Kenzan Japanese

Heard about Kenzan Japanese in the good food guide? It’s been around for a while, it’s a bit of an institution (god, when do we ever escape that word in Melbourne?!) This was my first foray into the dark regions of Collins Place (that’s not supposed to sound dirty) and I wasn’t disappointed. But then again, I wasn’t footing the bill on this one.

The rounds of food went by so quickly and were so varied, it’s actually difficult to remember. Sadly, I don’t think anything stands out in particular, although the quality was very high. Pickled vegetables $8.50 (not so keen on the brussel sprouts, but hey)

Shitake stuffed with prwn and deep fried $20

Tatsuta Age (deep fried chicken) $18. This isn’t usually what we’d order, but we sometimes have non-Japanese-fiends among us (as we did this night) so we have to make concessions. But sometimes it leads you to order something a little different and this was quite a good surprise – very crispy and not overly-battered/deep-fried.

Fish dish – I thought it was mentioned that this was kingfish, although not being a seafood connoisseur myself, I’m not entirely sure. However, it was remarked that it was ‘sweet, soft and delicious’ (not to intentionally add to the random dirty puns in this post).

Gyu Teriyaki  – $35 – was cooked to perfection and it was probably an unexpected highlight.

Really, this was what I was here for. I love a really good display of sushi and sashimi, but we only opted for a small selection. Must say, the salmon and tuna were of very good quailty, but overall I wasn’t wowed. We had to ask for more wasabi too, which is a bit odd.

Well, we got through the meals and finished off with some rather well presented and quite charming desserts – there’s red bean and green tea ice creams as well as a jelly delight which was incredible – can’t recall what the flavours were, but worth a look if you’re up for a dessert!

At about 6pm on the dot (this was pre-football dinner for Dad and a Friday night catch up for the rest of us) the restaurant is completely empty and it wasn’t until we left (well past 8pm) that it actually started to fill up.  The atmosphere is comfortable and on the quiet side, which made it a relaxing dinner experience. The waiters weren’t overly pushy, which tends to get up my goat when you go to some up-market Japanese or Chinese restaurants.

Overall, you can understand why Kenzan keeps its head held high on the good food guide list for many years. However, there isn’t anything here that is spectacular or worth seeking out. Sure, the food was good, but I would certainly hope so when I’m paying up to $70-$80 a head (before drinks) – or even more. Unless it is a special occasion, or a desperation for Japanese up the Paris end of Collins Street, I’d head elsewhere. Although I hear they do rather masterful lunch boxes – priced from $26.50 to $38 – which could be a good option if you’re keen to taste without leaving a burn mark in your back pocket.

Next time, I’d like to try the Shabu Shabu, as I’ve been told that’s a go-er.

Kenzan Japanese on Urbanspoon

Ambience: 9/10
Service: 8/10
Food: 8.5/10 (nothing too inventive, but still exceptionally good quality)
Value for money: 4/10
Score (food is weighted double): 76%

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