The best new Japanese-inspired slots in Melbourne

If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that big cut Melbourne readers love Japanese food. And because we’re seeing a bunch of new and exciting Japanese-inspired locations opening across the city recently, we’ve rounded up 15 of our favorites for you.

• First look: Hareruya, a sunny Japanese restaurant with full-rim bento boxes and mochi-wrapped gelato. The drum door rises at 10:30 a.m., and it pays to get in early to secure your ready-made picnic lunch and Japanese-inspired gelato. (Plus, upstairs is Leoni, the team’s lovely new sake bar with amazing snacks like hand-held temaki sushi rolls. big cut for more details.)

• Warabi is an intimate new Omakase experience – from the group behind several Michelin-starred restaurants – at the W Hotel. This is her first project outside of Asia. Sit at the counter for nine theater courses, expertly paired with sake from all over Japan, or take in the eight-person private dining room.

• NOW OPEN: Twice-fried Tonkatsu is king at Ichi Katsu, Glen Waverley’s vibrant new Japanese diner. Fried, breaded pork steak comes in many different forms—in fluffy katsu sandwiches, in a warm katsu curry, or with rice, cabbage, and a thick and dark homemade tonkatsu sauce.

• The Japanese art of robatayaki (or stove-side cooking) takes center stage in Kura Brunswick East. Tucked under an apartment building, former Kisumi and Nobu chef Ken Ibuki continues his father’s legacy with yakitori served in every way and a variety of sake by the glass.

• First Look: It’s all about shokupan at Fuumi’s new Japanese bakery in South Yarra. Get a soft-cushioned milky bread from wholemeal or half-loaf bread, in the classic Katsu Sando, or the Peanut Butter and Salted Banana Slide. It is an extension of the local favorite Fuumi Fuumi in West Melbourne.

• In South Yarra, Yakikami is a fiery and glamorous (quite literally) new Japanese grill – with custom yakitori tables – from the team behind Wagyu Ya and Niku Ou. Get off the boat with a $285 omakase experience featuring over 15 dishes, including A5 Wagyu tartare with caviar and Josper grilled beef steak.

• NOW OPEN: Ramen topped with lobster or truffle at Barco, a new and cozy spot on Moonee Ponds. Executive Chef at De Stasio Federico Kongio is as skilled in Japanese cooking as he is in Italian. What started as an under-the-radar pop-up at Shujinko is now a full-fledged ramen restaurant.

• There are only six seats and three dishes at Ominono, a small shirachi bar run by a classically trained French chef. Inside Prahran Café, it only takes 12 dinners a day (and you write quickly), but you can try the beautifully served sushi by Arnaud Laidebeur by pre-ordering the takeaway box.

• NOW OPEN: Hikari, a new pint-sized Japanese coffee and homeware store in the Central Business District. In the little wood-clad hole, sip on a charming latte and snack on a Mork’s cake while you shop a carefully curated selection of bespoke ceramics and glassware from Japan.

• NOW OPEN: It’s premium sashimi and nori martinis at Ototo, the new underground izakaya in Akaito. The space was once an extension of fine Japanese dinners on Flinders Lane, but now it has its own identity — and its own menu. Follow the luminous red thread downstairs.

• Ramen heat and eat shop Gummi Boys has opened a permanent location in Brunswick. Find a rotating menu of seasonal and sustainable dishes, from a separate tsukmin with pickled sardines served in broth to a vegetarian mushroom casserole with chili.

• Your big brekkie comes in the form of ramen at Kissaten, a Japanese-inspired café in leafy Alphington surroundings. He also does katsu sandos, fluffy omoris, and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki—all from 8am.

• Follow the scent of woodlice to find Mr. Miyagi in Big Smoke – here to have a good time, not for long. Visit the fire-powered menu of never-before-served dishes (including theatrical salmon number served in a smoky get-together) with the same playful twists on Japanese cuisine as you’ll find in the original.

• First look: Bento boxes and chirashi bowls are ready in a stylish new grocery store at Melbourne Bantry. While the offer is pan-Asian, you’ll also find Japanese cheesecake and choux cakes freshly baked daily.

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