388-390 Queens Parade, Fitzroy North. Phone: 9482 3388
We pay far too much – certainly more than we’ve planned on – for too much food.
This is largely our own fault.
With our wits about us, we may have realised that – of course – banquet menus are priced per person.
But our wits are elsewhere, left somewhere behind us as we rode the Capital City Trail from Flinders St station, alongside the Yarra, past the Collingwood Children’s Farm and Abbotsford Convent and onwards.
Unfortunately, somewhere past Dights Falls the terrible signposting – or, more to the point, total lack of signposts – led us astray, requiring a long, sweaty and boring ride along Heidelberg Rd before we make Queens Parade. Oddly, everyone thinks of this as Clifton Hill yet officially it’s Fitzroy North.
We hungrily check out the available options with some dismay – mostly a whole lot of lookalike cafes and a couple of fish and chip shops.
The we spot it – a Japanese restaurant!
It looks like the real deal, too – sushi clock, handsome wooden sushi boats lined up behind the sushi bar, music ranging from highly synthesised Asian pop to classic, timeless Richard Clayderman orchestral pap.
Whatever happened to Richard Clayderman? I wonder if his music has ever been a fixture of cheap, middle-of-the-road (of course!) Asian restaurants in other parts of the world?
Hindsight will tell us we would’ve been much better of with the standard ($14.80) or deluxe ($18.80) bentos from the lunch menu. Or one of the rice/don bowls – about $10 with bento soup.
But we’re a little addled from our long ride, so much fresh air and sunshine, even if it is a perfect day for a bike ride.
So we go for the chiba banquet at $32. It’s one of four that range up to $60 per person.
We both distinctly recall – Bennie adamantly so – our waitress saying: “One chiba banquet to share?” – and us both nodding eagerly in agreement.
But it’s obvious once our parade of food starts arriving that we’re in for the full whack when it comes time to pay. (There’s no EFTPOS here, by the way, but credit cards are fine.)
This sort of spread at $16 a head would be incredible, surreal, ridiculous – even if a single person portion was shared.
At $32 each, though, it’s less impressive.
It’s a fair price for the quantity, but there’s an unevenness about the flavours and textures that’s disappointing.
The miso soup is outstanding – just the right kind of hot and offering plentiful greens, mushrooms and tofu. To my delight, Bennie is getting pretty hip with chopsticks these days and even slurping up tofu – though the mushies remain a step too far. All in good time!
The sushi rolls are just OK, and disappointingly make prominent use of that dastardly seafood extender stuff. The best thing going here is the non-commercial and very tasty pickled ginger.
The gyoza – two each – are likewise just OK. Maybe this the kind of Japanese food is what’s required for your standard suburban establishment, but we’d like a bit more zing.
And so it goes with the harumaki. The spring rolls are fresh, hot and grease-free, but the filling seems more carrot and far less of the advertised seafood. That’s how they taste, anyway.
The tempura – one each of prawn, pumpkin, zucchini and carrot – is another highlight. It, too, is hot, fresh and unoily.
The serve of beef teriyaki is huge. The beef is tender but tasteless.
We’ve often found at other Japanese places the quickly cooked mess of bean sprouts and other finely sliced vegetables is a real knockout; here it is – like it’s cattle collaborator – bland and even a little on the bitter side.
Being no fan of green tea ice cream I have no idea whether our serves are of in-house derivation or a commercial product. In any case, Bennie happily downs both generous serves.
So, yes, that’s a lot of food – even for $32 each.
Our earlier exertions have whetted our appetites so we effortlessly eat just about everything that is put before us, although beef and side vegetables defeat us.
But we’d not go out of our way to eat again here.
So cool – the west has become something of Japanese tucker hotspot!
Refreshed after our lacklustre lunch, we rejoin the Capital City Trail – past Nicholson, Lygon, Royal Parade, the zoo – mostly donwhill – and on to Dynon Rd.
We make it home without assistance from the Met.
The Matsu Hashi website – including PDF of entire menu – is here.