate?
No...the droplets on the black serving plate is not my saliva although the childish part of me would want to lick the plate after every piece of sushi. It is actually the droplets of the sauces from the compilation of the previous pieces of the sushi when the Chef placed each of them down.
So observation is that they do not clean the black serving plate each time, before or after they have served each piece of sushi. The common etiquette which we have observed when dining in fine dining sushi omakase in Japan is that the chef/master will clean the black serving plate each time. But not sure why it is not the case for Minamishima, unless we are wrong? Nonetheless, I do apologise if the droplets look disgusting in the images but we couldn't take our time with the photos as I have said before that the service felt rushed.
If we only focus on the sushi pieces, then it was a perfect 10 out of 10. We were breathless, speechless and stunned from how Chef Minamishima drives us through a roller coaster journey. From the sushi, you can taste the knowledge and art and I feel that Chef Minamishima aims to elevates his masterpieces to another level. Most sushi omakase focuses on the freshness of the fish and hence you consume mostly raw sushi pieces. But Chef Minamishima really does think outside of the box with remarkable knowledge on the senses of smell and palate. For example, using yuzu and ponzu at the beginning to introduce his orchestra, strategically selecting a few pieces to blow torch to heighten our senses and again being scientifically smart to use seaweed on a few pieces that bring out the best of the sushi piece. If one of them is mis-used, the whole orchestra will be interrupted. Therefore I really do think Chef Minamishima can be crowned as the genius conductor of Japanese sushi omakase in Melbourne. His name and his restaurant deserve a must-try award.
But if we consider the factor or service experience, it is not quite there yet which I have previously mentioned. The missing component of fish preparation and cleanliness of the serving plate unfortunately left me wonder if Minamishima really could be considered as an excellent recommendation. Overall, the service felt rushed and there was a lacking degree from the team of chef/sushi masters to really observe and emotionally connect with the customers. Japanese fine dining sushi omakase is known for a silent treatment but as customers, you still should feel as if the chef/master is trying to engage with you through eye contact, hand motion and the sushi piece itself. I somehow didn't feel much passion from them as they present each sushi piece to 'just another customer', almost as if telling us 'this is what we serve, k thanks bye, next customer please!'. Perhaps this was from the result of a rushed service.
Until now, I am still struggling to decide whether if I would return and whether the price point was justifiable. If it is just for the sushi, then yes the price tag was worth it, but when combined with the factor of service, then maybe not. Perhaps if you have not been to Japan, then I think Minamishima will be an excellent introductory lesson to sushi omakase. In saying that, Minamishima still stands proud as the best sushi omakase experience in Melbourne so far and I can concur to that.
Till next time, take care and stay inspired.