Chocolate Buddha

Chocolate Buddha Article Lead - narrow
Chocolate Buddha Article Lead - narrow 

Federation Square, Flinders Street Melbourne, VIC 3000

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Opening hours Sun-Thurs noon-9.30pm,Fri-Sat noon-11pm
Features Vegetarian friendly
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Masayuki Yoshida
Seats 160
Payments eftpos
Phone 03 9654 5688

Low stools and communal tables replicate the traditional donburi dens of Japan, but the best seats in the house are at the outdoor tables overlooking Federation Square. The place is often thronged, with the kitchen pumping so fast that mains may beat starters to the table. Tempura pumpkin roll is a delightfully fresh take on vegetarian sushi, with shredded beetroot, avocado and lightly battered pumpkin. The soft-shell crab version is another inside-out winner, topped with capelin roe and served with herbed, house-made tartare. Elsewhere, the kitchen subtly tweaks more standard Japanese fare. A tasty, if pedestrian curry might come with arguably too-firm potatoes and slices of tender panko-crumbed pork loin. Silken tofu is just that, with Asian greens, beanshoots and mushrooms. Staggeringly, the bar might be out of both sake and plum wine on the same night, but such shortfalls are offset by the hard work of smiling, charming waitstaff.