Sunday, December 4, 2011

Komeyui Omakase - A dialogue from Bryan and I!

Hey guys! Fatbooo (Bryan) and I are going to try something new here with my post, but I'll let him explain it to y'all!

How's it going, readers of I'm So Hungree? I'm Fatbooo, hello hello! Ashley and I have dived into exciting territory here. She's allowed me to piggyback onto her blog post of our shared omakase experience at Komeyui, rather than each of us writing up the same visit separately.

We still wrote our posts separately, to ensure we weren't influencing each other's opinions and then Bryan's sent me his thoughts to mix in with mine!

To be honest, it feels strange writing on such a different canvas. I'm not sure how I should behave and am not sure whether you will like me or not.

As if people wouldn't like you Bryan!

But to break the ice, let's just say that Ashley and I share many things in common. We love food. We love our cameras. We loove brunching, and we love using the word 'love'.

And perving on cute baristas while said brunching. Teehee!

Our written voice is quite personal and I think both our blogs share an element of intimacy in it. Finally, I have my fakegf, while Ashley has her realbf, Brad! It is really nice to see such a friendship develop over our web babies, and I think it'll be interesting seeing how this twin post blurs the boundaries even further.

Web babies is right! So let me get started on how we actually ended up at this meal together….

First, I'll want to apologise for what's probably going to be an extra voluminous post. We can be quite verbose bloggers and neither of us really understand what "economy of words" means, though I think I'm more long-winded.

You more long-winded? Ha, that's questionable!

Port Melbourne is extremely uncharted territory for me. I think before this visit, the last time I had been to Port Melbourne would have easily been 2 years ago, when an ex and I drove down and had fish and chips in summer.

I couldn't help though, but be lured though by Komeyui. The promise of beautiful clean, Japanese food, with a strong and unique philosophy. Komeyui strives to use the freshest possible ingredients, matched with authentic Japanese cooking styles that compliments the produce.

When Bryan had talked about how lovely the ala carte was, and how he would like to try the 'Omakase' as well, I know I was the first one to dart my hand up. As the both of us usually are like.

So down city road I went, past South Melbourne, the furthest in that direction I had gone in a while, and was lucky enough to get a park right in front of the restaurant!

Upon stepping in, you could immediately feel comfortable in the quaint, and quite quintessentially Japanese restaurant. Completely decked out in a light wood, with minimal, but elegant decorations, there was a very 'zen' like atmosphere. It was easy to feel at ease.

And they were playing music from Hayao Miyazaki's movies all night. We recognised Totoro's theme and a song or two from Howl's Moving Castle. What's not to love already?!

How cute is the little chopstick holder?

So what is an Omakase? The phrase literally means in Japanese "I'll leave it to you". The first time I was introduced to the idea, was when I went to have the Omakase at Shira Nui. Essentially the chef's menu, you showed up, you sat down, and trusted your taste buds to the chef, who would create a meal for you.

Whilst at Shira Nui, the Omakase just encompassed sushi, in Komeyui, it is more of a banquet meal, extending far past just sushi, with a variety of different courses! You have to book at least two days in advance, and choose whether you want the $68 per person banquet, or the $100 per person banquet. We opted this time just for the $68 option.

When Bryan arrived and we looked at the menu, we were slightly concerned it wouldn't fill us up, since Japanese food does have a reputation of being quite light.

At least we were definitely proved wrong on that!

I'll speed things up by skipping chronology and going straight into the dishes now. All I can remember for our first appetizer was how lovely the marinade was, it had a salty punch with the smokiness of bonito. And the fish was spotlessly fresh!

We started with the ever elegant marinated salmon and broccolini. I mean honestly, how is that not one of the prettiest things you've seen? It was a surprisingly refreshing and punchy start to the meal. The freshness of the salmon with the fresh and slightly crunchy broccolini contrasted against the marinade nicely. I found it whet my palate and set me up, eager for the rest of the meal to come!

Our next appetiser was a pretty little picture. I loved the combination of bite sized goodies, arranged artistically on the plate, the variety of colours and shapes were really enticing! Our plate consisted of duck breast, cucumber and Kinzanji Miso, black beans, tofu and baby sardines and Hokki shellfish with miso sauce.

