Tempura Hajime

Tempura Hajime, restaurant, South Melbourne.
Tempura Hajime, restaurant, South Melbourne. Photo: Supplied

60 Park Street South Melbourne, Victoria 3205

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Opening hours L D Tues-Fri; D Sat
Features Accepts bookings, Business lunch, Degustation, Licensed, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access
Prices Expensive (mains over $40)
Chef Shigeo Yoshihara
Seats 12
Payments AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 03 9696 0051

An aesthetic Japanese vision lies improbably behind this nondescript South Melbourne doorway. A simply furnished dining area has 12 seats circling a wooden counter, where owner-chef Shigeo Yoshihara works his magic from two oil-filled brass pans. A temple to the art of frying, Tempura Hajime is a singular dining experience that has won acolytes since opening in 2007. And indeed there's something beguiling about being fed one morsel at a time, the only choice being between a dipping sauce with daikon or Murray River salt and lemon. The lengthy tempura roll-call includes a single, perfect prawn; zucchini stuffed with spicy salmon; and a scallop bisected with a piece of nori and sea urchin. The set menu has non-tempura bookends - sashimi and perhaps poached chicken in creamy sesame dressing to start, and sushi followed by cooling yoghurt panna cotta with a splash of Cointreau to finish. All wonderful, but it's the tempura you'll be thinking about for days to come.