Shop 8, Level 3, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
03 9662 1688
- Scalloped Sakuru
- Toro Bowl
- Chirashi Calia
- Calia Wagyu Bowl
- Matcha Lava Lava
- Matcha Latte
- Iced Matcha
We started off with the Matcha Latte and Iced Matcha, with both being suitably impressive. Utilising house-made matcha, the quality of the green tea was top notch, exhibiting a persistent yet non-overpowering bitterness that was perfectly accompanied by the smooth milkiness of the latte. While the sweet Matcha Ice Cream did wonders in balancing out the bitterness of the matcha drink, we undeniably preferred the unadulterated matcha drink without any sugar added in.
We thoroughly enjoyed the Toro Bowl. The star of the show was undoubtedly the slices of beautifully fatty tuna belly. Buttery and rich, it provided a near melt-in-your-mouth experience that was exceedingly tender, fresh and exhibited no fishy sensation. The tuna belly tartare was equally delectable, lightly seasoned and provided a variation in texture to the slices. The variation in textures were welcoming, and the simple pleasures of the fatty tuna never dulled as we progressed through the dish.
Chirashi Calia was another signature dish and we were surprised by the quality of the sashimi within. Topped with two cuts from each fish, namely salmon, kingfish, tuna belly and tuna, each slight was so delicate and fresh, and again exhibited no fishy sensation nor slimy texture. This was served on top a bed of soft and very round sushi rice that had a hint of vinegar flavour, with thin cuts of nori and sesame seeds draped on top.
Having a starter and two mains apparently didn’t satisfy the penguin appetite, so we decided to also sample the Calia Wagyu Bowl. With a slight charring on the outer, the grilled wagyu was grilled to perfection and exhibited a slight pink inner. The beef on this occasion was much more well-executed than our previous visit, and resulted in a beautiful beef aroma that’s paired with soft and tender protein. Despite being a 63 degree, slow poached egg, the yolk wasn’t nearly as runny as we’d hoped once we popped the yolk.
It was dessert time, and after a long wait, we were rewarded with the Matcha Lava Lava with a brand new presentation. Topping the perfectly round pudding, we found a cute dollop of matcha ice cream. It was definitely a sight to behold as the ice cream slowly melted and ripped down the sides of the cake. Destroying this edible work of art by cutting open the outer shell, you are rewarded by a molten torrent of matcha ganache oozing out. Stronger than expected, the bitterness of the matcha was perfectly juxtaposed by the chocolate cake and the sweetness of the ice cream, which we felt worked much better than Calia’s prior rendition of having the chantilly cream.
We felt that the Scalloped Sakuru entree was rather unremarkable. While the scallops were fresh, they sliced perhaps a tad too thin to provide the textures we were after. This was served in a light ponzu sauce which provided hints of sweetness amongst the saltiness of the soy sauce, but we felt that we could’ve used bolder flavours to provide a more enticing experience.
The service left a lot to be desired, with lots of teething issues marring the whole dinner service.
One waitress took our food for a walk about, all around the restaurant, before she was directed to our table by the kitchen staff. Evidently she hasn’t learnt her table numbers well enough.
It also gets incredibly annoying when you get asked “are you done yet” multiple times (more than 5 by my last count) throughout the meal. While this would be all fine in and of itself, what irks me the most was that when we clearly said no, the wait staff STILL attempted to take the dishes away. One even tried to clear unused, clean plates that’s just be laid out a couple of minutes prior. The whole situation was borderline comical and utterly nonsensical.
Admittedly, the food on this revisit was leaps and bounds better than our initial one. The dishes were universally executed to a much higher level, though the portion sizes are undeniably small and definitely leaves one wanting for more.
However, the unrefined service still remains, and was most definitely the most disappointing aspect of our dining experience.
Would Penguin Eat Again?
One thing that remains unchanged from our last visit would be that I would still be back for that Matcha Lava Lava for sure.
Penguineats would like to thank Calia for inviting us as a remedy to our prior, poorer experience.