Update: Melbourne City Council has closed operations of Teishoku Tuesdays. Cheah intends to open a venue in a new location in the near future.

Forget Taco Tuesdays.

Last year, Alex Cheah’s home cooking reached new heights. Spurred on by his mates, who he’d cook for regularly, he turned his skyrise apartment into a Japanese diner called Teishoku Tuesdays.

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The latest entrant into Melbourne’s home-restaurants arena is open just one night a week (take a guess which) for two diners only. And thanks to word of mouth, it’s already fully booked until the end of the year. (Sorry in advance.)

“My friends told their friends and then it just snowballed,” he tells Broadsheet. “I used to use my Notes app to keep a little list, but now I have a whole Google Doc. It’s wild.”

At 7pm on Tuesdays, Cheah meets diners in the lobby of his building – the almost iridescent 160 Victoria Street, Carlton – before all three of them ascend to the 43rd floor.

Stepping out of the elevator and into his tiny one-bedroom apartment, you’ll first be struck by the view of the Melbourne skyline, while Japanese vinyl spins softly in the background and Cheah’s gorgeous Birman cat Miso mills around you.

“Whenever I go to Japan, I’m always in a homestay or bed and breakfast or a really tiny Airbnb,” he says. “That homey, comfy vibe is what I’m going for.”

As you plonk yourself down on a floor cushion, at a Japanese low table illuminated by a playful soy-sauce lamp, Cheah presides over his island bench. He says he’s led by diners as to how social (or not) the evening is. “Eating in silence is fine!”

First up: welcome cocktails, all mixed to order. If you go for the matcha-and-yuzu gin fizz, Cheah will get the mesmerising matcha whisking happening right in front of you.

Then he’ll talk you through the night’s menu, which is all about teishoku – a Japanese set meal of a protein, rice, miso soup and pickles. The main event could be golden, crispy pork katsu or karaage, or dry-brined porterhouse steak with an umami-rich miso and leek puree, which he’s preparing as we chat. Weekly specials could include gyukatsu (deep-fried Wagyu cutlets) or hambagu (a hamburger-like meat patty marinated in soy).

It’s à la carte, and there are more options than you’d expect given the whole two-person thing, but there’s no waste. Whatever ingredients aren’t used on the night, Cheah cooks for himself or his mates during the week, which is how it all started.

The Malaysian-born cook fell in love with Japanese food when his parents first took him to Japan as a teen. Growing up in a small UK town, he was mostly deprived of the traditional stuff, so Teishoku Tuesdays is a way for him to put his passion into practice.

And as far as the restaurant concept goes, “Chae was one of my inspirations,” he says.
If it feels reminiscent of the original Chae in owner Jung Eun Chae’s Brunswick apartment, it’s because it is. Cheah’s a certified fanboy. “I still can’t get a booking – I’ve tried on four or five devices at a time – but I ordered it in lockdown.”

Short-term, he wants to add depth and breadth to the menu, weaving in dishes he discovered on a recent trip to Japan. But long-term, the plan is to open a six-seat restaurant – with a sous-chef.

Until then, though, the waitlist is where it’s at.

Teishoku Tuesdays is fully booked until the end of 2023. Join the waitlist via Instagram DM.

Teishoku Tuesdays
160 Victoria Street, Carlton

Hours:
Tue 7pm–late

@teishokutuesdays