Saturday, 23 January 2010

Tempura Hajime lives!

Tempura Hajime
60 Park Street, South Melbourne (map)
9696 0051


Tempura Hajime

To mangle a perfectly good Mark Twain quote: rumours of Tempura Hajime's closure have been somewhat exaggerated, despite what you may have heard on twitter or other avenues of industry gossip. I can however confirm that your final opportunity to sample owner/chef Daisuke Miyamoto's tempura wizardry at Tempura Hajime is 13 March 2010. The restaurant will then reopen on 15 March 2010 with its new owner (who, I am assured, is also an excellent chef) at the helm. But if you want to say goodbye to Daisuke and Noriko before they move back to Japan, get in quick and make a booking for one night over the next seven weeks!

Tempura Hajime

Even when you've got your eyes peeled because you know the nondescript entrance is easily missed, you'll still walk past the door to Tempura Hajime the first time. Upon arrival you are ushered into the shadowy little waiting room where you can sit back on a sofa and order a drink.

The reason you need to wait? Because there are only 12 seats in the restaurant - it's a one man show with Daisuke doing all the preparation and cooking before your eyes, serving six diners at a time and just 12 diners per night. The sittings are staggered accordingly.

Tempura Hajime

The menu is fixed, $72 per person. As the name suggests, Tempura Hajime is a tempura counter restaurant and so a degustation of battered, fried morsels awaits. But first, an appetiser of cucumber and minced chicken in a miso-sesame dressing, and sashimi.

Tempura Hajime

Not only was the ocean trout and kingfish sashimi ridiculously fresh, it was served with fresh wasabi. Love.

Ocean trout and kingfish sashim

Daisuke uses three oils to make his tempura: soy bean oil, tea oil and sesame oil. Despite the fact that the majority of the menu is deep fried, it tastes wonderfully light and fresh and pure, and not at all greasy - the proof being in how little oil stains the paper on the serving plate. You can take it from me that all of the following dishes were SUBLIME.

Tempura Hajime

And now for the food porn tempura photos! I think they speak for themselves. Prawn.

Prawn

Asparagus. Sweet potato.

AsparagusSweet potato

Tuna and avocado wrapped in nori, served with Japanese mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce.

Tuna and avocado wrapped in nori with teriyaki sauce and kewpie mayo

Corn. John Dory.

CornJohn Dory

Sea urchin wrapped in nori and scallop.

Sea urchin in nori and scallop

One of my dining companions, that Jess Ho, photographing the tempura oyster for her blog.

Tempura Hajime

Minced prawn stuffed into a mushroom. Minced chicken stuffed in eggplant.

Prawn and mushroomEggplant and minced chicken

After the tempura, the meal is bulked out with a serve of donburi - on the night we went, we had a delicious kakiagedon.

Kakiage don

My other dining companions were knocking back the sake but I decided to grab some chilled umeshu plum wine, which was served by Noriko, Daisuke's lovely wife who runs the front of house. When she indulged and praised my attempts to speak Japanese, I knew I was smitten.

Umeshu

Dessert was a beautifully simple yoghurt panna cotta drizzled with Cointreau and served with a few grapes.

Yoghurt panna cotta with Cointreau and grapes

In short, I adored the Tempura Hajime experience and thoroughly recommend it. Get down there!

Tempura Hajime

8 comments:

Hannah said...

Oh, I fell in love with that plum wine in Japan. Definitely helped get me in the mood for karaoke ;)

The sea urchin/scallop/nori tempura is so innovative - and it looks pretty scrumptious :)

Matt C said...

Your blog is making things difficult for me. If I didn't learn about all these places, I wouldn't go to all these places, and I would have less of a... fiscally challenging strategic conundrum on my hands, as our Prime Minister might say.

Desci said...

So odd you should bring this up! My partner and I were just last night talking about going there again. Will you make one more trip or wait until the new chef gets in his stride?

Gastronomy Gal said...

that kingfish with fresh wasabi looks so silky and soft! I want some!!

Sa-i-mo-n said...

Had a delicious experience here in December. Rather flawless service and supurb food.

... but! It's just depressing how expensive quality Japanese is in Melbourne. $10 a beer? ありえへん! Yes we're lucky to have places like this at all, but when will the market get nice and saturated like we are with Indian/Thai/Vietnamese?

claire said...

Hi Hannah - yeah, I much prefer umeshu to regular shochu that hasn't had any fruit steeped in it.
The sea urchin in scallop was my dining companion's favourite!

Oh Matt, so sorry to make things difficult for you!! And LOVE the "fiscally challenging strategic conundrum" :)

Hey Desci - dunno, think I'll probably leave it now until the new chef takes over...

Hi GG - it was! SO lovely. :)

Sa-i-mon, it's a simple matter of supply and demand, I reckon. But I would argue that although Melbourne is saturated with a lot of cheap Indian/Thai/Viet, a lot of it is crap. Unfortunately for the discerning punter, getting quality still means that you often have to pay a bit more.

Gemma said...

That looks lovely.

Yeah, good tempura is so not oily, it's whisper-thin. I'd love to go here before it changes hands but alas my circumstances are somewhat Dickensian!

I love umeshu too. I keep meaning to buy bottles of it to have at home. It's lovely for summer too.

You do visit some wonderful places!

oliver said...

Wow it looks like they serve different things during different seasons! Gotta go back again soon!