Posts Categorized: Japanese

Heirloom – one foam too far

Heirloom looks great but the food needs to be simpler. The best French chefs are Japanese nowadays, they say. But they aren’t French they are Japanese. They are just cooking French-style with the addition of Japanese ingredients. Meanwhile, the best French chefs are now open in Japan. They rock. Or at least Michel Bras does, the man who is one of the inspirations for local, sustainable super-natural cuisine several decades before Noma had even been dreamt of. And now this whole Japanese French thing is in Melbourne with the 2010 opening of Duck Duck Goose in the QV shopping centre and the recent opening of Heirloom towards the top end of Bourke St, under the Citadines Apartments. Melbourne has a huge appetite for all things French and Japanese. We love escargot, steak tartare, moules et frites, steak with béarnaise all washed down with a burgundy. Chicken terrine: good Or we love the pared down simplicity of sushi, sashimi and tempura, nowadays washed down with a sake rather than white wine. But bring Japanese together with French and you’ve got confusion. I can’t even find a funny fusion between the two words; Japanch or Frapenese don’t really cut it. I’m not sure I want to go to a very fancy restaurant for the fusion and by the accounts I get from diners who’ve eaten at DDG (who mainly say the food is reasonably good) it probably isn’t as full as the owners would like. Eel fritters – great. As one high profile restaurant critic said to me: “…the whole French/Japanese idea repulses me.” The theoretical appeal of Heirloom is Shigeo Nonaka, a chef who worked at Shoya in Market Lane. In the main restaurant the chefs aren’t French-Japanese with Kyle Doody billed by a waitress as a “molecular chef”. That spells F-O-A-M! John Dory with, yes, foam. Not so good. The trouble with Heirloom when you visit the staff don’t bother to tell you about the sushi bar, which is hidden to the back right of the restaurant. They sit you down to eat French-Japanese (or is it Japanese-French?) and encourage you to drink sake. And I’m afraid the combination of all three isn’t good. Beetroot. Ouch! There is nothing wrong with the sake alone, and there is a splendid list of them together with a knowledgable sake sommelier. There is nothing wrong with the base ingredients used; they are beautiful… Read more »

Izakaya Den is “quite nice really”. Or is it?

What do you say to a celebrity when you meet them? It’s a question raised by the Freakanomics guys and what that I often face. When Rachael Griffiths pats my gimpy dog, or my grumpy dog tries to savage one of Guy Pearce’s Basenji, I just make polite conversation and try and treat them normally (although if I see Hughsy jogging down my street I’ll shout “maaaaaaate”). But more to the point what should a celebrity say to you should they come to talk to somebody on your table at, say, Izakaya Den which since opening has been pitched as one of the hottest joints in town with the Australian media seeming to loose all critical ability when it comes to owner Simon Denton, the son of a famous Melbourne architect. In Fred Scepisi’s case ignore the other three on the table and don’t even say “hello”. Ditto his son, whose name eludes me, who does a pretty accurate impression of a knob. It’s not that I particularly want to talk to the director or his son. But there is something called manners. And I put common courtesy in the same bracket as keeping your g-string tucked away rather than riding half way up your back, not scratching your balls in front of the new Prime Minister Julia Gillard, and correctly using a knife and fork. (Wearing tracky pants and scratching your arse in public is obviously okay) Anyway, in addition to famous directors, their tossing sons, and cheffy cokeheads, Izakaya Den is the kind of place that also attracts the hip, the wannabees and the well-off squares. The difficult thing is to find the place (down the stairs to Chiodo and left; enter despite it looking closed) and then get in, as there is a no booking policy apart from at lunchtimes or groups of five to 20. You probably want to arrive before 7pm or after 9pm to find on table. This Thursday night, sometime after 8pm we are promised a table in 35, which ended up taking nearly an hour. It wasn’t a bad wait, but the holding area, where you can also eat and drink, is loud, and in winter cold. Izakaya Den is a narrow subterranean corridor of a room flaked on the left by an open kitchen and chunky high Japanese-style tables and stools. The menus come as attractively wrapped scrolls. Drinks encompass a… Read more »