With its striking design, thoughtful baking and selection of next-level teas (all loose leaf, milk-free, hand-selected from around the world by a tea sommelier), South Yarra’s Yugen Tea Bar has placed the very high bar when it opened last year.
But on the face of it, its long-awaited sister restaurant Yugen Dining – helmed by culinary director Stephen Nairn and head chef Alex Yu – is poised to join the tea bar as one of the city’s top food and drink destinations. the region.
The modern Asian restaurant is hidden in the space below the tea bar and divided into two sections. Take a seat downstairs to try the innovative à la carte offerings or take a seat on the mezzanine to enjoy platters of sake and sashimi, Yu’s specialty. (He previously worked under one of Japan’s top chefs in Sydney, Chase Kojima, in Sokyo.)
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Here are six must-try dishes.
Chinese fritter with prawns
Traditionally sliced into crispy triangles coated in sesame, shrimp toast is an instantly recognizable dish. But at Yugen Dining, everything has been redesigned. Shrimp mousse is spread over youtiao (or Chinese donuts), fusing two classics into one iconic bite. It is served with amazu, a Japanese-inspired sweet and sour sauce spiced up with chilli. “I think that will probably become one of our signatures,” Nairn says.
Smoked eel chawanmushi
Also up for Yugen’s best snack is chawanmushi, a delicate and flavorful version of steamed egg custard originally from Japan. “It includes one of my favorite Victorian products – smoked eel – with a rich, deep custard,” says Nairn. To complement the smooth custard base, the dish is finished with browned butter and a piece of fried chicken skin, a playful fusion of taste and texture.
Up on the mezzanine floor, Yu calls on his classic Japanese training with a fresh seafood omakase experience, starting at $178, for just six diners at a time. It will be launched a few weeks after the official opening date. The wildly presented offering will change with the seasons, but on the initial rotation you’ll find Australian-caught bluefin tuna (the king of fish, according to Yu) and much-loved New Zealand goldeneye snapper. . “In Japan, you can’t even touch this fish if you’re [at] a junior level,” Yu says. “We’ll try to get it every day, but if it’s not in season or of quality, I’d rather not serve it.” Chef-selected sashimi platters will also be available on the à la carte menu.
BBQ pork neck
“We were lucky enough to be able to get a custom charcoal pit, so we developed different techniques, from marinating and finishing to cooking and steaming,” says Nairn. One of the developments he is most proud of is the pork neck, which is covered in a ginger and spring onion sauce, plus fermented chili. Nairn says it pairs well with a cold beer or a carafe of sake, although Honest Egg Fried Rice also makes a suitable accompaniment.
Shio-koji marinated wagyu
“I really like the textures and the flavor of this,” Yu says. “It gives a really strong grilled smoke like when you go Korean BBQ.” Made with 9+ marbled Wagyu, which is widely considered the top of the range, the meat is marinated in shio koji (a fermented grain mixture) to give it the perfect seasoning and break down the proteins, resulting in a product extra-tender finish. . Like pork neck, it is also cooked over charcoal and seasoned with tarragon ponzu and lime to serve.
Strawberry ice cream with charred mochi and matcha
While pastry chef John Demetrios handles most of Yugen’s sweets, Nairn and Yu have developed three exclusive desserts just for the restaurant. Find a silky chocolate delight with roasted soy caramel and yuzu; hot sticky rice with barbecued mango and passion fruit; and Yu’s top pick, a playful version of strawberry mochi ice cream. “The mochi is simple to enhance the strawberry flavors,” Yu explains. “It has this rice cake texture, so it’s a bit chewy, but then we give it a light flare and pair it with matcha. “
Yugen Dining will open at 605 Chapel Street, South Yarra October 14.
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