Mino

521 Military Rd, Mosman, NSW

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Grilled Duck Breast with tomato based sauce.
Photo: Fiona Morris

I always prefer eating out locally; it creates a comforting illusion of village living and it makes getting home so much more affordable after a few glasses of wine - or sake, as the case may be. So crossing the bridge for a meal is not taken lightly. But, encouraged by friends' rave reviews of this long-standing Mosman restaurant, we take the plunge and head north.

The door opens to an unpretentious room; it is a warm, comfortable space, with soft-yellow walls and perfect lighting, accentuated by flickering tea lights. There are wooden tables and chairs - with padded seats - and a hanging wooden grid on the ceiling.

We are here for the house speciality, the six-course set menu or kaiseki, a food experience that embodies Japanese culture and is traditionally served at tea ceremonies. In essence a tasting menu, each course is made up of several small dishes that balance flavour, texture and appearance.

One of the joys of kaiseki is it speeds up ordering when dining with a group. There are two kaiseki menus: mino (regular) or goshu (seasonal), with a choice of mains and dessert flavours. Many of the kaiseki dishes are available a la carte in larger servings.

The restaurant is full at 7pm but our friendly waitress seats us quickly, takes orders and delivers the sake, along with a basket of sake cups for us to make a selection.

Then the parade of lacquered trays begins. The opening salvo is an aperitif or amuse - a shot glass of plum wine, surprisingly delicious, and not at all cloyingly sweet, offset by a mouthful of tart pickled mackerel.

An appetiser follows on a green-glazed plate with a bonsai serving of octopus and cuttlefish salad sitting in a puddle of sweet miso. Just enough to whet the appetite, it gives a false sense of what lies ahead.

The waitress delivers a third tray, a knockout presentation of three pieces of plump sashimi - tuna, salmon and kingfish - plus two pieces of sushi with a stripe of addictive Japanese mayo and a fresh Pacific oyster raised on a pedestal and bathed in a bright vinaigrette. All four diners agree the kingfish sashimi is a knockout.

When tray No.4 arrives, I start to worry. There are five entrees in individual pottery bowls and plates, all presented like edible art. Included is a strip of grilled ocean perch with a dash of citrusy ponzu sauce, a zucchini flower stuffed with minced prawn and lotus root, and a piece of crunchy deep-fried soft-shell crab beside a tiny mound of green-tea salt.

As the tray is cleared away, I notice the growing pile of small dishes waiting to be hand washed at the far end of the room. Exquisite ceramic plates are not dishwasher friendly.

My main is a piece of Atlantic salmon, grilled to succulent pinkness, with a sweet walnut teriyaki sauce and salad. Others choose the light-as-feather assorted tempura and a spicy miso hotpot of mixed seafoods.

No one thinks there could possibly be room for dessert. Of course, we are wrong. Tray No.6 bears a small dish of ice-cream or sorbet chosen from a range of knockout flavours (blood orange is the table favourite), alongside slices of kiwi fruit and rockmelon. There is also a pot of green-tea panna cotta - comforting and addictive - and a square of soft, dark chocolate dusted with a nutty soybean powder.

Definitely worth crossing the bridge for.

Menu Japanese, specialising in kaiseki, but also a la carte.

Value Very good. Entrees, $14; mains, $24; dessert, $8, six-course kaiseki, $59.

Recommended dishes Kingfish sashimi, grilled salmon with walnut dressing; blood-orange sorbet.

MINO
521 Military Road, Mosman, 9960 3351
Lunch, Sat and Sun, noon-2.15pm; dinner, Tues-Sun, 6pm-11pm
Fully licensed, BYO wine only

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521 Military Rd, Mosman, NSW

  • Cuisine - Japanese
  • Prices - Entree $6-$14, Main $18-$24, Dessert $5-$8, Six-course kaiseki $43-$59 pp
  • Features - Licensed, BYO
  • Chef(s) - Yoshikazu Honda
  • Owners - Yoshikazu Honda
  • Cards accepted - AMEX, Visa, Mastercard, EFTPOS
  • Opening Hours - Lunch: Sat and Sun, noon-2.15pm, Dinner: Tues-Sun, 6-11pm, Bookings essential
  • Seats - 35-40
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A capital restaurant capitalising on the unique character and flavours of the Canberra region.