So, for those of you who haven’t been or are unaware, Shiranui in Glen Waverley is one of the best Sushi Omakase Venues in Melbourne.
I have been to this establishment on no less than 5 occasions and I am happy to say, the quality and standard have never faltered.
It is a humble place. Unpretentious, unassuming and unwavering in its culinary approach. The seasonal produce is fortified by the wealth of experience from its head chef, Hiro Nishikura, his assistant chefs and the kitchen staff. The waiters are of silver star service quality, their polite Japanese etiquette and courteous mannerisms create a unique and authentic Japanese dining experience.
There is also a delicate balance of speed and co-ordination in constant play. This is particularly noticeable when dining at the counter top for the Sushi Omakase. Each chef behind the counter (including Nishikura san) forever monitor your little black plate. They never let it empty of ginger and wasabi and progressively prepare each dish for counter diner and a la carte patron alike.
The wait staff scurry back and forth, catering to the requirements of chefs and customers alike. Delivering dishes, topping up glasses of water, removing empty plates, asking customers if anything was needed, etc… They almost have a stealthy ninja approach to ensuring every diner is happy. The restaurant forever moves like a finely tuned machined or a perfectly rehearsed operetta.
The A La Carte menu reads quite common. Almost every Japanese restaurant I’ve been to will have its ‘backbone’ cuisine as I call it. Sushi, sashimi, tempura, teriyaki and the ilk of that alike. What really stands out, as I’ve hinted, is the Sushi Omakase.
The Sushi Omakase is usually a 9 course fare. It uses seasonality for its produce and a standard progressive menu for the way it is served. It has changed little over the years and somehow it improves each time I visit.
Each sushi course is served as a pair, a tradition and standard found at every Japanese sushi establishment (I do suspect, however, it’s to give you a second reflection and a clearer perspective of the dish).
You can also extend the courses out as far as you can eat. My personal record stands at 15 courses and the restaurant record stands at 18 courses (Man vs.Food episode anyone?) I had the pleasure of enjoying 12 in this sitting.
First up, the teaser (or palate pleaser/ appetizer).
A stock standard at almost every meal I’ve had here. It’s a simply fried piece of fish, the tail end of what would not be suitable for sushi/ sashimi or any of their a la carte items. Garnished with shreds of fresh pickled veg and a garnish of spring onion, its mouth watering characteristics of sweet marrying with sour start you off in the right direction.
1st course, Cod with Lemon and Salt.
The tang and slight tartness balances with the salt to really accentuate the delicate sweetness of this fish. A standard 1st course starter and depending on seasonality, the chef will sometimes use King Dory. The longer left on the plate, the ‘fuzzier’ it gets from the lemon. Realistically, after the first piece, the appetite is whetted and the second piece seems to disappear in a flash.
2nd course, Pan Seared Salmon with Shimichi and Salt
A robust course. The pan searing and light caramelizing on one side of the salmon is just enough to round out and balance the spiciness of the Shimichi and salt. It has a curiously pleasant sensation. The coarseness of the seared surface follows the unexpected soft underlying texture. Then finally all harmonizing with the perfectly cooked rice.
3rd course, Char Grilled Pike
It’s actually a Japanese Sea Pike. Delectably sweet and juicy, full of ocean flavour. A sweetness from the fat that accompanies the pungent, almost metallic fishy flavour is controlled and balanced by the charring of its deceptively demure character.
4th course, Barbecued Beef.
Soft, smokey and charmingly rustic, this particular course does eat extremely well. Charred ever so carefully, it is dressed in a sweet but tart soy and yuzu sauce. The subtle notes of apple and shallots echo through the sweetness and dance well with the charred beef.
5th course, Akagai.
This invariably appears as a standard. The first piece will almost always get lost from whichever course preceded this dish. It’s peculiar to have this in the middle of the Omakase but it does almost fine tune and reset your palette for the remaining courses. The Akagai clam is sweet and textural, almost a crossover between an oyster and a mussel. This is one of those rare occasions where the chef will quietly suggest to use soy.
6th course, Seared Tuna with an Umami Dressing.
It’s fun picking flavours from this one. It’s very cleverly constructed. The tuna is seared just enough to impart flavour and texture. The middle radiates a fresh, raw, deep pink hue. The umami dressing is just enough to let you remember a familiar flavour, something playfully cloy. You get to a point almost remembering what that flavour is and suddenly, you realize the second piece is finished and that reminiscent familiarity fades back into your memory.
7th course, Scorched Swordfish Belly
As with a lot of belly portions and cuts, this was rich and meltingly lush. Charred ever so lightly and with just a dash of salt, this just melted on the mere touch of the tongue. The charred flavour and salt also really highlighted the almost unbelievable sweetness of the fat.
8th course, Shoyu Marinated Kingfish
A personal favorite. Marinated in a mix of soy and a little sugar, this is given just enough time to ‘cure’ lightly and become a different texture. This particular course is much better in the spring and summer months when the Kingfish are at their best and a natural sweetness replaces the need for any sugar to be added to the soy. It’s quite subtle whichever time of the year it’s eaten. The soy is a welcome partner to the quiet balance of the Kingfish’s flesh and fat.
9th course, Grilled Oysters with Japanese Mayonaise
This is one of those rare courses that are light and subtle but heavy and fulfilling at the same time. Simple in its approach, an oyster, smothered in Japanese mayonnaise and then grilled to perfection is a culinary classic. It’s almost hard to distinguish where the oyster starts and the mayonnaise finishes.
10th course, Seared Scallop with a Sea Urchin Dressing.
Fiercely pan seared scallops are pleasantly diced into small cubes and are dressed with the sea urchin dressing before being nestled into their gunkan. The scallops already have that unctuous sweetness but the dressing almost magnifies and intensifies the sweetness of them. It also introduces a creamy, oceanic taste with a natural salty balance.
11th course, Chu-Toro
Chu-Toro, the slightly less fattier portion of the tuna belly. The fat content increases the natural sweetness of the belly. Every bite and chew deconstructs the texture of the fish and an almost inherent but subtle tang comes from slowly relishing each piece of tuna. It almost melts in the mouth.
12th course, Scorched Salmon Belly with Lemon.
A great finisher to the course. The fattiest, most lush part of the Salmon belly, is lightly sprinkled with salt, shimichi and scorched lightly. The lemon does not fully cut through the richness of the fat, but does round off the overall opulence of this final course.
The Closer, A Final Palette Clenser
A yuzu sorbet that just about presses the reset button on the meal. Sweet, citrussy and served at a temperature that allows it to instantly melt on the tongue.
My final word on this place. DELICIOUS!!!