During Melbourne’s lockdowns, a number of sublime takeaway sushi services popped up to fill the hole left by restaurants. Aoi Tsuki was one of them, with founders Tei Gim and Jun Pak boxing up fish from a small shop in North Melbourne.

Now the two chefs – whose combined experience spans Shoya, Kisume and Nobu – have spun that lo-fi operation into a definitively hi-fi 12-seat omakase restaurant in South Yarra.

In true omakase (“I leave it up to you”) style, there’s no food menu; no à la carte options. It’s all up to the chefs and what they’re feeling. On the night Broadsheet visited, blue cheese and caviar on chawanmushi (steamed egg custard) was the opening act of the duo’s lively performance.

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Then followed a series of entrees including clam soup; aged bass grouper sashimi with Japanese plum; kingfish sashimi with chilli-vinegar miso; and steamed snapper with Japanese pepper, wasabi and deep-fried alfalfa.

The two chefs gathered everyone’s attention and said: “We will start making the nigiris next, but first, some recommendations. The sushis are already well seasoned, if you do want to add soy sauce, please dip it fish side down. Consume the sushis within 10 seconds. The shari [rice] is a bit loose, so please hold from the bottom of the nigiris and not the middle or top. Chopsticks or hands are both fine.”

After that, they raised their hands and said, “Now, it’s showtime!”

Calling it a show is no exaggeration, with spotlights shining on the two chefs, contrasting with the timber bench and the dark walls with coat hangers. Their comedic banter, teasing each other about who ate the most rice, or wasted the most ingredients during menu research (which is always ongoing) has a touch of Kill Bill’s Hattori Hanzo and his apprentice to it. You can join in – and it only adds to the fun. Ask them why they’re obsessed with nama (raw) sake, or rice wine that has been barely pasteurised.

Be ready to learn and consume an encyclopaedia page worth of seafood – fresh squid, sea urchin, Yarra Valley salmon roe, King George whiting, nannygai (a type of Australian snapper), kinmedai (golden eye snapper), paradise prawns from New Caledonia and bluefin tuna chu-toro (belly) and otoro (fatty belly) from Tokyo. Then there might be a show-stopping blowtorched Wagyu with shaved foie gras.

As the night draws to a close, we’re at dish number 19, with 15 minutes still left on the clock. We finish with a soupy bowl of Inaniwa udon noodles from Akita prefecture, an egg roll to conclude the sushi course, and finally, a shiso sorbet.

“‘Aoi’ means blue, ‘tsuki’ means moon. We hope to provide an experience that you look forward to, once in a blue moon.” Gim and Pak bowed as we gathered our things and exited in unison – just like after a theatre session.

Aoi Tsuki
384 Punt Road, South Yarra
(03) 8394 3617

Hours
Tue to Sat, 6pm and 8.30pm sittings (allow two hours)

aoitsuki.com.au

This article was updated on April 19 to remove a reference to Kenzan.