Yuu Japanese Restaurant
137 Flinders Ln
Melbourne, VIC 3000
03 9639 7073
See anything of note in that photo? Ha ha… what if I told you there’s a restaurant in that picture?
Yuu is one of those places that’s so typically Melbourne. Hidden, lane-wayed and with unmarked entrances. If Fakegf hadn’t pointed it out to me sometime back, I’d never know it existed.
I heard that this restaurant serves pretty good Japanese food, but one thing that held me back from visiting was a strict no-photos policy. I asked for permission at the point of booking and at when we were seated, both times the waitress gave a firm but friendly no.
I finally decided to take my folks here to give them a feel of how Melbourne has its hidden secrets. They were suitably impressed with its location and entrance. As far as photos are concerned, this staircase was as far as I got, I had to respect their policy from then on. So this is probably the only restaurant write-up I’ve published that does not contain a single food pic!
Yuu’s interior is dark, moody, minimalist and bunker-like. There’s a central feature bar made of dark woods and bathed in incandescence, and the entire place is surrounded by stone finished walls. The friendly formal Japanese staff are all cloistered in black.
We decided to take the menu out of our hands and go with the chef’s selection omakase, at $60 per person. What arrived was a bit like an izakaya-style series of small eats:
2. Kingfish, salmon sashimi & yellowfin tuna marinated in truffle sauce
3. Ebi shumai – steamed prawn dumpling
4. Yakitori (chicken thigh) / Tsukune (minced chicken ball) / Sasa miume (chicken breast w pickled Japanese plum sauce)
5. Grilled oyster w creamy miso, octopus w sweet bean miso, deep fried veg w dashi sauce
6. King dory, sweet potato and corn tempura
7. Pan-fried duck breast, eggplant, garlic & miso
General consensus is, while the ingredients and cooking was of good quality, the meal lacked wow factor. It would’ve been nice to see some sushi and a soup in our courses. Mum, in particular, thought the meal had a bit too much fusion elements in it. The shumai, while deliciously cooked and silky soft, just reminded her too much of Chinese yum cha. We also did not warm to the yakitori course, and the inclusion of cooked oysters in our dishes. All that said, the sashimi was spotlessly fresh and the duck breast and eggplant was quite exquisite.
In retrospect, on selecting the omakase, the waitress did ask whether we had any preferences. I should’ve specified that we’d rather avoid dishes from the yakitori grill, and that oysters should be served raw.
I’m still glad I finally made it to this enigmatic restaurant and unveiled its mystery. I shared my parent’s sentiments about the meal: pretty good quality that somehow just doesn’t feel all that Japanese (although I wouldn’t call myself an authority over what’s Japanese and what isn’t). In fact, it reminded me of meals I had at fusiony non-Japanese places, like Huxtable. I also felt a bit let down there wasn’t a dessert course in the omakase.
We’ll end with a photo of the restaurant as seen from the pavement outside. It was quite nice sitting in the restaurant and watching blurred silhouettes of people walking past us above, wrapped in lamplight on that Spring night. Some of them peered in through the dusty windows with curious wonder. I’m unlikely to come back, but if I do, I’ll probably elect to manage my own dish decisions and go a la carte.