Takumi Japanese Restaurant
32 Bourke Street, Melbourne VIC
(03) 9650 7020
Prices: Snacks $3.80-$8.80, entreés $5.80-$18.80, grill items $3.80 (piece of vegetable) – $35.80 (best steak), dessert $4.80, $40 pp minimum charge on Friday & Saturday
Parking: Along Bourke Street or Spring Street
Takumi means ‘connoisseur’ in Japanese and their website says they are Melbourne’s only wagyu beef specialist. Their speciality is the smokeless sumibi yakiniku (charcoal grill) & wagyu. Wagyu has become quite common nowadays, but for those of you who don’t know, wagyu refers to several breeds of cattle genetically predisposed to intense (fat) marbling, meaning that the meat from these cows is more tender due to the (good – monounsaturated) fat content. The higher the score of marbling, the more expensive the meat. “Wa” means Japanese and “gyu” means cow.
Jeroxie suggested that we try Takumi for our first meet up, so hubby and I went along to meet Jeroxie and Mister one Friday night. There are 2 sittings on a Friday night – 6pm or 8pm. We chose the earlier one and the host seemed to rush us at the beginning, though we didn’t leave til almost 9pm.
Takumi is a smallish restaurant near the Spring Street end of Bourke Street. It was only opened at the end of last year so the interior is very ‘woody’ and modern. In the middle of each table is the smokeless grill, which starts off covered up while you have your entreés.
Takumi has 3 set courses available, Set A for $45, Set B for $68 or Set C for $90. The more expensive you go, the more food and the better cuts of meat you get. Our host told us not everyone has to order the same set, so to maximise the amount of different things we could try, we decided to go with the one Set A, one Set B and a variety of other dishes.
I felt sorry for our partners, having to wait until both Jeroxie & I finished taking photos of everything before they could start eating! I’ll list the dishes in the order I took the photos since pretty much everything came at once.
Both Set A and Set B came with a small serve of edamame (boiled soy beans) and kimchi (though on the menu it was labelled kimuchi). As I mentioned before, I am a chilli weakling so I stay away from kimchi!
The salmon carpaccio came part of Set B and was 4 thinly sliced pieces of raw salmon. This is also available on the ala carte menu as a bigger serve. The salmon was topped with a slightly sourish sauce which matched the raw salmon well. The salmon was sliced so thinly, it almost evaporated in the mouth!
The scallop sashimi, while extremely fresh, was not really my cup of tea. I get no joy from eating raw scallops – I find them rather tasteless. They seem to develop a much nicer flavour when cooked, or at least seared on the outside.
The ‘Takumi special’ came part of Set A and Set B and was thinly sliced wagyu fillet lightly seared on the outside, much like beef tataki. The finely diced onion on top of each piece complemented the meat well, though the meat lacked the marbling typical of wagyu. It was still very soft.
I have never really liked cold soba (buckwheat noodles) in the past because the times I have had it, the noodles were tasteless. However, this soba with the salad and sesame sauce was delicious! The noodles were cooked well and the accompanying sesame sauce had a lovely creamy and nutty flavour without a nutty texture.
One of the things that caught my eye on the menu was the traditional Japanese wagyu beef stew. Can you imagine anything better than already tender wagyu beef being cooked as a stew so it is even more tender?! It lived up to my expectations too – the sweet and salty marinade was divine and the beef just melted in your mouth like a good stew should. Jeroxie and I were commenting that we would come back next time just to have the stew and a bowl of rice!
While I like beef tataki (thinly sliced raw beef that has been lightly seared on the outside), eating chunks of raw meat is high up on my ‘No, thanks’ list. The thought of eating raw minced beef in steak tartare, especially mixed with a raw egg yolk makes me cringe. On the menu, the dish below was described as beef mince, but it was actually raw beef mince, with yep, you guessed it, a raw egg yolk on top!
Everything at Takumi so far has been extremely fresh, so I embraced my new found ‘will try almost anything once’ motto and took a bite of the raw beef. It was more like very thin strips of beef rather than actual beef mince, which made it easier to stomach, and I actually quite liked it! The beef had a nice sweet marinade so there was none of the stinky beef (or raw blood) I am afraid of. The egg yolk was also very fresh and gave the beef a rather nice creaminess.
My new found ‘will try almost anything once’ motto was further embraced by trying sea urchin for the first time. I came to know about the round black prickly sea creature known as sea urchin from my many years of watching Iron Chef so I was somewhat excited about finally tasting it. The sea urchin was on the specials menu and the host was explaining to us that Takumi’s sea urchin is fresh and does not have any preservatives so we will not get any of the bitter taste you may find at other places.
The sea urchin is an orangey-yellow colour and from the outside, it looks a bit like a human tongue with the “hairy tastebuds”. Once it goes in your mouth, it almost melts away as it is so creamy. It has a rich but not overpowering, fishy taste – I really liked it! If I had to describe what it tastes likes, it is sort of like a very fresh piece of fatty salmon belly.
After we finished our non-grill dishes, the waitress came to clear the empty plates and opened up the charcoal grill in the middle of the table. The smokeless grill really did wonders because it meant there wasn’t the need for an exhaust fan hanging over the table and our clothes didn’t smell like we had been bathed in barbecue!
The meats in Set A were Karubi cut (oyster blade) 50g, Harami (tender meat) 50g and Jo rosu (premium porterhouse) 50g. The meats in Set B were Jo karubi cut (premium oyster blade) 50g, Jo tan (premium tongue) 50g and Jo rosu (premium porterhouse) 50g.
Set B came with one baby abalone (awabi) and some scallops to grill, so we ordered another baby abalone so both couples could try it. The baby abalone wasn’t very nice. It was so rubbery, but that might be because we overcooked it.
Both sets also came with vegetables for you to grill yourself.
We were given a piece of meat fat to smear over the grill to ensure that things didn’t stick, but they still did anyway! The grill also got very hot so things cooked very quickly and a few pieces of pumpkin even got burnt and started singeing!
Another special which our host sold us on was the short rib meat for the grill. It is one of the best cuts because it contains a lot of marbling and best it was! The fat was incredibly rich but it made for such a tender and tasty piece of meat. My tip would be to start at the lowest grade of meat first and work your way up to the best – none of the other meat would have been able to match this short rib and after eating this, you won’t want any other meat!
Both sets came with a pudding plus an ice cream (which we could choose), but there were 3 flavours of ice cream so we ordered another set. The pudding turned out to be a little jelly type thing with what tasted like an almond paste centre and it was no bigger than a Lindt ball! The ice cream was yum, with my favourite being the black sesame.
Maccha pudding – green tea pudding & ice cream – as part of Set A
Azuki – sweet red bean ice cream (2 scoops) $4.80
Overall: We were worried that it wouldn’t be enough food as the meat portions are quite small for the price, but it turned out to be more than enough. We all enjoyed the food and it was of a high quality – everything was very fresh. The smokeless grill in the centre of the table is a fabulous idea – no stinky charcoal smell on the clothes!
Must try dishes would be the wagyu beef stew, the sea urchin and the short ribs. My least favourite would be the scallop sashimi.
Would I return? Yes. It was on the expensive side so I wouldn’t go frequently, but I would like to try their lunch bento boxes.
Over & Out, Rilsta xx