If there’s one thing we know for sure, it’s that Broadsheet Melbourne readers love Japanese food. And, seeing as a raft of exciting new Japanese-inspired spots have opened across town recently, we’ve rounded up 15 of our favourites for you.
• First Look: Hareruya, a sunny Japanese eatery with full-to-the-brim bento boxes and mochi-wrapped gelato. The roller door goes up at 10.30am, and it’s worth getting in early to secure your picnic-ready lunch and Japanese-inspired gelato. (Plus, upstairs is Leonie, the team’s beautiful new sake bar with spectacular snacks like handheld temaki sushi rolls. Keep an eye on Broadsheet for more details.)
• Warabi is an intimate new omakase experience – from a group behind several Michelin-starred restaurants – at the W Hotel. This is its first venture outside Asia. Perch at the counter for nine theatrical courses, expertly paired with sake from across Japan, or commandeer the eight-person private dining room.
• Now Open: Twice-fried tonkatsu is king at Ichi Katsu, Glen Waverley’s lively new Japanese diner. The breaded and deep-fried pork cutlet comes in many different forms – in fluffy katsu sandos, in warming katsu curries, or with rice, cabbage and thick, dark homemade tonkatsu sauce.
• The Japanese art of robatayaki (or fireside cooking) takes centre stage at Brunswick East’s Kura. Tucked unassumingly beneath an apartment building, ex-Kisume and Nobu chef Ken Ibuki is carrying on his father’s legacy with yakitori served every which way and a diverse selection of sake by the glass.
• First Look: Everything revolves around shokupan at South Yarra’s new Japanese bakery Fuumi. Get the pillow-soft milk bread by the whole or half loaf, in a classic katsu sando, or slathered with peanut butter and brûléed banana. It’s an extension of West Melbourne local favourite Fuumi Fuumi.
• In South Yarra, Yakikami is a fiery and flashy (in both senses of the word) new Japanese barbeque restaurant – with dedicated yakitori tables – from the team behind Wagyu Ya and Niku Ou. Push the boat out with the $285 omakase experience featuring 15-plus dishes, including A5 Wagyu tartare topped with caviar and charry Josper-grilled Kobe beef steaks.
• Now Open: Slurp lobster-topped or truffle-infused ramen at Parco, a snug new spot in Moonee Ponds. Di Stasio executive chef Federico Congiu is just as proficient in Japanese cooking as he is in Italian. What started as an under-the-radar lockdown pop-up at Shujinko is now a fully fledged ramen restaurant.
• There are only six seats and three dishes at Uminono, a tiny chirashi bar by a classically trained French chef. Inside a Prahran cafe, it takes just 12 diners a day (and books out fast), but you can try Arnaud Laidebeur’s beautifully presented sushi by pre-ordering a takeaway box. (Get there before it moves.)
• Now Open: Hikari, a new pint-sized Japanese coffee and homewares shop in the CBD. At the minimalist, timber-clad bolthole, sip a mesmerising matcha latte and snack on a Mork cake while you shop a carefully curated range of bespoke ceramics and glassware from Japan.
• Now Open: It’s deluxe sashimi platters and nori Martinis at Ototo, Akaiito’s new underground izakaya. The space was once an extension of the Japanese fine diner on Flinders Lane, but now it’s got its own identity – and menu. Follow the luminous red thread downstairs.
• Heat-and-eat ramen shop Gomi Boys opens a permanent space in Brunswick. Find a rotating menu of seasonal and sustainable bowls, from a broth-served-separate tsukemen with pickled sardines to a vegan mushroom rendition with charred bullhorn chilli.
• Your big brekkie comes in ramen form at Kissaten, a Japanese-inspired cafe in leafy Alphington surrounds. It also does katsu sandos, fluffy omurice and Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki – all from 8am.
• Follow the scent of wood fire to find Mr Miyagi in the Big Smoke – here for a good time, not a long time. Visit for a fire-powered menu of never-before-served dishes (including a theatrical salmon number served in a smoke-filled cloche) with the same playful twists on Japanese cuisine as you’ll find at the original.
• First Look: The bento boxes and chirashi bowls are ready-made at Melbourne’s slick new grocer Pantre. While the offering is pan-Asian, you’ll also find Japanese cheesecake and choux buns baked fresh daily.