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Like most people, my mind will conjure up images of bread buns sandwiching a meat patty and veggies when I hear the word ‘burger’. But this is not the case for the burgers at J Cafe. Home to what may be Melbourne’s only SUSHI BURGER, J Cafe prep their burgers with not bread but with sushi rice ‘buns’ and two nori (Japanese seaweed) sheets. As the name succinctly suggests, it’s a sushi in burger form.
For those of you looking for a quick getaway or if the tables in the cosy space are all occupied, a takeaway option for $1 less than the dine-in price is available during the lunch and afternoon hours. We arrived at 6.30pm for dinner on a Thursday night and we were able to easily secure a table for four people in the back area.
Their sushi burger sets offer great value for money and will ensure that you leave the restaurant full.
Spoilt for choice, picking a meal was difficult enough… but then we had to also choose the burger. First world problem, I know! It took a while but we finally managed to place our order.
Our meal sets allowed us to choose between a bowl of miso soup or a canned drink. With the cooler Autumn weather starting to kick in, we all ordered the miso soup.
Ebi fry - deep fried crumb prawn.
I had previously tried the ebi (prawn) mayo sushi burger and loved it. This time around, I was told about the legendary soft shell crab burger and as a result, I couldn’t choose between the two burgers. Solution? Order the prawns as part of the meal set, with a soft shell crab sushi burger. I was disappointed to see what looked like ordinary tempura prawns when the dish was first placed in front of me, but I was in for a pleasant surprise. The batter was the crispiest and crunchiest I had ever encountered. A dip into the creamy mayo and a thick teriyaki sauce, plus a squeeze of lemon juice provided the perfect flavour combinations for the prawns.
Agedashi tofu - deep fried tofu, served in a special dipping sauce.
J Cafe’s reputation for tasty sushi burgers may need to be revised to include other Japanese dishes because their Agedashi tofu was also among the best I have tried to date. The batter on the exterior actually possessed some crunch before softening in the presence of the dipping sauce. The tofu was tender and silky. The serving size was extremely generous. The only thing that would have made this dish even better would be some rice.
Soba salad - Japanese cold buckwheat noodles, with special dipping sauce.
The soba noodles possessed a light but aromatic sesame oil flavour that teased the palate with each bite. This dish is highly recommended if you’re after a light and refreshing selection.
Now for the sushi burgers…
Presenting, (drum roll), the soft shell crab sushi burger.
The burger was made up of the following components: rice patties, soft shell crab, lettuce, teriyaki sauce and tartare sauce.
The word legendary often follows with disappointment when high expectations are not met. While the soft shell crab burger wasn’t bad, it also wasn’t mind-blowingly awesome. The batter on the soft shell crab was crispy but lacked that fine and delicately crumbed texture that is, what I think, a crucial feature of great soft shell crab. Thanks to the presence of two huge dollops of mayo, I thought the rich creaminess and sweetness of the mayo overpowered the crab and rice in the first few bites. The remainder of the burger tasted fine, and the light soy sauce-like teriyaki sauce and brief encounters with wasabi brought out the best of the burger.
Spicy tuna sushi burger.
Now THIS was a sushi burger worth raving about! I have only recently acquired the taste for raw fish but raw tuna had remained on my dislike list. After trying this sushi burger, I may have to reconsider! The fresh-tasting tuna was tender and soft, and the natural flavour of the tuna was spruced up by the perfect ratio of spice to creamy mayo.
If you like sushi as well as burgers, then the sushi burgers at J Cafe are a must-try!
J Cafe Restaurant
167 Exhibition St,
Melbourne, Victoria, 3000.
(03) 9650 9877
Once upon a gym night, when faced with the option of either rushing off for a class that we would have been late for anyway or going out to eat, thehouseofem and I made a very, very wise decision by choosing the latter. Japanese food came to mind almost immediately given its ‘lightness’ (to somewhat compensate for the missed class) and because we were craving it. Win win! A quick search on Japanese restaurants in the area landed us at Chiba in Moonee Ponds.
