Could this be one of Melbourne's most underrated Japanese restaurants? In the media and blogosphere, it is often overshadowed by the likes of Kenzan and Shoya, but having dined at the celebrated Kenzan, I must say that I actually prefer Hanabishi. It's definitely one of the best Japanese places I've tried in Melbourne...and one of the most vegetarian-friendly I've ever encountered both here and overseas. This Japanese restaurant has a separate, double-sided vegetarian menu! Score.
My friend and I are big fans of the fresh elegance of Japanese brews, so we started with a Kirin each. These were served with an appetiser: for me, the vegetarian, this consisted of edamame beans.
We then ordered up a storm of mindblowingly good Japanese food. My friend enjoyed meaty dishes of crab, abalone, and a chef's choice sushi/sashimi platter, all of which she said were wonderfully fresh and pure-tasting. Meanwhile, I savoured the rare joy of being able to choose from a broad range of options in a Japanese restaurant...
Agedashi tofu, a staple dish. This was served at the perfect temperature, which was a relief when I have so often yelped in pain from biting into overheated agedashi tofu at Japanese restaurants! The broth and crunchiness-level of the tofu balanced appropriately.
Sushi - of course. There were a few options, but I was in the mood for the vegetable California roll (avocado/cucumber). Again, I can't fault what they served up, as the ingredients were ultra fresh and the sushi rolled nicely.
Next up, "Vegetable Ten Zaru Soba". Cold soba has been one of my Japanese addictions since childhood! This version came with vegetable tempura and the usual dashi dipping sauce. One of the better versions of veggie tempura I've tasted, this was done to crisp perfection and the choice of vegetables very appropriate for tempura cooking. (At other places, I've had tempura which is served too soggy, and it only becomes soggier when you dip it into the sauce!)
And so we come to dessert. This photo says it all - behold, our stunning nine-piece, house-made Hanabishi dessert tasting plate, each and every piece of it absolutely outstanding:
My friend, an avid coffee fiend, particularly loved the coffee pannacotta. We both agreed that the ice cream was a real highlight; it was just "any" ice cream, it was house-made using Pacojet micro-pureeing and the texture was sensationally delicate.
An absolutely golden find for Japanese-loving vegetarians which will keep your meat-eating companions equally happy. Both vegetarians and vegans will be happy here, as they have noted on the vegetarian menu that they can also easily accommodate non-dairy. They also have a separate gluten-free menu. Smiling yet unobtrusive and unpretentious service is an added bonus. Yes, it's fairly pricey, but boy is it worth every penny. A full 10 out of 10 to Hanabishi for the stunning food and the true love they have shown to vegetarians! I shall be back!
Vegetarian Friendliness: 10/10
Price Range: $$$
Price Range: $$$
187 King St.
Melbourne VIC 3000
(Ph): 9670 1167
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