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Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Tempura Hajime

Pssst… I’ve been deciding whether to write a review of Tempura Hajime since I ate there on Monday. I guess I take comfort in one of the rare opportunities to review a restaurant that no one else has reviewed on the internet as of today! No internet website has even hinted of this restaurant, even the White pages has the name wrong! (Hajimer instead of Hajime).

Recommended by the owners of Tokyo Mart, Tempura Hajime is as discreet as Yu-u. Not surprising as it is the new venture of the former Yu-U owners Daisuke and Noriko. Daisuke wanted to bring back his own experience at a tempura restaurant in Tokyo and at the same time have a small restaurant so that he can chat and get to know his customers. He felt that Yuu was getting too big and too tiring for him.

With only 12 seats in this minimalist restaurant, you can chat to Daisuke to your heart’s content and vice versa.

As you arrive at 60 park street, there is no distinct landmark to suggest that there is any restaurant or retail space. Your eyes however hone in on the soild wooden door (see photo), which seems quietly out of place amongst the opaque glass. Look through the small porthole on the door and you see a neatly written sign announcing that you are in the right place.

Open the door, and you are in a small corridor joining a slate walled room similar the high-end bars in Tokyo. You are then asked whether you would like to sit and have a drink at the bar or to proceed into the dining room. We opted for the dining room. In contrast to the bar, you walk through the sliding door to arrive at a well lit small dining room with a tempura counter (see photo).

There is no a la cart menu, it is a Degustation menu with a small appetizer, tempura seafood and vegetables served fresh from the frying bowl, ochazuke or the dry version of ochazuke, dessert, and tea. Their selection of sakes were limiting but of good quality. We had cold sake with our meal – don't remember which one. Surprisingly filling, we struggled to finish the ochazuke. The apricot yogurt pannacotta was a nice touch to finish off the meal in a happy mood.

I really love the plates and bowls that they use, all from a specialty street in Tokyo, one of the owner’s favourite shopping places.

Don't tell too many people as I want to be able to get a table next time! And if they ask you on the phone who recommended you, tell them “Karen” sent you!

Tempura Hajime

60 Park Street
South Melbourne
03 9696 0051

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