I wanted to eat Japanese food so we looked for a place relatively close as it was already fairly late. A quick call to Mitsuno on Glenferrie Road confirmed they still had a table. To my surprise, it turns out the restaurant is two shops down from Namaskar India and yet I've never noticed them. It probably has something to do with the frosted glass exterior so that you can't look inside.
Upon arriving, we noticed that the sign said "Japanese Influenced Food" instead of Japanese food. I was slightly disappointed as I just wanted traditional Japanese food, escpecially lots of sashimi and sushi. But I was willing to give them a go.
The interior of the restaurant is very clean and minimal. A few paintings line the wall and the bar dominates the long thin room. The interior design just felt wrong to me from the outset and that never changed all night. The front half of the restaurant had white tiled floors and tables along one side of the room opposite the bar. It was a very uncomfortable space where noise was amplified and lacked any sort of atmosphere at all. It felt like you were eavsdropping on conversations on the next table. The back half, which was separated from the front half with blinds, was much more comfortable. It had red patterned carpet and the tables were positioned much closer.
This restaurant clearly are trying to market themselves as more an upmarket type place. The staff were very professional with service to match. Water was constantly topped up, plates removed efficiently and we were looked after all night. The menu reflected their modern professional feel with many fusion type dishes.
We ordered the day's special of Seared Salmon Sushi. The salmon wasn't seared as much as I thought and was sort of warm without being hot. It was served with some avocado mash drops. It tasted ok but was nowhere near the perfect Seared Salmon Sushi at Shira Nui.
The day's other special of Beef Tataki sounded great on paper but was probably the most disappointing dish of the night. The Wagyu beef was seared on the outside and served with a soy type sauce with some pickled cucumber strips. The beef tasted funny and lacked the beautiful flavours of Wagyu beef. I actually prefer generic Beef Tataki from Sushi Sushi to this dish.
The last entree of Salmon and Pear with Wasabi and Shiso Oil was interesting and quite good. The sweetness of the pear contrasted with the Salmon with the Shiso oil coming through. The presentation of this dish was really good I thought. It looked like an artwork.
Mains of Grilled Snapper with Vegetables and Crunchy Rice Cake was very good. The fish tasted fresh and full of flavour. The baked vegetables of pumpkin and sweet potato were a good mix.
The Lamb Fillet with Parsnip and Mushroom was an extremely interesting dish that sort of worked. The lamb itself was delicious. The parsnip and mushroom were good too. The sauce was a mixture of vanilla and Yuzu. This sort of worked. I didn't like the vanilla taste with my lamb, it was a bit strange.
The last mains of Scotch Fillet Steak with Shredded Baked Potato was very yummy. The steak was done Japanese style, whatever that means. It was tender and juicy. The shredded baked potato was my favourite part. It had some really fragrant sauce and the familiarity and yet unfamiliarity of potato since it was done a different way.
We each tried one of the desserts on the menu. The Poached Pear was done simply with some marscapone and a honey syrup. The Chocolate Fondant came with a raspberry and cassis sauce. Chocolate Sorbet was served as two scoops in a small bowl. I tried the Chocolate Pannacotta with Coconut Ice Cream and Pineapple. The combination did not work at all. The chocolate pannacotta tasted more like chocolate jelly in texture and taste. And the coconut ice cream was totally masked by the pannacotta.
Two varities of house Sake was sampled with the meal. Both were rather mild sake which were ok but not the best.
Overall, the experimental modern fusion food works on some dishes but fails miserably on others. Desserts were probably the worse. Entrees were ok with the mains being much better. It is probably a tad expensive for the quality of food it serves, although service is totally top notch.
Overall Rating: 13/20, Food is ok on the whole. If you want to try very different Japanese inspired dishes, give this place a go.
Scores: 1-9: Unacceptable, don't bother. 10-11: Just OK,some shortcomings. 12: Fair. 13: Getting there. 14: Recommended. 15: Good. 16: Really good. 17: Truly excellent. 18: An outstanding experience. 19-20: Approaching perfection, Victoria's best.