Skip to main content

Kisume

Kisumé Japanese Restaurant

The new fine-dining venture on Flinders Lane by the Lucas Group


Any Melburnian foodie worth their salt is aware of the Lucas Group and its portfolio of very successful restaurants:

  • Chin Chin, a loud hall of colourful South-East Asian food and cocktails on Flinders Lane that still attracts queues of several hours' wait, some six years after its opening
  • Hawker Hall, a similar style venue to Chin Chin but on South Yarra's Chapel Street and with more of a focus on street food, that once infamously proffered a wait time equal to a return drive to Torquay with a beer stop in the middle
  • Baby Pizza, quiet stalwart of the group, churning out delectable, fresh Italian food on Church Street, and 
  • Kong, offering Japanese-Korean BBQ fusion also on Church Street, and perhaps the most casual venue of the lot. 

And if you have read any of my posts before, you will know that I am utterly fed up with the 'Americana' craze, whereby every new venue in Melbourne offers burgers, pulled pork and/or fried chicken with very little variation. Although I like each of these items once in a while, American food has well and truly oversaturated our restaurant market, and I am so happy that the Lucas Group has not bought into the craze (yet). So I guess you could say I was already amenable to Kisumé (175 Flinders Lane, Melbourne), despite its inevitable hype, knowing that Melbourne was about to be granted a super-sized Japanese restaurant.

Set over three levels in a converted 1950s office building on the ever-popular Flinders Lane, the aim of Kisumé is sophistication, in order to differentiate it from its Lucas Group cousins. Unlike the others, bookings are accepted here (hallelujah!).



Visiting to attend a work function, I almost walked straight past Kisumé until I noticed its unusual round street-facing window. Looking through, you get a fishbowl vibe - which, for a sushi bar, I suppose is fitting - but upon entering, the restaurant feels less insular and more like a long bustling den of warm, subdued hard surfaces.

Beyond the small reception table, I could see a long, warmly lit wooden bar with sushi chefs hard at work behind it. Apparently all the restaurant's fish is sourced from Australia or New Zealand, with some stored live in a Moorabbin factory owned by the group. Moon Kyung Soo has been appointed Head Chef, accompanied by sushi chefs Yosuke Hatanaka and Shimpei Hatanaka.



I waited for the ultra-polite, black-clad maitre-d to deny tables to about four parties ahead of me (the lack of availability due to bookings - and yes, the place had only been open for a week) before someone else ultra-polite and black-clad could lead me downstairs to join my party in the basement level's semi-private nook. It all felt a bit Mad Men: an exclusive, opulent world going on under the radar.

The lower level, too, was full, but not obnoxiously loud. The upper (first) level houses a concept chablis bar, already open; plus bookable, curtained-off dining nooks for 16, and a 12-seat kaiseki bar offering 12-15 courses for $175pp, opening next month.



Though there is a subtle degree of ostentation in the design - namely in provocative photographs by Nobuyoshi Araki and Polly Borland, and a recurring, red and black, psychedelic optical illusion, such as on the website and menu - loud and colourful elements have generally been avoided by designer Fabio Ongarato and architects Wood Marsh: dark tones, muted textures and clean lines are the name of the game here. Even the cutlery is understated and schmick.



A party of ten, we partook in the $88pp set menu, washed down with bubbly, sake and reds recommended by the extremely knowledgable (and subsequently slightly intimidating, to some) sommelier. (How's that for alliteration?!) Being one in our group relatively familiar with sake, the onus fell on me to choose, and the sommelier did a superb job in guiding us to the delicious Tengumai Yamahai Junmai.

But -- the food! That's why everyone reads blogs, right? A nice touch, I thought, was that warmed fresh plates were provided at appropriate intervals. And we used them to eat (drumroll please)...


Starters

Sea Urchin 'Uni' Rice Crackers - sweet corn, caviar, kizami wasabi:
What did I think?  A light and creative merging of flavours and textures.



Crispy Wagyu Truffles - truffle miso, mozzarella:
What did I think?  Meaty, relatively simple, but good. One for the boys.



Eggplant Miso Yaki - white miso, shimeji & shitake mushroom, green chilli:
What did I think?  Surprisingly sweet and sensual. The chilli offset the sweetness from the miso.



Entrees

Sushi/Sashimi Boxes:
What did I think?  So. Much. Food! High-quality fish and beautifully prepared. Top marks for the fun soy spray bottles.





video


Miso Soup - chrysanthemum tofu:
What did I think?  Classic miso broth with a beautiful decorative tofu centre.



