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Ela Carte likes machi at Machi
Machi – 14 Inkerman St, St Kilda www.machi.com.au
We have our tried and tested eat streets around Melbourne, the latest (and greatest?) of which is Gertrude Street Fitzroy, but Inkerman Street St Kilda is doing its bit to muscle in. Pizza institution Mr Wolf is still consistently busy, super chef Paul Wilson has just opened a cellar bar underneath his uber-cool Newmarket hotel, and now Tatsuya Yamazaki has entered the fray with Machi.
Japanese born, Tatsuya has worked throughout Japan and Europe, but has called Melbourne home for the last decade.
He’s come across most recently from his smaller restaurant Moshi Moshi in Port Melbourne, this new diner a little larger, but by all accounts just as popular. We ate early, and so the place was a little deserted at 6.30pm, but by the time we left it was pumping.
With a sleek modern feel and open kitchen, it’s “cool” but still welcoming – a little like the staff. These guys were young and funky, but ultimately warm and generous with their knowledge of the menu and wine list.
The menu’s split into four sections for the savoury offerings – smalls, seafood, rolls and “signatures” – the last one basically acting as larger mains.
But surely the best way to go is the omakase, the chef’s selection – and even here you get to choose from their standard version which takes items from across the menu, or the “adventurous omakase” where chef Tatsuya might get a little creative depending on the night!
Yes. I did get a little adventurous. The only difference in the two omakases is the entrée platter, without a doubt the “prettiest” part of the night. Before that arrives, it’s the bowl of obligatory, salty edamame – which I eat despite the fact that I don’t really have much interest in them. Such a curiosity!
Then the aforementioned platter. A visual delight, a long white plate with five individual offerings – each as attractive as they are tasty. I demanded a gyoza on mine, which wasn’t very adventurous of me, but I won’t go to a Japanese restaurant without eating one – and it was a goodie.
Accompanying it was a piece of grilled kingfish belly with a sticky, sweet white miso sauce; a selection of sashimi (Yellow fin tuna tataki, NZ salmon and yellow tail kingfish); and some of the tastiest soft shell crab I’ve ever had the pleasure of ingesting – super soft, with seven spice batter. Final guest on the plate of five, was some Morton Bay bug with homemade tartar sauce and caviar.
Course three was a bowl of miso soup, it wasn’t as dreadful as I usually anticipate. I’ve never grown to love miso soup, this was one of the more flavoursome versions I’ve tried.
The mains were big, and easy to share. In the omakase you choose your own from the list of five signature dishes. The slow cooked lamb soy made me think of Greece, a chunk of shoulder meat on the bone (not for long, it slid off with a slight prod), marinated overnight in garlic and oregano, then cooked in a low oven for at least 8 hours. It’s served with a teriyaki sauce and greens.
The barramundi was glorious. Fleshy and moist, it’s marinated in sweet white miso and oven baked, then served with vegies and a stock.
As usual, I felt there was no way I could fit in dessert, then I ate every scrap of black sesame ice cream, green tea ice cream, green tea crème brulee and fruit that was presented before me. Black sesame was the highlight, one of those flavours you don’t really “get”, but you can’t stop eating.
Dessert - Green Tea Creme Brulee.
If you like Japanese, you should love this place. Quality, authentic food that is thoughtful and creative, and a team who just seem happy to be there dishing it out.