14 Inkerman Street St Kilda, VIC 318203 9534 5000
|Opening hours||Tue-Sun 5pm-late|
WHERE AND WHAT
Inkerman Street: an address that's gone from abject to gold-plated in a terribly small number of years. Now newcomer Machi joins the likes of the Newmarket and Mr Wolf at St Kilda's dining central. The latest restaurant from chef Tatsuya Yamazaki, who has cooked at Aya, Chocolate Buddha and his own Port Melbourne joint Moshi Moshi, Machi is a smart-casual Japanese establishment with a confident style and a few welcome curve-balls in its repertoire.
WHERE TO SIT
It's corporate slick - slate grey with red highlights, a bar breaking up the broad room, an open kitchen and some seating along the sushi counter. Grab a table in the window if you can; the St Kilda streetscape is always good for a gander.
A short international wine list covers a broad sweep of price points; there's quirky tasting notes for some, little information available for others. Japanese beer extends to Asahi and Echigo rice beer, and there are five cold and five warm sakes from which to choose.
This is a menu unafraid of the tried and true - fat pork gyoza, agedashi tofu with bonito, a busy tuna tataki topped with a fresh blizzard of finely chopped daikon - executed with the confidence such ubiquity demands. Frying makes up an important component of the izakaya-style starters: a generous tumble of quality tempura prawns with tails for handles and a spicy mayo for dipping; chicken karaage with green tea salt and the house tartare, the Japanese ''fish'n'chip'' tempura made with Asahi batter. The extremes of the Japanese oeuvre get a good run: nasu dengaku - grilled eggplant with a thick, umami-laden miso sauce - is as rich and oily as the green vegetables in ginger-fragrant broth is clean and restorative. The slow-cooked lamb is the signature dish - braised in soy, with bok choy and green beans, this fall-apart beauty (definitely a sharer) is the Nippon answer to Cumulus' lamb shoulder. Desserts head down a path that might not be as inspiring - green tea ice-cream or brulee.
On a rainy Wednesday night, there's a couple engaged in amorous displays over their spider rolls, a trio of workmates, and a few families.
It's the new-wave model of the approachable Japanese restaurant.