September 7, 2010


137 Flinders Lane
Melbourne, VIC 3000
(enter from Oliver Lane)
(03) 9639 7073
Food: Japanese, Set Lunch Box

I haven't done a post on Japanese food in a while, so there is no better way to break the drought than with a visit to the iconic and delightful Yu-U. Restaurant critics and food bloggers alike have described this tiny haven as  one of Melbourne's best hidden gems, with its underground basement location, zen-like ambience and  sleek concrete and hardwood fixtures. The eatery's front entrance is also notoriously hard to find - just look out for a steel, rich-maroon rose coloured door, blemished with messy black graffiti. A small, framed sign to the right of it reads "Yu-U" in Japanese.

Yu-U's reputable set lunches are a steal at $18, served on a tray with your choice of main, alongside the day's 'small dish', a steaming hot bowl of miso soup, rice, pickled vegetables, condiments, a piece of fresh fruit and a pot of earthy Japanese green tea. At night, it is also absolutely necessary to make a reservation, with tables usually booked out from at least a week in advance. However, all this fuss really is worth the effort - the food is unpretentious, yet mind-blowing, reinforcing classic Japanese flavours with a delicate, modern twist.

The last time I dined here was before I bought my new camera, so please excuse the slightly blurred images taken in the restaurant's dimly-lit setting.

Natural Oysters with Ponzu Dressing - these little morsels tasted so clean and fresh

Scallops and Mushrooms in a Butter and Soya Sauce - they literally oozed of sweet, robust juices with every mouthful

Pork and Cabbage in a Light Teriyaki Dressing

King George Whiting Tempura - we were very impressed with how moist the whiting was, coated with an incredibly crisp and fluffy batter

Yaki Onigiri - crispy char-grilled rice patties with a soft and glutinous centre and basted with a tangy soya sauce

Nasu Hasamiage - deep-fried eggplant with a central minced chicken layer, finished off with freshly grated white radish and a light soya dressing

Wagyu Beef and Spring Onion with Teriyaki Sauce - I generally don't enjoy eating spring onion, but surprisingly loved the bitey texture of it in this dish, wrapped with delicate slices of tender, caramelised Wagyu beef

House-made Creme Caramel - syrupy, sticky and seriously good.

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