Calia Japanese @ Emporium Melbourne @ Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Charlie & Co. dined as guests.
Wednesday 15th November

Tonight we're delighted to be dinning at Calia in the Emporium, a Modern Japanese restaurant with menu designed by Michelin Star Chef Francisco Javier Araya

Fun Fact - Did you know that we don't have the Michelin Guide? Instead Australia does Chef's Hats.

Opening as a new 'restaurant-to-retail space' in February, Calia is one of the firsts in Australia. Basically it's a restaurant with a shop where you can buy some pretty awesome ingredients and ready to eat food, something from the pantry to freezer. But more on that later.

Over to the restaurant, a modern minimalist design of clean, aesthetic marble served as the perfect backdrop for a range of beautiful, fresh and delicious dishes we sampled across the evening. We're snacking on these awesome 'caramelized purple sweet potato crackers' which I'm going to buy a pack of. Sorry didn't get a close up. 

Given free reign on the menu, we didn't know where to start! Drinks would be a good idea. There really was something for everyone, from coffee by Seven Seeds, cold pressed juices to teas and matcha drinks by Calia. There's sake and wine too.

Iced Matcha
I had the iced matcha latte which was slightly more bitter than preferred, though not as bitter as Rustica. Great with a scoop of ice cream. Not too sweet, I would have preferred a bit sweeter being a sugar addict. I'll ask for more sugar next time.

Iced Chocolate
Andy was my +1 tonight and he had the Mork iced chocolate 70%. Darker than he preferred but it's the perfect blend I find between too sweet and too dark, it's right. Even better when it's blended up with ice. 

This isn't all the space by the way. 

Short speeches happened, Calia was announced as a Zomato ambassador in Melbourne! One of the two. We heard from  tonight’s head chef was ex-Koko chef Kerry Lam, an expert in Japanese cuisine; about the restaurant, its concept and focus on sustainable and ethically sourced produce.

Umami Fries - The Sixth Sense of Flavour

First to arrive were the fries, a huge serving even between four. The picture on the website seems to be very light on seasoning, unlike what we were served. I heard they were to die for, though found them unremarkable other than being french fries which I love. The seasoning I'd expected to be amazing after the hype, but no.

On the menu there are... 3 entrees, 10 mains, 3+ desserts (3 on the menu + Bibelot selections). The advantage of dinning in a group is that you can order a range of dishes to share, rather than just the one! And so we started with entrees, all three.

Scalloped Sakura
Freshly caught scallops dressed in a delightful wasabi ponzu sauce

Super fresh with a light citrus-based dressing that was just right. 
Beautifully presented, this is the entree to order.

The King - Alaskan king crab claw baked in miso mayonnaise

I loved the way it was presented upon black pebbles, and the cheesy tasting miso mayo. Unfortunately the crab itself was a bit crumbly and on the dry side. 

While I didn't eat everything we took photos of, we tried most. 

Kinoki Bowl (v)
A varietal mix of mushrooms comprising of tofu, shiitake, fried enoki, shiso. 
Drizzled with black truffle oil and a hint of ume.

This was the one vegetarian dish on the menu - and so if you're not vegetarian this is not the place for you. There are so many beautiful beef and seafood dishes on the menu. 

Chirashi - A selection of fresh, sustainably caught sashimi

Pretty fresh, I would have liked to serve this with a wedge of lemon. I do love sashimi, though don't see it happening on rice, at least without a sauce that could overwhelm the fresh sashimi. I'd get this without the rice and serve it as an entree. 

The Toro Bowl - Tuna belly glazed with suki sauce and tuna belly tartare

I wasn't really a fan of this one, as it wasn't really my style and was paler in comparison to all the amazing dishes we tried. Most of the dishes were much more saucy, but if you're after something light this could be it, or the next dish.

Aburi Salmon - Flamed seared salmon topped with ikura and our secret CALIA sauce

Another favourite, it had that perfect flavour balance. Fresh salmon with a teryaki-like but not sauce, thinly sliced on rice with red pickled ginger and wasabi.

The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl
Premium Marble 9+ wagyu slices with a 63° egg

Juicy and tender beef with a light seasoning, it was quite good. Oh wow that onsen egg is amazing, the same one you find in ramen and just suck off the spoon (slurp without the sound? - word this better). The egg was runny and beautiful! You can actually make this one at home, as the recipe is online shared the chef. 

Some of the mains we tried.

Calia Wagyu Bowl
Our chef’s selection of single origin premium grilled wagyu with a 63° egg

The other beef bowl on the menu and chef's favourite it's not hard to see why. Everything about it was perfect. Yes it is different from the first beef bowl, in that the flavours are quite different. Juicy and tender it was simply unforgettable! Served on a bed of rice.  I would say the best beef dish I've ever had! Along with in the other beef dish. The marinade had a perfect balance of sweet and salty, with the use of mirin, salt, sugar and soy. The classic Japanese marinade/dressing (ok there is a word for this). The rice had its own sauce, which made it a tad bit salty. Easily balanced with a fresh salad. We need to order a salad. 

At $34 this is one of the two more pricey menu items, most mains are around $20 except this one, the sashimi and toro bowl.

This and the salmon bowl are my top two favourites. We'll be back for birthday dinners!

Struggling to fit it all in the table! These were the five dishes we shared.

Hojicha Latte

Like a chai latte but with more of that nutty brown rice flavour. - Nicole (@feedblogspot)

If you're a matcha fan you're in for a treat! Two out of three desserts on the menu are matcha things. There are also desserts from Bibelot in the cabinet.

Hokaaido Chizukeki - Our take on the Hokkaido cheesecake with Yuzu jelly

A light and fluffy moist spongy cheesecake, lighter than my last cheesecake (last night at Tetsujin) it paled compared to the matcha themed desserts. Though I do love the stuff around it, that crushed pistachio, freeze dried raspberry, jelly crumb. And a tiny cube of yuzu jelly, so small but intense! There needs to be a link between the cheesecake and jelly, because one is too vanilla and the other intense. 

Matcha Mia Tiramisu

A perfect match of mascarpone xx matcha cream, ladyfingers, 
freeze dried raspberries and chocolate drenched in coffee.

A crowd pleaser, the matcha was quite strong though not bitter, I couldn't taste the coffee myself. But this would delight any creamy dessert lover. 

Matcha Lava Lava
A rich enticing chocolate lava cake oozing warm matcha ganache, it’s divinely decadent. Order this one with your mains, as it takes 25mins to make.

I heard if you're a molten/lava cake fan you mightn't like this variation, as you're expecting chocolate rather than matcha. But I quite liked it, a warm moist chocolate cake filled with matcha filling, but it's not too sweet, served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream. Not too rich, just right. I'm not really a molten chocolate upon chocolate fan, but I've got matcha madness!

Someone else said... "The Matcha actually taste like legitimate Matcha. Not overly bitter or overly artificial sweet. The slight bitterness of the liquid Matcha is balanced by the sweetness of the green tea ice cream." Perfectly said.

Everything was delicious and we had a lovely time tonight.

Will we be back? Yes! To eat and shop. We'll be ordering the Calia beef bowl for sure, the salmon, the scallops and lava cake. I heard they do fancy coffee art for matcha latte! Like Hello Kitty, Pokemon & Totoro! As it's a bit more than we normally spend we'd dine at Calia for a special occasion, though still affordable for fine dinning.

Should note that they don't really don’t take bookings, rock up and get your name on the list. Also due to location they have shopping center hours: 10am-7pm Monday-Wednesday and on weekends, and until 9pm on Thursdays and Fridays.

Have you been to Calia? 

Calia Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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