Michael Bacash grew up fishing for flathead, garfish, whiting and snapper at Mount Martha, where his family still owns a boatshed. The chef has since spent more than three decades plating fish and other seafood at his restaurants. First at Toofey’s in Carlton, and since 2000, at the eponymous Bacash, opposite the Tan walking track. No hyperbole: he knows how to choose, prepare, cook and serve seafood better than almost anyone in Melbourne.

His well-heeled customers know this, which is why they keep coming back for the whole NZ yellow belly flounder, exactingly grilled and dressed only with butter, lemon and parsley. Same goes for the deep-fried whiting with house-made tartare, or the Tassie garfish with horseradish crème fraiche. Like Japan’s best sushi masters, the kitchen has an obsessive care and respect for its fish, picking only the finest specimens and storing them fastidiously.

Then there’s the sparklingly fresh oysters. Sydney rocks are shucked on site and served natural. Pacifics are topped with spinach, garlic and parmesan and grilled until a crisp cap appears. For the less seafood-obsessed, main choices could include a grain-fed rib eye or roasted duck breast.

Michael’s wife and co-owner, Fiona Bacash, has been working front-of-house as long as he’s been cooking fish. Evidence of this is everywhere on her wine list, which includes Burgundian chardonnay, Californian chenin blanc, Sicilian nerello mascalese and new-wave Yarra Valley pinot noir.

Whatever you’re eating and drinking, a bowl of steaming-hot French fries is an almost mandatory order. It’s also one of the few shareable dishes. Contrary to current trends, the restaurant embraces the traditional entrée-main-dessert format, an ethos echoed in the muted bluish-grey dining room and comparatively formal service. Bacash knows what’s good, what it’s good at, and sticks to its formidable guns.

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Updated: February 19th, 2024

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