With this teaser plate of appetizers, we didn't know where to begin. But somehow we wordlessly chose to eat the same item every time we decided to pick something up. Such synergy! If we were both girls, I can imagine our cycles syncing pretty pretty soon...



*koff*... anyway…

We did end up starting with the Hokki shellfish though. Yum. Instantly. It was sweet, and slightly springy in texture. The miso was a little faint and I wouldn't have guessed it was there if not on the menu, but it did taste of mayo. Which is always yummy (and not that great for you. But who's keeping track?).

I would've enjoyed the Hokki shellfish more if they used a miso sauce that wasn't reminiscent of lightly sweet mayonnaise.

My favourite taste on this plate was the tofu sitting in that wooden spoon. It was really refreshing having good semi-firm tofu with the crunch of baby sardines over a clean, tangy ponzu-like sauce. The duck breast was also beautifully full-bodied and ever so tender.

I agree, the duck was full flavoured, and deliciously exquisite. Bryan also made the comment that it must have been really well marinaded as you could taste it all the way through the meat, and not just on the surface.

To pull things together, a small thoughtful teacup of sweet, firm black beans helped counterpoint all the other tastes on the plate.

Although we had different views on the cucumber, I found it really yummy and exciting, and he wasn't as intrigued by it, we both did absolutely love the black beans. There are not that many foods that come out jet black, but I've always seem to liked the ones I've come across (squid ink paella anyone?!) and these were no exception. The gold leaf was a cute touch to add a little dimension visually, I think it's probably what caught my attention, as my wandering 'Ooh Shiny Thing!' syndrome came into play.

The beans were surprisingly sweet and syrupy, without being too coagulated. In contrast to it's saltier friends on the plate, it was an interesting addition. Quite light, and a bit nutty towards the end. Kinda wish these were on the ala carte menu. So intriguing!

Overall, a well-balanced and pleasurable taste platter.

What I really loved about this teaser plate though, was the intermix of different flavours and textures, some which were very much opposite each other. The firm and salty crunchiness of the cucumber, contrasting to the smooth and silky tofu, again contrasted to the firm but sweet black beans. It was most intriguing!

Ashley and I go a long(ish) way back. She's an elder in blog years: my blog's half the age of her's. I remember she was one of the first few people who'd started commenting on my posts. Such friendliness! At the start, I was so shy I did not even dare reply! Look how I've grown now, venturing into her playground.

It is quite wonderful, how we have become fast friends from simply ooh-ing and aah-ing over each other's posts. It's kind of funny as I really like Bryan's blog as I thought his photos were just beautiful…and he feels similarly about mine! Much to learn from one another…!

Our senses having been tickled and enticed, we pondered our next dish, and whether we would get much fuller or not, when the steamed egg custard was placed on our table. Also known as Chawanmushi, Bryan and I were delighted by the rather adorable mini claypots they came in. And the rustic look was completed with a wooden spoon, it's all about the details isn't it?

The first thing? It smelt amazing. We just needed to sit there, attempting to encourage the smell to waft up more into our nose with our hands. Or I did anyway.

Chawanmushi usually tends to be pleasant, but fairly light. Komeyui's version was surprisingly heavy and rich in flavour, although still light in texture.

I believe Ashley really enjoyed the Chawanmushi here….

Yah, I really liked how hearty and warming it was. It played to my liking of richer flavours!

…while I was equivocal about it. I thought it was strange having fried onions and pepitas on top. The egg custard had a beefed-up, full-flavoured sweetish taste and could've been smoother. This was an unfamiliar chawanmushi to me, heavy and sweet. Digging in, we found scallops, shiitake mushrooms and a strange chewy mochi-like thing. I think I was hoping it'd be smoother, lighter, more delicate, with beautiful hints of bonito and konbu.

Again though, it was a fun play on textures here and certainly a filling dish.

I'll have to confess my writing sounds more upbeat here as compared to my often meditative gaze when I'm writing for my own blog. Must be the thrill of being somewhere new.

Or maybe it's just because my bubbly personality is just so infectious!

Onto the sashimi!

