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