Despite being inside a bustling shopping precinct in Melbourne, Calia’s chic décor somehow makes you forget the busy department stores and swarms of customers pulsating around you.

The Japanese-focused restaurant-to-retail store – which has a part-dining, part-grocery offering and was founded by chef Francisco Javier Araya – opened its second location on Chadstone’s ground floor.

From the layered puff pastry mille-feuille with purple sweet potato crème, to the kombu-dashi-braised abalone ceviche, Mauritian-born executive chef Kerry Lam (ex-chef de cuisine at Calia Emporium) knows what makes Calia’s offering something special.

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We asked the chef to pick what he thinks are the five most notable dishes at Calia.

Scallops and caviar
Seafood plays a big part on Calia’s menu, because “it’s a big item on the Australian table”, Lam says. For starters, the Scalloped Sakuru is a refreshing entree. “It’s a very fresh, light appetiser, clean on the palate,” he says. “We have the sweetness of the scallops, the softness of the texture, so we don’t need to cook any of it.”

The scallops are from the Hokkaido region of Japan and accompanied by a tangy soy and citrus ponzu dressing. It’s served freshly sliced, like sashimi, with micro herbs and Yarra Valley Caviar, which is hand-milked yearly from Atlantic salmon.

Tasmanian Wagyu
Wagyu is synonymous with Japanese cuisine, and at Calia diners can taste an A5-graded Wagyu (the highest mark in the Japanese ranking system of Wagyu – it is considered the Rolls-Royce of beef) flown in from Japan alongside Australian Wagyu from Robbins Island in Tasmania. “It’s bred close to the coast, and sometimes they walk along the beach in low tide,” Lam says. “It’s got a very specific taste; a bit of the saltiness is in the actual meat.”

For their Wagyu bowl, the delicate meat is grilled to medium rare then sliced thinly and served on Akitakomachi rice with a soy-garlic glaze. “It’s pretty much like a donburi,” he says. “With an onsen poached egg – cooked at 63 degrees – to complement the whole dish.”

Torched salmon
Rather than being served as sushi, the aburi salmon comes in a bowl at Calia. “It’s torch flamed, thinly sliced salmon on Japanese rice,” Lam says. “It’s one of our bestsellers here. Everyone loves salmon in Australia.”

Preparation wise, the skill is in slicing the often-Tasmanian-sourced salmon to precisely two millimetres thick. It’s then lightly marinated in soy sauce for no more than half an hour before being seared so as not to overdo the flavour.

It’s dressed with Calia’s “secret” sauce of mirin and soy sauce, then served with wasabi, ginger, pickle, a little bit of seaweed and a sprinkling of ikura red caviar from the Yarra Valley. “It’s sweet and a bit spicy because we do use a bit of shichimi chilli powder,” Lam says.

Rare tuna
Toro is the rare and popular underbelly part of bluefin tuna. Like Wagyu, it’s graded based on its fatty marbling. “The fat muscle in-between the meat makes it so tender,” Lam says. “It’s a very delicate, limited section of the tuna, hence why the price is quite high.”

It has a very distinctive, “iron-y” taste to Lam. “Plus, the belly is even fishier compared to salmon or kingfish.”

Calia gets the toro flown in from wherever the climate is coldest in Japan. “The colder it is, the better it is,” Lam says. Served in a bowl with rice, the toro is thinly sliced, brushed with sweet nikiri sauce and finished with tuna tartare, soy sauce and chives. Commonly served sashimi style, it was important not to venture too far from the norm. “As a modern Japanese restaurant we didn’t want to go away too much from the classic,” Lam says.

Matcha Lava Lava
This signature dish is worth the 25-minute wait. The Japan-sourced powdered tea is combined with white chocolate to make a ganache to sit inside a dark-chocolate almond-meal cake.

The gluten-free dessert is a delicate balance between cooked and moist. “The consistency has to be right from the start,” he says. “It’s baked for 15 minutes and served with green-tea ice-cream. The ganache is still soft and runny by the time you cut it. You’ve got a bit of the bitterness of the green tea, and sweet with the white chocolate.”

Next time you’re in Chadstone, make sure to take some time out and treat yourself. (Hot tip: if you’re looking for some privacy, get amongst the greenery in Calia’s al fresco dining area.)

This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with Chadstone - The Fashion Capital.