I think Komeyui shines when it comes to its sushi and sashimi dishes. The freshness of the fish here was just faultless. The salmon pieces we got here came from the coveted fatty parts of the fish and it was lightly seared to accentuate its flavour further. The kingfish tasted pristine too. While the menu also listed "Alphonsino", that fish did not feature on our plates, we were a little crestfallen about that. I assume it wasn't freshly available from the markets on that particular day.

So salmon and kingfish it was, as Bryan said, the salmon was slightly seared, and being a lovely fatty cut, it was just rich and melt in your mouth delicious! I found the kingfish a nice contrast, as it was a cool, clean and firmer fish. Both were exceptionally fresh, with Bryan commenting on how they were not 'fishy' at all. Fish not being fishy? Bizarre, but it's true!

It was at this point that the head chef and owner, Motomu Kumano, who just introduced himself as Kuma, came over to say hi!

He looks like such a bright and cheerful young man! He's always behind the counter making beautiful sushis. Next time I visit, I'll want to have a seat at the sushi bar so that I can watch Kuma at work.

I'd like to do that next time too! Kuma has been cooking since he was 16, and previously worked for Kenzan in the city (which my neighbour claims is the best Japanese in Melbourne and has been faithfully going to for many many years).

We'd forgotten to order drinks of any kind throughout our meal and after a brief conversation, Kuma suddenly offered a complimentary serve of sake, poured from a theatrically huge bottle, if I might add. I was a little awestruck watching Kuma overfill the glass till there's significant overflow into the square box, but that's apparently how they do it in Japan. It was really nice sake... light, earthy and sweet.

It is quite the traditional way of doing it, when I was in Tokyo last, we went out for dinner with a client who did this for us too! The sake glass is placed in a box, and the sake poured out until the glass is overflowing…and the box fills up! The drinker then downs the glass (eventually) and takes the leftover sake and pours it from the box into the glass…and you then actually get one full glass again!

He also insisted that we try a yuzu (a Japanese citrus) flavoured sake, and so treated us to a little taste as well. YUM. I wanted to run away with the whole bottle. All of it. You couldn't taste the alcohol, it was just exceptionally refreshing and obviously, had a really nice punchy citrus flavour, but sweet enough not to be sour. Want. More.

It had an aged citrus flavour that reminded me of kalamansi limes. Thank you, Kuma... for your kindness.

It's mains and fried goodness time!

If there's one thing that's different about Ashley and I, it's our taste buds. She likes rich flavours while I'm more likely to write ballads over light dishes. It was very nice watching her swoon over the prawn bread, which I admit was quite delightful... deep fried to perfection. I wasn't as fond of the quail though, the sweet glaze sauce over it sort of spoiled the dish for me.

How could I not swoon over the prawn bread? I've never had something so crispy in my life. Oh my god. That bread, or whatever it was, was deep fried to absolute crisp perfection and then had with the bread? I was quite happily having a noisy little conversation with myself. Sorry Bryan.

I actually quite liked the beautiful, glossy, glaze over the quail. It was just sumptuous, but I guess I can see why you would find it too sweet…but I think I enjoyed that sweetness because of the hint of chilli in there too.

You know, I feel a little naughty that I managed to nab some screen space inside the blog of Victoria's number 8 blogger on the Urbanspoon leaderboards. All of Ashley's readers are now mine! Mwahahaha!!

Oh dear... where did THAT come from? Anyway...

….I'll just pretend I didn't see that. Ahem…the carbs finally came out…and we were surprisingly getting pretty full.

An assortment of tuna, salmon, kingfish and cucumber sushi were presented before us. And yet again, the fish was amazingly sweet and fresh.

I enjoyed this second main dish heaps more. I know I'm repeating myself, but the sushis and sashimi here are just beautiful. Insanely, unfaultably fresh. Even the humble cucumber sushi had a lovely firmness about it and it had the right temperature. Can't stand refrigerator cold sushis. Ashley loved the torched-seared salmon sushi's butteryness, and I have to commend that it didn't have that nauseating smell of blow-torched gas like what I had in Shira Nui.

One thing that did catch my attention was how good the wasabi was. I'm used to making a bit of a green sludge as I drown my soy sauce in wasabi (wait….), but on this occasion, we weren't given much wasabi but I found it incredibly pungent, and clearing my sinuses just like that. Gotta love that 'OMG-MY-BRAIN' feeling right?

