Shop 8, Level 3, Emporium Shopping Centre
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Me: a new restaurant just opened up in Emporium.
Me: well it does fancy Japanese food, and the menu looks nice, but also way expensive for what it is.
Chris: well maybe we should try it, it could be good.
Me: nope. It won’t be. We’re not going.
So that was the conversation Chris and I had when I first came across Calia about 2 months ago, when it was newly opened and nobody knew what to expect, except that it was a new Japanese venture by Michelin-Star chef, Francisco Javier Araya.
Two months later however, I’m eating my words as the rave reviews poured in one after the other. But Calia isn’t just a restaurant; it’s also part gourmet grocer that stocks the finest goods and delicacies from Japan, and around the world.
In the shop, you’ll find everything from fresh line-caught sashimi to truffle salt, all the way to mustard flecked with gold and bottles of scotch that costs upward of $2000. There are also plenty of exquisite home wares; I was especially enamoured with a set of cutlery in matte gunmetal gray.
I’ve heard some great things about The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl ($16.5), so despite some other exciting things on the menu (truffle fries, flame seared salmon, TRUFFLE FRIES), I decided to go with the hype on this one.
And of course, it was fantastic. The 9+ grade wagyu was sliced so thinly that it melted in the mouth, and it was cooked in a light soy marinade that bore the rich earthiness of mushrooms. Mixed in with the creamy 63 degree egg, this was comfort food at its most elegant.
I wasn’t sure I wanted to shell out for the $35 chirashi bowl, so I settled for a happy medium of the O’Bara Bara ($19.8). This once again did not disappoint; the mix of lightly marinated tuna, kingfish, and salmon was delightfully fresh, and it was served on fluffy, vinegared rice that was topped with a delicate webbing of nori and sesame seeds. This colourful plate was as much of a feast for the eyes as it was for the tastebuds.
I had (very painfully) given up the truffle fries because I had heard wonderful things about the Matcha Lava Lava ($14.8). Made to order, this was a sight to behold.
The moment your spoon sinks through the crust, out oozes a fragrant stream of matcha ganache. Surprisingly, the flavour of the matcha isn’t too strong, which means that its crisp grassiness complements, rather than overwhelms the rich, gooey chocolate cake. It is excellent stuff, and we licked the plate clean in no time.
Although I’m not a big fan of being wrong, I have to admit that Calia defied all of my expectations. It manages the difficult task of taking something familiar, and turning it into a refined rendition that nevertheless stays true to the spirit of the original dish. However, I’m still a little iffy on the pricing; the dishes on the menu cost almost twice as much as you’d normally expect, but it’s a bit short of being twice as good. But with that said, I’d be happy to come back for the matcha lava cake alone…and whilst I’m here, I may as well get the truffle fries.
Rating: 14/20 – i lava matcha lava lava.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.