Thursday, 30 August 2007

The Japanese Nonna

Mum Kaasama makes a lot of claims. The name itself hints at a mother's homestyle cooking. Italian restaurants have been priding themselves on this for years, it's only fair that the Japanese restaurants in Melbourne get in on the market. The menu also makes a play for the other end of the market with several references to organic produce. I imagine that goes down well in Albert Park. The owners also take every available opportunity tout the authenticity of the fare. They wants you to be secure in the knowledge you will not be served bastardised versions of Japanese food and that this is the real deal. Personally the authenticity was cast into doubt somewhat when I discovered that the 7 course menu, while reasonably priced at $45, is devoted to a certain restaurant reviewer. I think I’ll be ordering à la carte tonight.

Although the food may be authentic, this Albert Park terrace house is highly unlikely to be mistaken for an Osaka dining establishment. Nevertheless this small Japanese restaurant is charming with its lush green courtyard and terracotta tiled interior. Although the décor is far from fussy there are some lovely details such as antique kimono silk table runners made by the owner’s mother. On an unseasonably warm night offering a hint of summer, it’s rather delightful to situate yourself on the bamboo tree lined terrace with a drink while you peruse the menu.

The beverage list deserves comment with a diverse range on offer and no shortage of reasonably priced wines by the glass. We opt for sake and plum wine. The food, however, is mixed and it quickly becomes evident that this restaurant’s strength lies in the freshness of its produce. The most enjoyable experiences are found in the simpler dishes such as the sushi and sashimi platters. Particularly remarkable is the blue eye sushi perfectly dressed with lemon, wasabi and sea salt. Simply brilliant. The quality of the fish is exceptional although the vegetarian roll accompaniment is less successful and almost indistinguishable from your standard workday bento box offerings. The dish is lifted somewhat by the homemade soy although we are firmly counselled against partnering it with the perfectly seasoned blue eye.

My dining partner has a particular fondness for the gyoza and while reasonably priced and rather moreish, they are far from unforgettable. We also share a plate of okonomiyaki, or Japanese pancake. It is overly sweet for my taste although the texture is an absolute pleasure.

The dessert offerings are limited and slightly overpriced given the simplicity of the dishes and ingredients. We share a bowl of green tea ice cream with red bean garnish. Given my fondness for this particular flavour I am disappointed to find it to be too subtle on this occasion. We also sample a pair of pan-fried glutinous rice cakes with an intriguing dusting of sweet and savoury flavours. They are delightfully chewy and simply delicious.

This being the first evening warm enough for al fresco dining magnifies my enjoyment. Although not the best Japanese food on offer in Melbourne, it’s a wonderful place to linger over a second glass of plum wine on a warm evening.

Mum Kaasama
315 Montague Street
Albert Park
Ph: 9696 0117
Tues-Sun: lunch midday-2.30pm; dinner 6pm-late.


Amanda at Little Foodies said...

I love your restaurant reviews, even if there's no possibility of me ever eating there.

Wendy said...

It's funny how much a person forgets. i can remember the name of dishes like okonomiyaki and other things I tried in Japan but I can't really remember the taste.
Quite envious you have Japanese restaurants which serve such food. Think my closest option is a sushi bar in Edinburgh - 140 miles away!

JennDZ - The Leftover Queen said...

Looks yummy! I love sushi and the ones pictured here are beautiful! The green tea ice cream doesn't look so bad either!

The Cooking Ninja said...

The food looks delicious. Sorry that it wasn't up to standard. We have the same problem here in Nantes. We can't find a good Japanese restaurant.

Anh said...

Truffle, I am in the mood for some Japanese too! Thanks for the review. I must come and try the meal you mentioned...

I have booked in for Kenzan next week. Will be $$$ but I hope it is still as good as I remember! :)

IronEaters said...

the first thing i saw at this post is the pic and i thought "hm, wats that?" =) is that the okonomiyaki?I haven't been to this restaurant but from your review, sounds like its a good place for sushi and sashimi platter..

Truffle said...

Amanda- thanks so much! I wish you could head over here for a visit sometime.

Wendy- There's no shortage of Japanese restaurants here but there are only a couple of exceptional ones. I'm envious of your visit to Japan. I'd love to go there!

Jenndz- The platter was lovely and the green tea ice cream is always a lovely way to end a meal.

The cooking ninja- It's tough to find really great Japanese, isn't it? Oh well, I'm happy for an excuse to sample a few more places in search of the best.

Anh- Kenzan? You lucky thing! I hope you manage to review it. I'd love to hear about your experience.

Tabakta Lezzetler... said...

supposedly it is very nice

Cynthia said...

I'm like Amanda (Little Foodies), I enjoy restaurant reviews even if there's no possibility of ever eating there.

I like the new header and the shade of blue is inviting and calming.

Truffle said...

Tabakta Lezzetler- it got reasonable reviews but I thought it was unfortunately far from outstanding. Thanks for reading :)

Cynthia - thanks so much Cynthia. I'm glad you enjoy them!

Nora B. said...

It's warm enough here for alfresco dining too. :-)

I have an award for you. Details are on my blog. Have a good weekend!

Anonymous said...

Excellent review (as we've come to expect). I do, however, take exception with the extent to which you've extrapolated some obsession with gyoza from my mere fondness!

Nevertheless, great photos and great words, as always. As an aside, I thought the subtlety of the green tea ice cream a strength, rather than a weakness. The home-made soy was also noteworthy.

Truffle said...

Nora B. - thank you so much! That's really lovely of you :)

"Anonymous"- I do recall you saying the gyoza were the best you'd ever eaten. Agreed on the soy. Thanks for putting up with my photo habit xx

Kelly-Jane said...

I enjoy your reviews too, it's like seeing a bit of the world :)

ayseyaman said...

Hi Truffle
I will order some Japanese food tonight, too. :)
I like your Japanese restaurant "home-style reviews.
I think you like travelling and diffirent tpye food so don't miss the Turkish Night! :)
Thanks for sharing!

Truffle said...

Kelly-Jane - I'm so glad you enjoy them!

ayseyaman - I hope you enjoy it! Thanks for reading :)

Big Boys Oven said...

Looks so superb.... a definitely a restaurant that I will drop by if I am there.

Susan said...

Nice review, Truffle. Too bad about the green tea ice cream. It is one of my favorites, too, but not when the flavor is pallid. I suspect they did not use the ground tea powder, or not enough of it. Does look beautiful, though.

Truffle said...

Big Boys Oven - it's a bit of a mixed bag and a little pricey but certainly has its good points.

Thanks Susan. I recently bought the green tea powder so I can start making my own. Very excited.