Monday, February 11, 2008


I am loving Japanese food lately so decided to try another place. Upon the suggestion of ElegantGourmand from Tummy Rumbles, I decided to try out Shoya. I rang up to book a table on Friday not really expecting to be able to get a table. I rang for Shira Nui on a Tuesday and they said they were full. As it turns out, I was able to get a table at Shoya.

So come Saturday, Kin, Jo and I headed off to Market Lane in the city nice and early as we were anticipating how good Shoya would be. Their online menu sounded fantastic. We entered the restaurant which is right next to Flower Drum and opposite Hofbrauhaus in the lane. There was dim lighting as we entered the small first floor. The place was beautifully decorated, with the Sake on display on a stylish multilayer shelf. We were lead up the stairs, and then up some more, to the third level where we were seated at a table opposite the sushi bar.

Upon sitting, the beautiful, but slightly aloof feeling Japanese waitress asked what we wanted to drink. We had no idea what drinks there were so asked for a drinks menu. I don't know why restaurants don't offer you a drinks menu first before asking for your drink order. After bringing us drinks menu, we asked another waitress for her suggestion in regards to sake. This waitress was a lot warmer and suggested the Hokkiazan I think. The sake was really good, but also rather expensive at $42 for 240ml. And this was one of the cheaper sakes on the menu. It was at this stage that we knew this wasn't going to be a cheap meal. Anyway, we said to each other, "what the heck, it's Chinese New Year, let's splurge this week and not go out for a month".

With drinks out of the way, we started to peruse the menu. It was at this stage that the routine of the night started. The cold but beautiful waitress came over and suggested that we have sashimi to start. We definitely wanted sashimi but hadn't really had time to look at the menu. She kept insisting that we try the Omakase Platter. The menu didn't have a clear description of how many pieces and the price. Maybe they are used to Japanese businessman who don't care about the price and just keep ordering, but we're just junior engineers who don't make that much. We wanted to know how much food we were getting so we could plan what else to eat. In the end, she couldn't really tell us, but we ordered it anyway.

The Sashimi Platter was fantastic. The various types of fish tasted so great and yet all so different. Each had their own texture. I wished I had asked what was what before I gulped it all down. But there were oily fish, smooth fish, stronger flavoured fish, scallops, squid, lobster etc. There is definitely no argument that the sashimi is great. But it is fairly expensive at $85 for this platter.

As soon as we were finished, a waitress rushed up to us and asked "do you want to order more food". Easy on. We were browsing throgh the menu already. That was the main problem we had all night. Either they were too eager to please or they were pushy and trying to upsell to us at every stage. It lacked that comfortable feeling. Whilst the service at Koko in Crown Casino was equally professional, it did not feel pushy at any stage. It was much slicker and more comfortable. Here, whenever we looked anywhere, someone would ask us if we wanted to order more food or drinks.

We ordered the Roast Duck with miso sauce. I liked the miso sauce that went with the duck in this dish. The spicy noodles was good too.

The Shoya signature dish of Quail Egg wrapped in "softy surround" scallop with mushroom was a fizzer. It tasted like a quail egg fried in some batter. Also, they really should get in someone to write their menu better. It was really hard to follow. I don't mind simple English, but when I can't understand it, that's where I draw the line.

The Beef Tataki looked like they may have used Wagyu, I'm not sure. But the beef definitely had a lot of oil through it. Unfortunately, it didn't have much in the way of flavour and tasted worse than my own Beef Tataki concotion at home. The best part of the dish was the salad dressing. I still haven't found a Beef Tataki better than the amazing one at Horoki.

The Pork Loin turned out to be Tonkatsu. From the menu description, I was imagining that it was a slow stewed casserole piece of juicy pork with miso sauce and worchester sauce. Instead, just a tonkatsu slapped on a plate with salad, at a very high price. It tasted good, but didn't taste any different from much cheaper ones I've had before.

From reading the dessert menu, I was ultra excited. I love love love desserts so wanted to try everything. Unfortunately, not one dessert was good. The Sea Urchin Cheesecake sounded interesting on paper, but that's where it should remain. The sea urchin does not go with the cheesecake at all.

