60 Park Street South Melbourne, Victoria 3205
|Opening hours||L D Tues-Fri; D Sat|
|Features||Accepts bookings, Business lunch, Degustation, Licensed, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access|
|Prices||Expensive (mains over $40)|
|Payments||AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9696 0051|
Like a dad’s rock radio station, the same golden (fried) hits keep coming year after year at Tempura Hajime, which is stubbornly resistant to new trends. There’s no time for fads, just a dining experience reduced to its essence, right down to the spare and starkly lit room, its 12 seats trained on chef Shigeo Yoshihara and his twin deep friers. Expect to start with a sterling sashimi trio: perhaps kingfish, salmon and gurnard with a piquant plum sauce, the warm-up act before a succession of impeccably light, tempura-battered morsels. They might begin with crisp asparagus and juicy sweetcorn, followed by a whole prawn, before the repertoire becomes more mix ’n’ match. Zucchini slices are sandwiched with chilli and garlic-spiced salmon; a scallop with funky sea urchin; king dory is sheathed in shiso leaf. It always ends with a palate-cleansing shot of plum wine and soda, then a yoghurt jelly dessert with grapes and Cointreau. But, then, surprises are overrated anyway, right?
And … There is a small bar/waiting room if an aperitif appeals.
Best bit Watching a tempura master at point-blank range.
Worst bit The small, austere room will not appeal to everybody.