Kakiage - whiting, prawn, mushroom, asparagus, eggplant, corn, three salts:
What did I think?  A grown-up version of combination tempura.



Steamed Miso Chicken Mandu - sesame oil, coriander cress:
What did I think?  Light and yum. Nothing particularly unusual.



Spicy Cucumber Tataki - baby cucumbers, cucumber vinaigrette, coriander cress:
What did I think?  Refreshing but very simple.



Mains

Crispy Flathead with Wasabi Yoghurt:
What did I think?  Better tasting than it looks! Sort of like a giant fish finger - but that sauce makes it.



Foie Gras & Beef Tenderloin:
What did I think?  Ah-may-zing. Rich, melt-in-your-mouth goodness, and so pretty on the plate.



Red Russian Kale Salade - burdock root, pine nuts, kabosu dressing:
What did I think?  Meh. Kale.



Desserts

Honeydew Salad - honeydew granite, tofu ice cream:
What did I think?  Not terribly sweet, so a good dessert for non-desserty people, and a nice weight.



Hazelnut Dacquoise - dark chocolate mousse, Frangelico centre:
What did I think?  Gorgeous presentation, and smoothly delectable.



Matcha Pavlova - blackcurrent sorbet, whipped sheep's yoghurt:
What did I think?  I'm not a big fan of matcha, but I enjoyed the sorbet surprise in the middle.




So does Kisumé live up to the hype? I really enjoyed it. Of course, I wasn't paying, but I would. The food and presentation are high quality; the service is thorough (we had a convivial Italian waiter who served everything with a sideways smile); and there's nary a piece of American cuisine to be seen. I'd like to try the ground floor's sushi bar next time and, eventually (when it's opened, and I'm rich), the upper level's exclusive Kuro Kisumé. I find the website a bit vague and dare I say it, pointless, but for a first visit within the its first few weeks, I'm impressed by Kisumé's slick operation and high standards.

One for the list.


Kisumé Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato



--> --> --> -->

Popular posts from this blog

Spice Temple

Spice Temple  Neil Perry's Fine Dining Chinese Restaurant at Crown, Southbank, Melbourne
It's considered an institution in Melbourne, and with a chef to its name like Neil Perry, a location like Southbank, and an existence of six years in the Melbourne restaurant scene (when staying power is notoriously elusive), it's no wonder. Spice Temple's name is a pretty accurate description of the restaurant: food heavy in spices and spiciness; a dim space with a sort of hushed reverence.



The quiet tone of Spice Temple (Shop 7, Crown Complex, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank) could well be due to its design. With lots of dark wood and more traditional red and gold carpet, one might be forgiven for thinking it's a little dated. What keeps it current is the symmetrical and perpendicular fittings, creating neat squared-off eating nooks, and the dark, felt-like soundproofing material spaced out overhead, muffling any white noise.



Walking into the restaurant's reception area, yo…

Saint Crispin

When Smith Street had just become a local area for me, I used to walk past Cavallero and think about how I 'must try that place soon'. But as everyone knows, Smith Street (and surrounds) is not short of venues, and I must have been busy checking out all the others first, because before I knew it, Cavallero had closed and I had missed my chance. Apparently it had been struggling. Who then, would dare to take on the site, and what would they make of it? Smith Street is a prime location, but it's also full of competition. This would have to be good.



Enter Scott Pickett (Estelle Bistro) and Joe Grbac (The Press Club). Two chefs who used to work together at London's fancy-pants The Square (which boasts not one, but two Michelin stars), they joined forces to open a brand new venue as both business partners and co-head chefs. The result: Saint Crispin (300 Smith Street, Collingwood).

Named for the patron saint of shoemakers, Saint Crispin acknowledges its site's origins a…

Mr. Miyagi

It's the place that was made infamous by the 'chopsticks incident' last December, where a young Richmond Tigers AFL player drunkenly threatened to attack a woman dining nearby with his chopsticks. But of course, Mr. Miyagi had already developed a cult following well before that.



Opening in October 2013 on the ever-so-hip Windsor portion of Chapel Street, and tickling nostalgic fancies with its reference to 1984 classic The Karate Kid, the restaurant has enjoyed a steady stream of customers since. I remember stopping by with a friend one Thursday night mid last year to enquire about a table, and we were told it would be a two-hour wait. Well! Either this place is really good, I thought, or really good at hype.



I made a calculated plan with friends to score a table there on a Friday night recently. I rocked up nice and early, 6:45pm-ish, and put my name down for a table. They advised the wait would be approximately an hour, probably less, noted down my mobile number and enco…