The Dessert Platter again sounded great but not one thing was even half decent. The Black Sesame Panna Cotta looked bad and tasted it too. It tasted really strange. The Chocolate Pudding with Sake was really weird too. There were some peppercorns at the top and I bit into them and it was awful. I spat the whole mouthful out. Lastly, the Jelly type thing with red bean was tasteless. My mum makes way better red bean jelly, for one twentieth of the price.

To sum up, I think that I won't be returning here again. The sashimi was fantastic, some of the best I've ever tasted. But that alone will not bring me back. I think that the prices are just too expensive (about $110 each with drinks included in that). The Tonkatsu is so way overpriced. The signature dish of quail egg didn't taste like much. The desserts were really bad. The food simply does not match the prices. While for $100 we felt like we had had a dining experience at Koko with so much variety and totally delicious dishes, here, we spent more yet felt like we had a cheap dirty meal of little substance.

The atmosphere in there was rather quiet for a Saturday. The tables weren't filled until right at the end when we left, a few other tables were filled. The bar seats only saw a three customers whilst we were there. I'm not sure whether it was Chinese New Year that meant it was so quiet. I would have thought they would be overflowing with customers on Chinese New Year.

The service felt way too cold and slightly pushy for my liking. You can have professional service that is stil warm, even slightly warm would have been ok. We felt like we were being upsold on a lot of things, and we didn't like it. The constant insistence to try the sashimi platter and more sake and more dishes was just a bit too much. The floor manager was trying to sell the degustation to the next table and kept insisting, you should order this, we can change this for you etc etc.

Overall Rating: 12/20, The sashimi is amazingly good, but way too many other faults for me to return there again.

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.

Shoya Nouvelle Wafu Cuisine on Urbanspoon


  1. how many times did you have to magnify those photos to show wat minute food we had

  2. That's very funny Anonymous. How many times do you need to magnify your mouth to fit in so much food every time.

  3. Hi Thanh. Sorry to hear that your experience at Shoya was not as good as you had anticipated. I must admit, I have a love/hate relationship with the place. Whilst I absolutely loved it some of the times that I went, other times it was a bit hit and miss. Usually the main culprit has been the service, though in the past it has been inattentive service that has been the problem, rather than the over-eagerness and pushiness that you experienced. Perhaps after all the complaints regarding poor service, they have tried to turn it around but overdid it!

    I agree that it can be very expensive, especially the drinks. I have been to the upstairs bar, which has a cover charge of $20 - an absolute rip-off! Shoya is definitely a place for conspicuous spending by Japanese businessmen.

    And yes, the menu is confusing and lacking in detail. I have wished many times that they would improve it, but it's never happened. It doesn't provide enough information about portion sizes, which leads to ordering dishes that might not be suitable (or filling). The service is also usually not knowledgeable enough to provide recommendations. I think, at the prices they are charging, you should be expecting top of the line service, and should be made to feel comfortable when you're dining.

    I overlook the deficiencies of Shoya and go back again only because the actual look and feel of the place is, IMO, the closest that you would get to a high-end restaurant in Japan. Also, with selective ordering, one can construct a meal there that can be very enjoyable. For example, Mellie and I had a superb yakiniku dinner at Shoya but only because we chose very carefully about what we wanted. Of course, this is not possible when you go there for the first time.

    I think certain things at Shoya is good, like the sashimi and the yakiniku. The tonkotsu is usually kurabuta pork so I'm surprised that the one you were served was not so good. I reckon it is more value to go at lunch time, when they have a better value banquet menu for around $18-$35 per head. Also, the yakiniku is pretty good IMO.

    p.s. I see what you mean about Shira Nui. I had lunch there with Mellie and my parents last Saturday. Had we not booked, we would not have got a table! I had the sashimi platter, which was very good indeed.

  4. Danny, Shoya was a bit of a disappointment. Maybe you are right, they are now trying to overcompensate for the service and being way too attentive.

    Drinks were expensive. We had good sake at Shira Nui for half the price.