Its interior was decked out in many elements of black and red.
Upon closer inspection, thehouseofem noticed that one wall was comprised entirely of tessellating chopstick holders.
Complimentary bean shoot salad.
We heard the sound of Japanese being spoken from one staff member to another and thehouseofem took this as a very promising sign.
Agedashi tofu - fried bean curd, served in light soya and ginger sauce, topped with bonito flakes.
It was served freshly cooked and piping hot. The outside coating possessed a texture and taste that was quite similar to tempura batter. The thickness of the exterior was perfectly proportional to the silky tofu interior; it soaked up the right amount of sauce, distributing the gingery soy flavour evenly throughout the tofu, without losing too much of its crispness.
Homemade Japanese croquettes - tasty fish and potato croquettes, served with salad and barbecue sauce.
Delightfully crisp. The pickled carrots provided a nice sour contrast to the well-mashed potato.
Katsu don - crumbed pork cutlet and onion, cooked with egg on rice.
A severe hankering for katsu don was cured from the very first bite to the last. The crumbed layer on the pork was crunchy and served in a generous sea of egg.
Nabeyaki udon - hot thick udon noodles soup served with tempura prawn, chicken, vegetables and raw egg.
The flavours and the warmth provided by the udon made it one very fulfilling, enjoyable and stomach-warming dish. Perfect for winter. The ramen-like soup base wasn’t too overpowering, with frequent bouts of enoki mushroom flavour detectable. Ingredients like shiitake and chinese cabbage added what I thought was a subtle Chinese twist to a Japanese dish.
In the battle between the noodle dish and the rice vying for the title of better-tasting dish, it was too close to call and neither one came out as a clear victor.
Banana tempura - deep fried banana in light batter, served with syrup and vanilla or green tea ice cream. (We forked out for an extra scoop of ice cream so that we could get both flavour options)
The banana tempura was exactly that: banana covered in a lighter-than-usual tempura batter. The cooked banana was soft and mooshy, tasting quite sweet especially in contrast to the slightly savoury batter.
Chiba is one out of only a handful of restaurants that demonstrate good Japanese food is within reach (or a suburb or two away) for west-siders after all. Great dining atmosphere and excellent-tasting food at affordable prices. What are you waiting for?
41 Hall St,
Moonee Ponds, Victoria, 3039.
(03) 9326 0248
Friday 28th October 2011.
Following a long week of staring at a computer screen and giving myself some seriously square eyes, it was nice to put all that uni work aside and hang out with thehouseofem with nary a care. I was in high spirits all day thinking about the nice weather to enjoy hand in hand with some nice food at Maedaya. A few hours later, Melbourne’s weatherman decided to throw a tantrum and the blue sky was gone and replaced with dark and gloomy one. Followed soon by rain. Oh well, there was still the nice food to look forward to…
When we arrived and walked through the door, it was like stepping foot into an actual restaurant establishment in Japan. Chinese people running a Japanese restaurant? No, not here. It truly is an authentic Japanese restaurant! Every time the door opened, you could hear a chorus of ‘Irasshaimase’ ring out. The decor was also very distinct and added to the Japanese vibe.
Refresher towel. Just like in Japan. And also in other Asian restaurants too I suppose…
Huge menu… And very colourful, filled with pictures. EXACTLY like in Japan.
Being here really brought back memories of eating in Japan and made me feel nostalgic and sad. I will definitely go back some day…
Renkon chips with Edamame dip - Sensational sliced lotus root chips, seasoned with mixed herbs.
They go beyond the complimentary bread and offer complimentary lotus root chips with dip. My mum makes a lotus root-based soup at home and I’ve never really like it much. I’ve tried edamame beans before and again, I was not a fan. This dish however tasted delicious. Apparently, not so good + not so good = great? Anyway, I think I will actually have to order a whole serving of these the next time we come back.
On the left: Bridge Connection - their signature cocktail, “Perfect sweet and sour.”
