175 Flinders Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Daily 11am-late|
|Features||Bar, Accepts bookings|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9671 4888|
You could never, ever accuse Japan of doing things by halves on the food front. The same country responsible for minutely detailed tea ceremonies is also inventor of sex robot restaurants. A reverence for minimalist perfection coexists with a love of gaudy excess.
At the Table, the guns-blazing $195 dining experience at Chris Lucas' Japanese leviathan Kisume, it's a little from columns A and B.
Lucas dropped a bomb to create this premium Japanese restaurant, and while there's plenty to be said for doing omakase downstairs at the main sushi counter, it's the 12-seat dining experience, the Table, where the money really talks. Trappings are lavish, from junmai sakes in heavy gold cups and white burgundies in the wine match, to royal blue scampi roe garnishing dishes.
This is kaiseki dining: Japan's answer to the grand tour degustation, comprising 15 courses of top-shelf ingredients dramatically combined. But there is a strong emphasis on hospitality. It pays to know this.
From behind a solid bamboo bar in a velvet-draped space on the second floor, Korean chef K. S. Moon begins a speech that keeps up for what's equal parts dinner and three-hour show. For better or worse, you are going to be here with these 11 other souls and chef Moon's busy-fingered team for quite some time.
Thankfully, it's for the better. As Moon talks kaiseki hospitality you watch his team place fine planks of chicken skin over egg shells filled with warm pearl meat-filled chawanmushi custard.
It's a rich statement of an intent to bring the luxury and theatrics at every turn. Buckle in.
Then comes the dish that's haunted your Instagram. Mud crab, picked and sweet, is bound with creamy uni and served back in the spiny urchin carapace. After, a coffee syiphon filled with feathery bonito flakes transforms broth into a smoky, fishy moat for fine slices of abalone and firm fish tofu.
This is the Table at its best, a no-holds-barred celebration of the best ingredients money can buy, allowed to shine. See especially the fillet of alfonsino. Snowy white with scarlet jacket, the fish is cooked skin down, until it becomes sweet crackling, the fish staying buttery and firm. Around it washes a nori-bolstered broth pinging of earth and sea. It's complexity that reads clearly of just a few flavours.
But is scampi roe, royal blue and pure salty essence of shellfish topping a dish of the sticky raw scampi, oversold by its harsh nori puree?
The vegetable terrine, a pixelated beauty of raw and pickled vegetables set in a gel, is all it looks.
In a triple progression of tuna nigiri the first is a stunningly perfect mouthful of fatty belly, shaved, dramatically, straight from the carcass in fine slivers to drape a small ball of warm, instantly yielding rice. The next is pressed against a smouldering stick of binchotan, bringing out a marshmallow quality in the rich fish. This is dressed with scrapings of the fish for a triple textural hit.
The final piece could have been directed by Baz Luhrmann. Otoro, foie gras, shaved black truffle. It's a mismatch that feels like it is there to justify the spend.
But if the lows involve going over the top, it's a small sin. And it is, to an extent, what Lucas promised Melbourne. The Table is truly a singular experience. It's the rare and expensive.
Coming in as strong, potentially even stronger, is Jonathan Ross with wine matches – nine drinks over the 15 courses, so some do a double act. It's a Veuve Fourny Grand Reserve premier cru to foam around the crab. Jim Barry's '99 riesling straddles scampi and alfonsino. A closing Eiko umeshu, unfiltered and made on yellow plums, is an earthy-sweet revelation.
It's an unrelenting festival that won't quit until you do. We have subtle. The Table adds sparkle.
It's a $195, 15-course progression that won't quit until you do
Pro Tip: Come early for a drink at the Chablis Bar
Go-to Dish: Sea urchin and mud crab