    The menu was very hard to browse. There are things scattered all over the place with inaccurate descriptions and portion sizes. Even when we asked what the sashimi platter actually contained, they couldn't tell us. I agree that at those prices, the wait staff should be able to recommend things. Instead, we just took stabs at dishes.

    The look and feel of the place was definitely high class. I just felt they didn't match that with the food and service. I'm sure if I went more often, I could pick out dishes that I really liked. But alas, I don't have that much money to try the place heaps of times. High end restaurants should get it right on almost every dish.

    No arguments that the sashimi was really delicious. But then so is the sashimi platter at Shira Nui for less than half the price. The tonkatsu wasn't bad, just didn't taste special. And for $32 I was expecting wow factor.

    I think there is a reason why Shira Nui is so popular. The food is great, the service extremely pleasant, professional and personable. The prices are fair too. I just need to be organised and book really really early. :-)

  5. Thanh, it is somewhat ironic that a Japanese restaurant can fare so poorly in service when in Japan, customer service is so fantastic. They really put the customer first, and go beyond the call of duty to see that a customer's needs are met.

    In Japan, when you enter a business, you are always welcomed by the greeting of Irrashaimase by every single staff member. This happens even in a convenience store, let alone a restaurant. It makes you feel immediately welcome. I have been to Japanese places here that do not accord you that simple courtesy, so I immediately question their ability to provide me with warm service.

    I think the problem that Japanese restaurants here have is that they do not specialise, instead trying to be a "jack of all trades". In Japan, restaurants specialise in one style only. You would not see the situation where a restaurant does sushi as well as other stuff. The food is so good over there partly because they have been able to perfect that one style, rather than trying to master many different styles. How many times have we seen Gordon Ramsey on Kitchen Nightmares tell the restaurant to simplify things?

    I would describe Shoya as trying to attempt kaiseki cuisine, which is a high end style. However, one of the key things about kaiseki is balance, such that kaiseki in Japan is always served as a banquet, never a la carte. You would start with a soup, then some sashimi, then a grilled dish, then a steamed dish, and so forth. The reason for this is that, as single dishes, they would never work, nor satisfy a diner. but as a banquet, all the dishes meld together, each dish providing different tastes, but then also coming together as a balanced whole. by splitting the dishes into a la carte, you can never achieve this balance. it also ends up costing you more money, and is also not filling!

    I well understand about the money issue - I'm in the same boat :) With limited funds, one must ensure that value is maximised. I should also add that recommendations should be provided with qualifiers; Shoya is definitely one of those cases. Because I have been there many times, I know what it's like, and can say that the sashimi is top notch, but perhaps choose carefully on the other things, and go easy on the drinks. It is the same with Nihonbashi Zen. Great sashimi and fantastic kushiyaki, but order carefully, because not all dishes are the same quality and the price can quickly build up. The sake might have been air-freighted from Japan that week, but this means that it will be very expensive.

    One place that I can unreservedly say is one of the epitomes of Japanese dining in Melbourne is Tempura Hajime. The food is exceptional and great value, and the service is outstanding. It was one of the greatest dining experiences that Mellie and I have had :)

  6. Danny, I agree that restaurants do try to do too much sometimes. Specialising and being good at one thing is just as good as being able to do many things average.

    I read the Tempura Hajime post that you guys wrote at the time. I had noted that down as a place to go already. But before I ever got round to booking, The Age review just meant I wouldn't get in for months. I'm going to try and get a booking there, even if its months away.

  7. Do thy research:


  8. Cin, I probably would normally do more research on a restaurant. But it was suggestion from Danny and I thought that was good enough.

    I just re-read the post you wrote. I even commented on it, saying that I probably wouldn't go there. I guess it never stuck in my head.

    Anyway, they are definitely consistent in regards to poor service. You, Danny and myself have all commented on how bad the service was.

  9. I'm all for giving second chances but when the feedback is consistently bad...

  10. Yep I totally agree Cin. I won't be going back to them again. I read their review in the Good Food Guide again, and even in there they mention that service can be hit and miss quite often.