On the right: Kizakura Frozen Sake - Sake & Lime.
I tried a sip of thehouseofem’s Bridge Connection cocktail and it was very sweet and sour indeed, with a strong hint of lychee. Very delicious and a great Spring/Summer cocktail. My drink on the other hand tasted like… soap. Thehouseofem tried it and thought it tasted like… shampoo. I couldn’t get through the drink without pulling a face after every sip and so passed it to thehouseofem. By the end, the drink had grown on her. Someone who was quite possibly the manager/owner walked by our table and asked us how the frozen sake was.
Thehouseofem: It tastes like… uhhh, soap.
He said it in a very shocked and incredulous tone. This alone made me want to laugh and coupled with his distinct Japanese accent, it was made the exchange even more amusing. He went on to explain what was actually in it and there were no traces of soap or shampoo… Just lemonade and sake.
Buri sashimi - rich & tender Japanese Yellowtail.
Maedaya Sumiyaki set - tsukune chicken balls, yakitori chicken thigh, chilli inari bean curd, gyu kushi beef & butakushi pork belly.
My favourite out of the five was the tsukune chicken balls by far. I can’t quite put my fingers on it but the flavours were very aromatic. The pork belly was a little too fatty for my liking, the inari was too sweet (where was the chilli?), the beef was good and the yakitori tasted like standard yakitori.
Scallops and enoki mushrooms in a herbed butter sauce.
I felt the flavours in the dish were a little bit too strong. The butter sauce was too salty and remained so even when eating it with rice. The scallops were very tender though. Being one of the pricier dishes ordered, I don’t think it was worth it and probably would not order it again.
Chicken Namban - deep fried battered chicken with sweet vinegar sauce topped with tartar sauce.
If we weren’t glad to order the extra side of rice after the previous dish, we were definitely feeling it when this dish came out. It was way too much chicken to just eat on its own. The first two pieces were delicious but it was a struggle to eat any more afterwards. The sweet potatoes on the side were good and reminded me of sweetened wedges.
Agedashi Tofu Veggie Ankake - deep fried tofu in soy based broth, topped with sweet soy flavoured mixed veggie.
One word: Tasty. Really good with rice. The tofu was very soft and delicate. The veggies on top were very soft and carried a surprisingly potent soy flavour. The broth wasn’t too salty. It’s definitely a dish to be ordered again.
We were quite full after finishing off all the dishes and were getting ready to leave when the waiter dropped off the dessert menu.
One look at the menu and we stopped prepping to go.
Maedaya Wafu Parfait - green tea & vanilla ice cream parfait with sweet red beans and mixed fruits.
I forgot to mention this before with the cocktails but their strawberries were really fresh with, in their word, the ‘perfect’ amount of sweet and sour. I wonder where they get their strawberries from… Anyway back to this dessert, it was okay. It tasted just how you would expect vanilla ice cream, green tea ice cream and red beans to taste.
Marugoto Lemon Sorbet - 100% fresh lemon & honey.
How adorable is the presentation? The sorbet was placed in an actual lemon with the insides scooped out. I think the picture of this on their menu was what sealed the deal for me. The lemon sorbet itself was very distinct from the sorbet you get at gelati places. It was more icy than ice-creamy. Interestingly the taste reminded me of nandos chicken and when I pointed this out to thehouseofem, the glass shattering effect occurred and she could not think of anything else but nandos after every mouthful.
Maedaya, definitely without a doubt lives up to the rave reviews given by other visitors. From the moment we stepped into the restaurant, it was practically one good thing after another. Even with the dishes that weren’t as good as others, they were mediocre as opposed to bad. On another note, we got to discussing finances at one point and thehouseofem seems to associate the stall in her savings with the number of times and the places we go out to eat. I would like to remind her that we all gotta eat anyway and we might as well splash out a few extra bucks to eat out in ‘style’ :)
400 Bridge Rd,
Richmond, Victoria, 3121.