MELBOURNE | Kisume on Flinders Lane is one of the most anticipated restaurant openings of 2017, and the most ambitious restaurant to date for restaurateur Chris Lucas. It’s a much more refined, grown up concept than Chin Chin, Baby, Kong, and Hawker Hall. There are no bright posters and lights, no loud music, and no hectic atmosphere in this three level concept.
In the basement is the densely packed, and most vibrant part of the restaurant, with its own kitchen, while on the ground floor is the sushi and raw bar. Upstairs is the high roller part of the restaurant, Kuro Kisume, which is where you’ll find the much hyped sectioned off private tables, a 12-seat $175 kaiseki bar and Grange, and a Chablis bar complete with 80 different types of Chardonnay designed to be paired with raw seafood. The wine list has been put together by sommelier Jonathan Ross (ex New York City’s Eleven Madison Park) and is unsurprisingly outstanding. For those not wanting wine, there are cocktails, sake, beer, teas and more on offer.
When we visited we opted to dine at the sushi bar, with its low lighting, black, grey and velvet finishes. It’s all very classy and upmarket. At this part of the restaurant you’re presented with two choices, an a la carte menu and an $88 omakase menu. There’s a lot that looks appealing on the a la carte menu, but we couldn’t go past the lauded omakase menu, which offers a progression of around 10 sushi and sashimi. Each piece is expertly prepared with precision as you watch from your seat at the bar, one or more of Korean chef Moon Kyungsoo, Japanese brothers and sushi masters Yosuke and Shimpei Hatanaka, and the rest of the team.
Quite simply, the omakase experience at Kisume is one of the most enjoyable dining experiences that we’ve had in Melbourne this year, and is on par with the best we’ve tried in Japan. The seafood is sourced from around Australia and New Zealand, and is as fresh as can be. As each piece of fish is served, its origin is explained, its characteristics and flavour profile detailed, and the reason for its selection, or how it compares to a similar fish in Japan, described. Soy sauce is provided, but it is recommended that you eat each item as seasoned (or unseasoned as it may be), and who are we not to oblige.
A good example of why it’s important not to drown the flavours in soy sauce are the three different cuts of bluefin tuna that are served, with each offering a slightly different texture and flavour than the other. You need to eat them as served to fully appreciate the subtleties. One cut, for example, is marinated in soy for about seven minutes before being served with house-pickled Tasmanian ginger. The rice, served at just the right temperature, is the kind of rice that makes you realise just how important rice is to good Japanese food. The most non-traditional item on the menu is charcoal-seared raw wagyu with grated wasabi and daikon served beneath a smoke filled glass dome. The flavours, like everything else, are well balanced, thought out, and sublime. Another highlight is the umami rich scampi and uni served with finger lime and ginger.
One of the things we love most about dining at the bar in Japan is the interplay between the kitchen staff preparing and serving the food, and the customers. Even with the language barrier, it’s a rewarding experience. The omokase experience at Kisume captures what we love about that, and is differentiated by the lack of language barrier, and touch of Australian-ness. It’s familiar to dining in Japan, but different, and that’s not a bad thing.
175 Flinders Lane
Telephone: (03) 9671 4888
Sun – Thu: 11:30am to 11:00pm
Fri – Sat: 11:30am to 11:30pm