We’ve said it before but omakase is really having a moment in Melbourne. Yugen’s has proven so popular, in fact (it sells out within minutes of reservations opening), the restaurant has launched a second omakase experience today – at Yugen Tea Bar upstairs – to accommodate the huge demand.
Hosted from Wednesday to Sunday each week, Nidaime (which translates as second) is an abbreviated, experimental approach to the Japanese omakase tradition. Eight guests will be served 16 to 18 courses prepared by the same Yugen kitchen team. The distilled format is shorter and more accessible than its downstairs predecessor (available for $175 per person compared to $285) but it’s no less theatrical, with dishes prepared in front of diners and “some additional experimentation” playing out, says LK Hospitality culinary director and CEO Stephen Nairn.
“Nidaime is the perfect way for us to give diners who have missed out on a seat at Yugen Omakase another opportunity to try Yugen’s exciting and creative food,” says Nairn. “Yet don’t expect a carbon copy of the happenings downstairs – Nidaime will be a more laid-back entity, where our chefs will experiment with exciting new ideas to craft a shorter menu at a lower price point.”
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Dishes will change regularly but might include kingfish sashimi with black garlic and butter ponzu; tako (octopus) with tomato ponzu and mustard; ochazuke (green tea poured over rice) with Victorian smoked eel and fried kale; and a sushi course with hapuka, kingfish, Ora King salmon, Bluefin toro, scampi, seared Hokkaido scallop, unagi (eel) temaki, and more.
Drink pairings will include small-batch and rare whisky and sake or teas from Yugen Tea Bar. The bar, whose sculptural, strikingly angular fit-out earned it a win in the globally renowned Restaurant & Bar Design Awards, will continue to offer its elevated tea experience by day before it’s “cocooned by a curtain” after dark to become an intimate evening spot.
Nidaime launches on August 30, with two sessions a night, from 6pm to 8pm and from 8.30pm to 10.30pm, Wednesday to Sunday. The experience is $175 per person, with benchmark beverages pairings available for $85 and prestige pairings for $145.