Crown Towers 8 Whiteman St
03 9292 6886
I had not heard a lot about this award winning Japanese restaurant, before reading raving reviews on Niche back in November. It is by no means hip or trendy, but exudes a definite elegance with its prime location in Crown towers, bestowing expansive views of the Yarra & Melbourne skyline. Cylindrical lantern-shaped lights emit a soft glowing ambience, whilst a zen pond, well, provides zen. From time to time, the serenity and soft chatter is broken by the sizzle of teppanyaki.
Seaweed salad – A small bite size of seaweed dressed in soy, vinegar and sesame seeds – familiar and yet different. I suspect it was the konbu and touch of oiliness from sesame oil that gave it a different taste. Mr CK commented that they were akin to Saint Peter’s.
Dobin mushi – Arriving in a burning hot clay teapot, one must nimbly remove the cup and lid to poor the soup. The crystal clear consumme of dashi has a homely warmth that is simple and thirst quenching. Bites of prawn, chicken, mushroom and gingko nuts can be found floating in the broth.
Chawan mushi – Given an honorary title of best chawan mushi ever by Niche, this is probably one of the reasons why I came here. The egg is a warm golden hue that is oh-so-wobbly and extremely soft. Each bite is full of a melodious fragrance of dashi broth and sweet egg – absolutely divine. The prawn on top though impressive to look at, is rather an adornment giving an unneeded contrast of taste and texture. Ms AL was quite sceptical how good this could be, but had to admit this was pretty damn good.
Crisp soft shell crab – The crispy battered soft shell crab, though delectable and addictive, weren’t as amazingly crunchy and brittle as Cumulus, nor perfectly delicate as one would expect of tempura. The accompanying yuzu miso sauce was a treat though.
Grill – The sizzle on a grill plate and wafts of lightly marinated wagyu and seafood are always a mouth-watering treat for the senses. I must say though, there were no big surprises here despite the fresh-plump scallops, tender wagyu slices, juicy prawn and calamari.
Volcano roll – These triangular-shaped inside-out nori rolls are filled with strips of salmon, prawn, asparagus and cucumber. A bit of creamy ocean bite, sweet crunch and oozing spicy kick on the outside. These were reasonably good, but I would appreciate if there was more of the volatility of a real volcano – more heat!
Koko special roll – Wrapped inside the nori roll is a soy glazed fillet of unagi that is tender and toasty. Generous wedges of avocado atop give a nice buttery creaminess. I hate to say this, but Suzuran’s unagi roll is actually far superior.
Hotate piri karai maki – Another inside-out roll – which although served cold – has a deliciously wispy battered shell, juicy scallop filling and a small kick of spicy mayonnaise. Is it meant to be served cold?
Rating: Oscillating between Yummy and Yummy+1 – Simple and predominantly reliable flavours at a relatively hefty ‘Crown’ price. I suppose you do pay for the beautiful skyline. Service was acceptable, but not particularly attentive. Unfortunately I did not try any of their famed desserts, but I’m not sure I am impressed enough to return soon to fill that void, except maybe for some more chawan mushi.
[some photos courtesy of Mr CK]