KENZAN @ GPO
27th July 2012
350 Bourke St
Melbourne, VIC 3000
I’m usually pretty good at remembering to bring my camera. Most of the time I’m not even halfway out the door before I notice that the familiar weight in my bag is missing. But today, I somehow managed to get all the way to the train station before I realised, so I’m going to have to rely on my trusty iPhone camera instead.
Anyway, Kenzan @ GPO is the offshoot of the well-known Japanese fine-dining restaurant, Kenzan, on Flinders Lane. It’s sandwiched between RamenYa and Ca de Vin in the long space behind the GPO, and is a quite a popular lunch destination for all sorts of clientele. This is mostly thanks to its unpretentious but good quality food, prices that are reasonable, even if it’s not a bargain, and of course their ripper of a DIY sushi roll.
|Salmon and Avocado Roll ($3.7)
The Salmon and Avocado Roll ($3.7) is more than a little bit pricey compared to what you pay at other places, but it’s big, plump, and generously stuffed with fresh ingredients, so it’s hard to begrudge them. But the greatest thing about this roll is the nori wrapper packed separately from the actual sushi, preventing it from going soggy and chewy. And whilst rolling your own sushi may seem intimidating, Kenzan has made it stress-free with easy instructions printed on the plastic. Just pop the sushi on one end of the wrapper, roll, and the nori will stick to the rice by itself. The result is pretty magical; you have not had sushi until you’ve had it wrapped in crackling nori. The flavours of the roll itself were a bit muted, and I actually reached for the soy sauce about halfway through, something I try to avoid at all costs. But you know what? Between the crispy wrapping and the fresh ingredients, this is definitely one of the better, and THE biggest sushi roll in town.
|Niku Udon ($13)
Newly initiated into the world of udon, Chris had a Niku Udon($13) that was delicious for all the right reasons. Thick, slurpable noodles in a soup with a bold note of kombu, garnished with thin slices of beef, wakame, pork crackling, and feathery sliced shallots. I really appreciated the usage of some less common ingredients, such as the thin yet meaty wakame, and the soft, fatty pork crackling soaked in the delicate broth.
|Zaru Soba ($9)
Having heard amazing reviews, I ordered the Zaru Soba ($9), heedless of the cold weather. I have to admit that there is some novelty to dipping cool, chewy noodles into the light broth and slurping it all up. Make sure you give the noodles a good swish in the mild soy and mirin mixture, as it doesn’t so much have the saltiness of a dipping sauce as a soup. And despite it being winter, the ferocious heat lamps above the outdoor seating made eating the cold noodles rather appropriate and enjoyable.
Yes Kenzan is pricier than most of the casual Japanese restaurants studded around the city, yes the portions at Kenzan are on the smaller end of average, and yes Kenzan’s menu is nothing new or groundbreaking. But I can’t help but warm up to the cosy laneway seating, good quality nosh, and of course that crispy crispy nori.
Rating: 13.5/20 – dat nori.
Cheapie Lunch (Under $15)
Just A Bit Special ($15-$30)