Japanese Gourmet Kenji
Japanese Gourmet Kenji
Kenji Japanese Gourmet
1405 TOORAK RD
I am always interested in mid-range authentic japanese restaurants because in Melbourne it is hard to reach a high level with a medium budget. You can go to fancy places like Koko or Shiranui that offer delicious meals but be prepared to cry a bit when you see the bill.
In this category of mid-range japanese, Shyun (Carnegie) is my No 1. I’ll make a post later on (good excuse to go back there). So when I heard from my japanese friend that Kenji in Camberwell was similar, I was impatient to try.
The ambiance is nice once you’re in the main dining area. I find it weird the way the restaurant is made. You enter through a first room for take-away with an open kitchen and food supplies. Big flaw, the toilets seem to be outside near garbage bins…
Beside this, the main dining area gives a rustic/japanese feeling. I love the sushi counter on the back, it’s like a theatre stage.
The owner welcomed us warmly and staff were always there. We were there early so I can’t tell how well they manage things once they are busy. My kaizen-don came a bit late though, my girlfriend was half-way through her bento box but the manager came to apologize.
Value for money/Taste
Things are a bit more expensive than in Shyun (my reference). Menu is similar (for the warm food menu) but they do have a larger variety of seafood.
The hamburg is the japanese version of a burger/beef patty. Softer than a western one but of course much juicier, this hamburg was not too bad, a taste of japanese fusion cuisine. The bento box on the menu sounded very exciting but when it came in, hum, it’s alright. The croquette was delicious though, it’s like deep-frying a portion of creamy mash potatoes to add this light crispy tempura feeling, really delicious. The rest was average.
Ikura and Uni gunkan maki. The highlights of my friday night!
The sea urchin were pretty good and relatively affordable. However, they were not the freshest I’ve tried. With sea urchins, I feel that the taste of it is extremely sensitive to its freshness. When it’s extremely fresh, you feel like surfing on an wave of an ocean of creaminess (like in Shiranui)! It’s absolutely wonderful. However, as soon as it gets less fresh, a stronger taste like old foie gras kicks in and spoil the whole feeling of sea urchin. Today’s urchins were not bad at all but not the best.
I LOVE IKURA! These salmon roes are like ruby pearls that pop in your mouth as you chew them, delivering an intense and refreshing sea flavor. Beside Japan, I never had the chance to eat such fresh ikura. Other times I ate ikura, they are often soggy and despite having an acceptable taste, they did not this popping effect. This overall disappointment finished today when I had the ikura from Kenji! They are so plump! It’s like a little firework in your mouth constantly releasing a sweet salmon flavor at each pop!
Bad note though: the seaweed used in the gunkan maki was very thick and hard. After chewing and enjoying the first culinary notes of these jewels from the sea, the symphony is a bit spoiled by a hard and thick sea weed taking ages to be dissolved in your mouth.
When I saw this, I was “Wow”, maybe the successor of my Chirashi-don has finally arrived. Very beautiful in colours and the way pieces are “assembled”, it’s really a piece of art.
However, the general feeling was quite disappointing. It was good but it didn’t feel as fresh as in Shyun, you know the feeling of having a nice fresh piece of salmon in your mouth leaving you a nice greasy salmon taste mixed with soy sauce, well I didn’t have it here. It was not bad, but it didn’t reach a stage of nirvana. Uma-ebi good, tuna very acid, shrimp very salty, scallop good. The high price of this good looking kaizen-don is not good value for money unfortunately.
Homemade matcha cheesecake with red bean ice cream
Good match! Really like to taste the bitterness of the green tea cheesecake and to refresh it with the sweet flavour of cold red bean ice-cream.