Ishizuka, opened in 2018 on Bourke Street, is a contemporary 16-seat kaiseki restaurant. What is kaiseki, you may ask? Kaiseki is a centuries-old traditional Japanese meal with multi-courses similar to Western haute cuisine. Kaiseki is like an art form that each course balances the taste, texture, appearance, and colours of food. Chefs only use fresh seasonal ingredients. Each dish is presented beautifully, often with real leaves and flowers.
Ishizuka is the only kaiseki restaurant in Melbourne. Indeed it is so hard to book and to find. It is hidden secretly in the basement of an apartment building. There is no signage. The instruction is to press B01 on the intercom to enter this residential building. Just a flight of stairs down to the basement, you will find this subterranean artistically designed restaurant. A white dome lantern-shaped partition divides the waiting/bar area and the 16 seats traditional Japanese chef counter.
Here we go, the 10-course kaiseki Spring menu.
Pairing wines - each course is skillfully paired with wine or sake. Here are some of the bottles I managed to capture.
The traditional Kaiseki courses comprise the amuse-bouche (Sakizuke), seasonal delicacies (Zensai), soup (Osuimono), raw fish (Otsukuri), grilled courses (Yakimono), rice/noodle courses (Shokuji) and dessert (Mizumono).
Chef Tomotaka Ishizuka uses the luxe ingredients in each course. The “Sakizuke” (先附) - yuba, bonito jelly, uni, caviar, ikura. Delicious cold tofu topped with bonito jelly, uni, Beluga caviar, salmon roe and gold leaf.
The “Zensai” (前菜) - spring delicacies. The thinly sliced fresh lobster, abalone, prawns, scallops accompanied by a glass of refreshing asparagus mousse. A beautiful presentation.
The “Yakimono” (燒物) grilled Spanish mackerel, fried fugu, Natane leaf, puffed grain. My very 1st encounter of eating the deadly delicacy "fugu" pufferfish (河豚). The pufferfish is deep-fried yet deliciously tender. The grilled mackerel topped with egg sauce and Natane leaf is so comforting.
The “Daimono” (台物) Kagoshima A5 wagyu, black garlic, carrot, shimeji mushroom. The highest grade of Japanese wagyu cooked over charcoal right beside us. The perfect marbled, flavourful and tender beef you can imagine.
The “Oshinogi” (お凌ぎ)- the middle dish. Toro sushi, the delicious tuna belly, was imported from the fish market in Tokyo and presented as nigiri before the final savoury course. It is such a joy seeing the chef slicing up a big piece of marbled otoro and making the nigiri right in front of us. We love otoro and could not resist ordering two serves.
The “Mizugashi ” (水菓子) - Choux pastry filled with yuzu custard was so light and refreshing. The sweet candied strawberry was a complement to the lemony yuzu choux puff.
The final dessert course “Kanmi” (甘味) - Momo tea ice cream, matcha air sponge, mango mascarpone mousse, Manuka honey crisp. An absolute delightful dessert to conclude the 10-course kaiseki.
The verdict does it worths spending $225 per person plus $110 wine pairing? The answer is Yes. We will go back in a different season without hesitation, looking forward to enjoying another ultimate dining experience.
I hope you enjoy the review of Ishizuka. Bon appétit!
Basement level b01/139 Bourke St, Melbourne VIC 3000