3rd January 2018
175 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
It’s been another long year, and frankly, 2017 is one year that I’m pretty happy to be leaving behind. Not that it’s been a bad year – not by a long stretch – but after the ordeals of studying to get into medicine, finishing my Masters, and organising the move up to Sydney, I’ve had enough of waiting and planning, and I’m ready to start doing.
As is the tradition by now, the end of 2017 is capped off by an extravagant meal to celebrate Chris’ birthday, our anniversary, Christmas, and just generally making it through the year unscathed. And this year I was desperate to get to Kisume, the three-storey powerhouse of Japanese cuisine by the Lucas Group (c’mon, you know the Lucas Group; do the names Chin Chin, Hawker Hall, and Baby Pizzeria sound familiar?), before I leave Melbourne for Sydney.
Despite being part of the Lucas Group, Kisume is markedly different from the other members of the family. Whereas the others are loud, fun, and even a little brash, Kisume is dark, sleek, and simply stunning. But best of all, they take bookings for groups of all sizes!
Spread over a whopping 3 stories (how on earth did they get a space this size??), the ground floor and basement offers a more casual dining option, whilst the top floor is reserved for the more exclusive Kuro Kisume. The restaurant is more spacious than I could’ve possibly imagined, with deep, comfortable chairs and hefty, expansive tables. Each floor even has its own sushi bar!
The Crispy Wagyu Truffles ($18.5, 2pcs) is one of the most-raved about dishes at Kisume. It’s a crowd-pleaser for sure, the wagyu meatball fried until crunchy, hiding a gooey centre of mozzarella. The earthy truffle mayo with its hint of vinegary tang brings it all together, and it’s certainly a pleasant nibble. However when it came down to it, all it really was was a meatball, even if wagyu and truffle are involved. Tasty for sure, but certainly not worth the price or the hype.
Our waitress raved about the Warm Mushroom and Cauliflower Salad ($26.5), but once again, it was rather underwhelming. As nice as the charred cauliflower and delicate mushrooms in soy butter was, it simply wasn’t special enough to justify the hefty price tag. If you want your charred cauliflower fix, I suggest Miznon.
The menu at Kisume is extensive, and ranges from the traditional all the way through to the experimental. Feeling like it would be unfair to try and draw comparison to my recent meal at Minamishima, I steered away from the classics, and decided to try some of the more unusual creations instead. I’ve seen the No Nori No Rice ($17.5, 6pcs) roll on social media, and had become immediately smitten with how pretty it was. This one was a total winner, and tasted just as good as it looked. Each piece of was a mouthful of the freshest sashimi-grade fish, its plumpness gilded by the wedge of buttery avocado, and tasting all the more luscious in contrast to the wrapping of crunchy daikon. The roll comes with a smear of wasabi already applied, but this is the wonderfully fresh and fragrant stuff, not the horrible kind that makes your eyes water. I may be a traditionalist at heart, but I’d eat this goodness any time.
The Soft Shell Crab ($19.5, 6pcs) roll was ordered for Chris’ benefit, and although anything fried is usually low hanging fruit, this one was a dip back into overpriced mediocrity. The crab was dry and oily, consisting of roughly 80% batter with only a hint of crab. Whilst Chris didn’t mind it, he could certainly understand my disgust.
Similarly disappointing was the King Salmon ($16.5, 6pcs) roll. It had once again been described as something creative and exciting, featuring everything from apple puree to crispy kataifi (a crispy Middle Eastern pastry). But frankly, aside from the slight hint of fruitiness from the apple, this didn’t taste much too different from a salmon roll.
Frankly, by this point I wasn’t very eager to sink any more money into the meal, so I decided to wrap up the savouries with a bowl of the Hot Inaniwa Udon ($22.5). It was a bowl of excellent noodles for sure, the thinner style of udon hand-stretched to be silky yet strong, floating in a delicately umami broth. But once again, damn it’s expensive for what you get.
Dessert-wise, I just couldn’t go past the Insta-famous Hazelnut Dacquoise ($18.5) that looks so much like a Pokéball. Hidden in the glossy sphere were concentric layers of smooth hazelnut mousse and soft sponge cake, culminating in a surprise centre of boozy Frangelico cream.
With room for one more dessert, I chose the Layered Pineapple ($17.5), after being told that it goes extremely well with the hazelnut dacquoise. The layers of coconut panna cotta and pineapple jelly made for a mellow tropical palate, livened up by the honey-sweet pieces of roasted pineapple, and an acidic scoop of pineapple sorbet. The sunny fruitiness certainly did make for a good counterbalance to the dark indulgence of the dacquoise.
I had enjoyed my meal at Kisume, but unfortunately that was in spite of, rather than because of the food. The reason for my dislike of the meal is very straight forward – the food simply is not good enough to warrant the asking price, even when taking the location into account. To be fair, maybe I ordered poorly, but this certainly doesn’t bode well for the rest of the menu. To top that off, the service, whilst friendly, was also very inattentive. Our glasses were empty several times throughout the meal, and it was a chore to find someone every time we wanted to order more food. All in all, it was a disappointing meal, redeemed only slightly by the ambience. You may be able to book Kisume, but I wouldn’t bother – I would much rather line up for Chin Chin or Hawker Hall.
Rating: 12.5/20 – ditch the pretention, have street food instead.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.