From Japan to Melbourne, sushi has come a long way in the last few decades. While Melburnians have wholeheartedly embraced this Japanese staple, the quality varies greatly from place to place. Unfortunately some establishments just get it wrong: dry rice, fish cut too thin or too thick, huge chunks of wasabi that make your eyes water, limp, floppy hand rolls and, worse still, sushi that’s not fresh and smells, well, fishy. For us, good sushi means fresh, high-quality ingredients and not a lot of fanfare. Life is too short for bad sushi.
For many, sushi is a great lunchtime meal that you can eat on the run, so as well as some of our city’s best Japanese restaurants, we’ve also put together a list of a few of our favourite takeaway sushi shops, where you can pick up a couple of hand rolls on your lunch break.
Since opening its doors in 1981, Kenzan hasn’t changed much. But that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Tucked away on Collins Place, up the Paris end of the city thoroughfare, this traditional Japanese restaurant has a solid reputation for delivering some of the best sushi in the city. Known for their traditionalist approach, they serve clean, simple sushi platters in a variety of sizes. If you want a really authentic experience, you can grab a spot at the sushi bar or for larger groups book a private room.
45 Collins Street, Melbourne
A local Armadale favourite, Sozai is a two-storey Japanese restaurant serving high-quality, no frills Japanese. They don’t use many sauces or glazes, preferring to keep their sushi fresh and delicious – just the way we like it. They are open seven days and on any given night the place is full of locals happily tucking into their traditionally presented mixed sushi and sashimi platters.
1221 High Street, Armadale
Run by Andy Gray and chef Makoto Motoyama, En Izakaya opened on Carlisle Street in 2009 and quickly became a local favourite. The menu is broken into three sections: ‘From the Garden’, ‘From the Sea’ and ‘From the Paddock’. Sushi is served in a traditional manner. Grab a spot at the bar and watch the all-Japanese kitchen roll up your sushi with the care and precision of true professionals. If you feel like something other than sushi they do great things with wagyu.
277 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
It’s worth booking a table at this cosy Albert Park stalwart, as the small venue gets busy quickly. A large sushi platter here is enough to feed a small family and it’s so beautifully displayed that it’s almost a pity to eat it. In summer, a spot outside under the lanterns is lovely.
3/7 Victoria Ave, Albert Park
(03) 9699 9022
The word ‘otsumami’ refers to small snacks eaten with beer and this Northcote restaurant offers plenty of these as well as some high quality sushi and sashimi platters. The mixed platters change depending on what produce is fresh and available, but usually consist of tuna, salmon, kingfish, prawn and unagi (eel). If you’re feeling flexible, slip off your shoes and take a seat on a tatami mat at one of the traditional low Japanese tables.
257 High Street, Northcote
Since opening its doors in 2003, Shira Nui has garnered a loyal following of diners at its understated premises in Glen Waverley. Head chef and owner Hiro Nishikura has a 13-year apprenticeship under his belt, and knows how to run a proper sushi restaurant. If you sit at the bar, you can enjoy the theatrics of Hiro-san blowtorching salmon or gather free advice on whether to eat your sushi “with soy sauce” or “without”.
247 Springvale Road, Glen Waverley
At lunchtime, there’s always a telltale line of hungry students and office workers snaking from Sushi Monger. But it’s worth the wait for arguably the best sushi in the city. Get there before noon to avoid the queues and get the first pick of the fish.
7/309–325 Bourke Street, Melbourne
(03) 9663 0899
For cheap and cheerful Japanese you can’t go past Rolls on Carlisle Street. You won’t find any old, slightly warm sushi rolls here – its popularity means that rolls are constantly being made. If the roll you want isn’t in the display cabinet just ask for them to make it fresh. They’ll even cut it up for you.
167 Carlisle Street, Balaclava
(03) 9527 5615
Positioned on Chapel Street, Pink Ginger has built up quite a loyal following of regulars. They offer a great range of hand rolls made with both white and brown rice, Inari sushi and premade sushi and sashimi platters.
Shop 14, 402 Chapel Street, South Yarra
Wabi Sabi Salon
For takeaway sushi in the north, Wabi Sabi is our go to place and at $6 for two hand rolls and a miso soup it’s great value. Wabi Sabi also has a notable bayside venue in St Kilda that specialises in more formal sit down meals.
94 Smith Street, Collingwood
Located at top, relatively deserted, end of Bourke Street, Suzuran is a Japanese grocery that also does great sushi. Stop by for one of the largest ranges of soy sauce and tamari in Melbourne and some of the freshest sushi. The menu ranges depending on what fish is freshest that day and platters can be pre-ordered if you’re having a party or feeling particularly hungry.
1205–1207 Burke Road, Camberwell
Hinoki Japanese Pantry
The impressive sushi counter, manned by head chef Shoji-San and his crew, puts out a wide range of seriously high-quality and fresh sushi in both traditional and innovative iterations. From the sashimi-grade fillets to Hinoki’s own experimental nosé-maki, traditional sushi and sashimi, and chef Shoji’s special platters, there’s a lot more than your average sushi bar.
279 Smith Street, Fitzroy
This article was updated on October 1, 2014.