33 Dukes Walk
South Wharf VIC 3006
+61 3 9245 9900
As a Japanophile, I’m constantly on the lookout for new and exciting Japanese restaurants. So when I heard that former Nobu chef Kengo Hiromatsu was going to head Paul Mathis’ new Japanese restaurant in South Wharf, I knew I had to go. Unfortunately, it has me this long to visit Akachochin and even then, this visit was not a proper meal but rather a pre-dinner thing, which means that I will have to return for a legit Akachochin experience. Not that I have an issue with that, as this post will illustrate.
The restaurant’s name is a bit of a tongue twister (I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve sent an email to Dave asking when we should go to Akakachinchin) but it’s Japanese for those cute red lanterns that hang merrily outside the restaurant. Just like the food here, I love how the restaurant effortlessly blends old and new traditions together. The sleek marble bar, shiny black lacquered wooden floors and high ceilings may scream out ‘new’ but those pretty red lanterns have been around for quite some time.
We decided to sit at the bar, where we would have perfect viewing of head chef Hiromatsu at work. As much as we wanted to order, uh, pretty much everything, we could only afford to order a few nibbles as we were heading next door to Sharing House for dinner afterwards.
We shared a 180ml bottle of Jukusei Jozenmizunogotoshi Junmai Ginjo from Niigata ($13), which was purely chosen because it had the most unpronounceable name out of all the sakes listed on the menu. Made from highly polished rice and fermented at a very cold temperature, the result was a sake that was light and fruity, with a semi-dry finish. According to the menu, this sake is best served with agedashi tofu or buta kakuni, none of which we ordered (sake matching fail) but it was still a beautiful sake to drink.
We were treated to some complimentary pickles. They were light, crunchy and slightly tart, providing a great starter to what was to be a fantastic pre-dinner meal.
We shared an avocado maguro roll ($10), an inside out sushi roll filled with avocado, sliced onion, tuna and covered with masago. The option to have it with salmon instead of tuna was also there but for us tonight, tuna it was. The sushi roll was beautiful with the ridiculously fresh raw tuna shining through.
And if you needed a sodium hit, there was soy sauce on hand – both gluten-free and non-gluten-free options were available.
We then had the Hiramasa Namerou ($15), a dish that has already attracted a cult following. It is essentially a Japanese-style tartare consisting of chopped raw kingfish, spring onion, moromiso (salty miso paste), kizami-wasabi and olive oil and topped with slivers of daikon.
The dish pays homage to Hiromatsu’s Nobu days but it is somehow essentially very Akachohin. We loved the gentle balance between the silkiness of the kingfish combined with the dressing that was nutty, salty, tart and fresh with a slight kick of wasabi to keep us on our toes. We also loved the way the silky mixture went with the rice paper cracker that was crunchy upon first bite but soon dissolved into nothingness in the mouth. Man, it was so good!
Our final dish was the chicken wing dumpling ($15), arguably Akachochin’s signature dish. Here, two chicken wings were deboned, marinated stuffed with a ‘dumpling mixture’ of chicken mince, cabbage, spring onions, sesame oil, soy before being deep-fried.
It was probably one of the most creative dishes I’ve had in a long time and we had a fun time eating it. That said, it’s not something I’d order heaps of (at $7.50 a piece, they’re not cheap) but it’s a dish that I would happily urge newcomers to try at least once.
Regrettably, we had to leave after we finished our chicken wing dumplings. There were at least eight other dishes I wanted to try on the menu but I will have to wait another time. Given how impressed I was with the (albeit) small sample size though, I have no doubt that my next meal here would be fantastic.