Mikkayla reviews: Wasshoi — ‘everything is sublime’
Wasshoi Sunshine West
1-9 The Avenue, Sunshine West
If you’re ever lucky enough to get to Japan, I’m told that their festival (matsuri) culture is something that cannot be missed. Take that literally as well as metaphorically – you don’t need to plan flights and book accommodation to coincide with one of their matsuri. Chances are you’ll come across one of the 200,000 held yearly around the island country!
When you’re there, you’ll no doubt hear a popular call “Wasshoi!” It’s a distinctive chant that is usually yelled out by those carrying the mikoshi around town, which is a portable, religious mini-shrine. Another reason you need to know this word is due to Wasshoi Grill in Sunshine West.
Wasshoi Grill is the baby of renowned, multi-award-winning chef, Ikuei Arakane, known to many thanks to his Iron Chef appearances. Restaurateur, consultant chef and caterer, he has been sharing his skills in Melbourne since 1987, teaching countless followers how to grill Japanese-style and serving the goods via his wildly popular venues – the original Wasshoi sits in the centre of Prahran Market’s Harvest Hall, and there is another location in Port Melbourne, but this latest one was built to serve west. It’s subtly located – in the carpark of a servo, set between two other takeaway eateries, and I’m told to get there before the lunch rush by the surrounding industry workers.
It’s not your traditional Japanese fodder, so don’t let the idea of raw fish keep you away. Wasshoi, instead, serves up authentic Japanese food culture via their donburi (rice bowls) and bun rolls, much like a Japanese banh mi.
The meats are done ‘sumbiyaki-style’, which refers to marinated foods grilled over a charcoal fire which leaves rich, smoky, umami flavours. All the meats are twice cooked – slowly first to ensure juiciness, and then grilled over the red-hot barbeque which locks in the moisture but chars the exterior while being basted in delicious house-made glazes that draw out the meaty flavours. Pork belly is marinated in miso for 6 hours before undergoing this process. Maryland chicken fillets soak in a combination of soy, mirin, sake and xiaojing wine before being cooked in a slow oven for 15 minutes and finished on the grill, and there’s a delectable 10-hour slow cooked beef brisket as well.
The fresh, warm rolls are stuffed with a generous serving of the meat of your choice, and finished with kochi yuzu pepper mayonnaise, house-made kimchi, fresh salad and a fruity soy. The don bowls are served with all of the above, on a bed of fluffy white rice. Everything is sublime. The meats are possible some of the best I have ever had – rich, sticky, juicy, and generous in portion sizes.
The Sunshine location doesn’t have as many menu offerings as its Prahran and Port Melbourne siblings – they also offer things like ramen, Japanese-style burgers, skewers and an array of Japanese drinks including kirin cider, sake and kochi yuzi. But this crowd doesn’t need it. For lunch on the run, the offerings here are wholesome, delicious, affordable and fun.
Wasshoi is open Monday to Friday from 11.30, and Saturday from midday.