Can you guys sense how much Ashley breathes and loves Melbourne from reading her posts? With each post, the place comes alive through her pictures and choice of words. On the other hand, I think I'm more investigative, candid and reflective with my approach towards food and eating.

I think for me, that just comes with being easily excitable. Ask Brad. We'll be driving along the car having a conversation when I'll turn to the window and freak out because I saw something yellow. Or a really cute dog. True story. Ahem.

Dessert? Yes. Of course. We were excited. Bryan had been hyping up the sake brulee, and for him to give a typically sweet dessert hype? That's something. As said by Bryan earlier, we're both quite different when it comes to our tastebuds and especially, desserts, I love it rich, heavy and decadent, and he's much more into the lighter, fruitier and refreshing desserts. I'm very western and he's very Asian. What's wrong with me? Haha!

I've already had both these desserts before and remember being blown away by them. This time round, the sake brûlée came out on the runny side but still tasted quite lovely. I will have to admit that on a revisit weeks later, the same brûlée arrived even more runny with too much alcoholic presence of sake, so maybe there are slight consistency issues with this dessert. The apple compote jelly remained an unabashedly tangy and refreshing dessert though.

I loved the sake brulee, the sake flavour was quite subtle, although the brulee itself was a little runnier than you would expect. For some reason I thought it tasted like bread. My palate going crazy yo.

By this point we were quite full. Or I was definitely. However I asked to have a look through the ala carte menu, as I was curious what we had tonight could be ordered on a regular night. Quite a number of dishes were unique to our banquet, which I thought was…well pretty cool. To put it frankly.

However, what did catch my eye, was that one of the monthly specials was….uni. Sea urchin.

Ashley and I have been on this unspoken quest for good uni in Melbourne.

It's something that had come up in conversation on twitter many a time, or while we had been out brunching. Bryan had never had it before. I've got a bit of a fondness for it (although I tend to for all proteins slightly quirky). Although we had just had dessert, and were sipping on a big pot of lovely roasted green tea….well….why not just one little serve of uni sashimi?

The dish arrived delicately topped with gold leaves. After a few nibbles, Ashley declares that this is just about as fresh as it can get in Melbourne.

I found it quietly hilarious that the uni was served with gold leaf on it, but I suppose it's not the prettiest of dishes is it? I really liked the uni at komeyui, it was cool, it was fresh, it was so sweet (all the damn fish are!) and I really did enjoy it. It was quite fun to watch Bryan try it and see his reaction and hear his thoughts. I've always found he's exceptionally good and picking apart flavours and ingredients, something which I've been trying to improve on more. I suppose it helps he cooks at home far more often than I do!

Tasting it, I found the uni sweet, unctuous and creamy. But richness aside, what I really struggled with was the texture: it was mushy. That, coupled with juuust a slight hint of muddiness (reminiscent of seabeds), just made it difficult for me to fall in love with such a connoisseur type of sashimi.

So there you have it, whilst I very much enjoyed the uni, I don't think Bryan was quite sold on it. At least he can say he's had it now though!

Personally speaking, I feel that the sushi and sashimi courses were the real winners throughout our banquet menu. If anyone were to dine here, I'd recommend trying more of the sushi and sashimi menu and less of the cooked offerings. Good sushi isn't easy to find in Melbourne and this place sits with me as one of Melbourne's best. I have this wish... and it's that one day, Kuma will hold an omakase-style degustation of sushis rather than the a banquet of dishes.

I do however think, at $68, this 6 course banquet meal (the uni's not included remember!), is an absolute steal. You really get a wide range of tastes, flavours and ingredients and I love how exploratory and unique some of the dishes are. I really enjoyed that our menu went all over the place in textures and flavours, whilst staying elegant, and therefore not sticking to just one tune all night.

Thanks for sharing your thoughts with us too Bryan! :)

To Ashley's followers, I thank you for reading what I have to say about Komeyui. Do come visit me from time to time. And thanks, Ashley, for allowing me to "rent" some blog time here! I had a lovely meal with you, our cameras probably worked harder than our bellies. Ha ha! And pssst... do you think people will want us to do more twin piggyback shared-posts in the future? :D :D

396 Bay Street

Port Melbourne, VIC 3207

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