9 Katherine Place
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Aside from maybe Spanish, Japanese food is probably my favourite cuisine. But despite having eaten extensive amounts of Japanese food, as well as having travelled to the country itself, I am woefully versed when it comes to regional variants. So when Ponshu Kiroro opened, I was able to pick it for Japanese, but Hokkaido fusion? Not a chance!
But then again, I don’t feel too bad about that, considering that Ponshu Kiroro is the first Hokkaido-styled restaurant in Melbourne, if not Australia. Compared to the rest of Japan, Hokkaido eats a lot more vegetables, dairy, and lamb, thanks to the relatively ample land for farming. But don’t worry; there is still plenty of fresh seafood to go around.
On a cold, windy night, the bright facade of Ponshu Kiroro was especially welcoming. Despite being sleek and a little bit cutsey, it still has that element of calm elegance that is so quintessentially Japanese.
We started off with a twist on the classic – the Edamameholic ($8). Instead of being boiled and sprinkled with salt, these addictive little bean pods were very briefly stir-fried with chilli, garlic, and a dash of sesame oil. The result was a much messier, but also a much more finger-lickingly flavoursome experience.
Next up was the Three Addictive ($14), which is really just a round-about name for the tasting platter. This platter consisted of three items – the Zangi Senbai, Marinated Salmon, and Honey Pickled Cherry Tomato.
The zangi senbai was an addictive little nibble of chicken mixed with potato, then deep fried in tempura batter.
The marinated salmon sat plump and fresh on a cracker, and when mixed with spicy kewpie mayo, made for a creamy, flavoursome mouthful.
But most surprising were the cherry tomatoes. Biting into it released a vivid combination of sweet and sour, its zingy flavours reminding me of those cheap and delicious lemon icy poles.
The Marinated Salmon Sushi Parfait ($11) is definitely something you won’t get anyone else. Stacked into a glass were layers of vinegared rice, sweet egg omelette, and salmon marinated in sweet soy. It’s a fun, whimsical way to eat your sushi, especially for those of you who like to mix and match.
To finish up, we had a main of Juicy Kurobuta Pork Belly ($27), cooked Hokkaido style. Despite looking dry, the crust actually surrounded an unctuously moist and tender centre of fat-streaked pork belly. It would’ve been too rich too, had it not been for the vinegared soy drizzled on top, but the overall effect was a balanced but indulgent one.
Compared to a lot of the other Japanese restaurants around Melbourne, Ponshu Kiroro is delightfully different. Not only does it shine a spotlight on some lesser-known elements of Japanese cuisine, it also puts its own spin on it. If you think you know Japanese food, think again – Ponshu Kiroro may just surprise you.
Rating: 13.5/20 – ponshu kokoro.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.
Sweet and Sour Fork dined as a guest of Ponshu Kiroro.