Having previously lived in London, where everything is available just about all of the time, moving to rural Australia has meant adapting on several fronts (and more than a few moments thinking ‘what am I doing here?’)
For this sushi-holic, living in a town without a sushi restaurant, has been addict behaviour inducing. So, on a recent trip to Melbourne I delighting in feasting at several different sushi outlets. Here’s my guide to the best sushi in Melbourne.
I admit it. I went to a variety of restaurants and ate lots of sushi! Here I have compared a serve of salmon sashimi and a roll in each. One was a restaurant rather than a fast food outlet, some were chains, and others independent. In order to compare the value for money in a meaningful way I have provided a price ‘per piece’ of sushi (each time considering the roll to be one 'piece'), as well as the total price paid in each restaurant and, of course, a quick review of how the sushi tasted.
Akachochin - 33 South Wharf Promenade
Akachochin is a sophisticated but relaxed Japanese restaurant next to the Melbourne Convention Centre on South Bank. It is a short distance from the CBD but is absolutely worth the trip because the sushi is so good! Sushi is one of the many options on the menu and it is freshly made to order. It was quiet when I visited and my sashimi was served within five minutes, with the roll following about five minutes later. Presentation was immaculate.
The sashimi was served in thick, generous slices, on a bed of shredded mooli. The roll contained beautifully fresh salmon and soft avocado. The rice was fresh and fluffy. The roe on the outside was both vibrant and delicately tangy, enhancing the flavours perfectly.
Akochochin was atmospheric and the staff charming. I was also impressed with the price. The sushi was prepared a la carte, excellent quality and offered at a good price for a fine dining restaurant. I look forward to returning and trying more of the menu.
Salmon sashimi (5 chunky pieces)
Salmon avocado roll (the freshest rice and at least 1.5 times the serve at other places)
Total = $25
($2.272 per piece, calculating each piece of sashimi to actually be two as they are about twice the size of those served in the other restaurants).
|Salmon avocado roll at Akachochin, Melbourne|
Yoyogi - 211-213 Swanston Street
Yoyogi is a Victorian chain that operates a handful of shops in and around Melbourne. Their shop on Swanston Street has some seating to dine-in and also has a few seats where you can watch the chefs in action (or watch the world go by), if you need to wait for any takeaway items.
Some may welcome the variety but I was disappointed to only be offered a mixed sashimi plate at Yoyogi. Being a salmon fan, I would have preferred a plate of just salmon sashimi. Oh well, they say variety is the spice of life. There were 15 pieces, which I consider to be a good sized portion. The sashimi was fresh, but some pieces of the salmon had chunky bits (maybe fat?) that I ended up removing, which made eating it less enjoyable.
The salmon and avocado in the roll (which was quite a large roll!) were fresh and tasty. The nori wrap was excellent. It was soft but crisp to bite through. The rice was a bit hard and quite compacted, in that pre-packed and refrigerated way.
The sashimi was presented well but there was a lot of wasabi oozing around in the bottom of the tray, which rather overwhelmed most of the tuna and yellowtail. While wasabi is an essential part of the sushi experience, given the nature of the beast, I prefer to be in control of it!
Mixed sashimi – salmon, tuna, and yellowtail (15 pieces)
Salmon avocado roll
Total = $15.50
(97ct per piece)
|Mixed sashimi and salmon avocado roll, Yoyogi, Melbourne|
Sushi Sushi - 148 Swanston Street
Sushi Sushi is a chain operating across Australia. Their sushi is pre-packed and makes a great fast food option.
15 pieces of sashimi seems to be the norm in the fast food outlets as that is also what I got here, although the salmon fan in me loved that the whole lot was salmon. The salmon was fresh and tender, and I made short work of it!
The salmon and the avocado in the roll were fresh and soft to bite through. The nori wrap was slightly tougher than it should have been. The rice was soft but, again, felt quite densely compacted.
Salmon sashimi (15 pieces)
Salmon avocado roll
Total = $13.30
(83 ct per piece)
|Salmon sashimi and samlon avocado roll, Sushi Sushi, Melbourne|
Nishiki Healthy Hut - 147 Lonsdale Street
Nishiki Healthy Hut is a tiny independent sushi restaurant on the north side of Chinatown. There are a few compact tables to sit at and a small glass cabinet to choose takeaway from. I happened upon it one day at lunchtime.
The sushi was packaged and ready to go. The salmon was juicy and fresh but there was only eight pieces. It was served on a bed of lettuce and shredded carrot. The roll contained a generous portion of salmon and the avocado was soft. The nori wrap was a bit of a chew to bite through.
While overall it was the cheapest sushi fix, and was very fresh sashimi, it was also the smallest portion of sashimi but that might suit modest appetites on a budget.
Salmon sashimi (8 pieces)
Salmon avocado roll
Total = $11
($1.2 per piece)
|Salmon sashimi and salmon avocado roll, Nishiki Healthy Hut, Melbourne|
Sushi Link - 273 Brunswick Street
Sushi Link is either popular with Fitzroy locals or they were ill-prepared the day I rocked up, as they had run out of lots of options when I got there. They had a fridge containing pre-prepared rolls, ready for takeaway, and made sashimi dishes fresh.
The salmon sashimi was cut into slender slices and presented twirled into flower shapes on a few leaves of lettuce. The roll was a tuna roll because the salmon was finished and they didn’t seem keen to make a fresh roll just for me. The tuna was meaty and fresh. The nori was slightly chewy but still easy to bite through. One point that differentiates Sushi Link from many other sushi restaurants is that my sushi was served on a real plate, instead of a plastic tray. Call me old-fashioned, but I like plates!
Salmon sashimi (10 pieces)
Total = $12.60
($1.15 per piece)
|Salmon sashimi and tuna roll, Sushi Link, Melbourne|
Of the sushi outlets that I visited Akachochin was in a league of its own, in terms of both the flavour of the sushi and the quality of service in the restaurant. I was also impressed with the prices. I love eating good quality dishes and leaving restaurants feeling that I have experienced value for the price paid.
The restaurants that I consider to be more fast food-oriented were very similar in price, but I felt (in terms of salmon sashimi and salmon avocados rolls, anyway) that Sushi Sushi offered the best choice, freshness and value. If you need to keep to a tight budget while sating your sushi fix, and are happy with smaller portions, then it is probably worth hunting for small independent shops. The chain stores main benefit is their accessibility. They are often open longer and some have menus online.
A note about Sushi Monger
Before a host of Melbournian sushi munchers all comment outraged that Sushi Monger is not included here... I know they are reputed to have the freshest sushi in Melbourne. I only managed to find it open once during my trip and the queue snaked out the door and along the street. Normally I would consider this an extremely good sign and gleefully join the line, but sadly on this occasion I had a flight to catch. Still, it fills me with optimism and gives me an excellent reason to return and, when I do, I shall update this post!
Do you have a favourite sushi restaurant in Melbourne? If so, please share it with us in the comments!