You might think Melbourne is at capacity when it comes to Japanese restaurants. But then Melbourne’s never seen anything like MONOU...
MONOU is a tranquil, high-ceilinged Japanese eatery on Park St in South Melbourne, the latest project from husband and wife team Tatusya and Sumire Kawakami (the crew behind KUU, just down the road). And, just like KUU, this place is all about thoughtful design and foodie creativity. If you’re looking for chicken teriyaki and a salmon handrolls...look elsewhere.
You might miss MONOU the first time you drive past. Any more understated and the place would be invisible. There’s white rendered walls, a lazy tulip-bladed fan turning overhead, beautiful dark timber furniture, and a collection of curious on the wall (empty frames, globes, Japanese books and magazines). You half expect to see Basho up by the front window, nursing a sake and writing haikus.
Sumire runs the pass at MONOU, and her light, innovative touch is all over the menu. How many Japanese restaurants have cheese kransky skewers cooked to order? Or seared kobujime scampi with bonito ichiban dashi jelly?
The best way to do this is trust Tatsuya—he’ll walk you through the menu and recommend a collection of tiny treasures. Maybe some potato salad with shio-kombu, tender Wagyu tataki, and a bowl of Agebitashi (fried seasonal vegetables, resting in a dashi broth).
If you don’t have the time for a thoughtful and delicate tasting sesh (seriously, make the time), MONOU runs an express lunch menu too. Solid plates of pork loin tonkatsu with rice and veggies and big scoops of matcha ice-cream for afters.
For drinks? Pick your poison. There’s a whole menu for umeshu plum wine, and a cracking range of hot and cold sake. Pour over coffee from 5 Senses, Japanese Ramune lemonade, Genmai popcorn tea. The works.
Tatusya and Sumire have created something really special here (with the help new-born daughter, Monet). MONOU is strange and delicious and challenging. And it’s leapfrogged straight into the conversation for Best Japanese in Melbourne.
Image credit: Griffin Simm