Yugen Tea Bar, in South Yarra’s Capitol Grand building, is unlike any other tea experience in Melbourne. It’s by an ex-Vue de Monde tea sommelier (it’s a thing), and the strikingly angular fit-out earned it a win in the globally renowned Restaurant & Bar Design Awards.

Head below ground to find its more ambitious sibling, Yugen Dining, reachable through a dramatic glass-walled elevator. The basement restaurant, designed by Eat Architects, features textural stone walls, six-metre-high ceilings, glowing gold accents and a statement chandelier made up of hundreds of glass pendants.

Grab a seat downstairs to try the à la carte menu, or book the six-seat Omakase Bar on the mezzanine, for an elaborate and more intimate set menu experience with head chef Alex Yu. He previously worked under one of Sydney’s greatest Japanese chefs, Chase Kojima, at Sokyo.

Yu’s main menu, devised with culinary director Stephen Nairn (Omnia), is mostly high-end Japanese but includes innovative tangents inspired by other parts of Asia, such as prawn mousse spread atop youtiao (Chinese doughnut), Malaysian satay king prawns, and drunken poussin (young chicken) with shiso.

Big hits include delicate sashimi, savoury chawanmushi custard with smoked Victorian eel; pork neck slathered in ginger, spring onion and fermented chilli and barbequed on the restaurant’s custom charcoal grill; and a 9+ marble-score Wagyu (i.e. top of the line) striploin marinated in shio koji (a deeply savoury ferment) cooked the same way. Finish with sweets such as strawberry ice-cream with charred mochi and matcha.

Drinking is a similarly high-end experience. The expansive list includes back vintages of titanic Australian wines from the Barossa, Yarra Valley, Margaret River and beyond, an impressive collection of sakes organised by style (including 20 by the glass), and several dozen whiskies and other spirits.

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Updated: January 30th, 2024

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