Melbourne is a funny place. Down alleyways other cities would probably have permanently closed, or at least renovated, reside some of the best hidden gems the city has to offer. Yamato is a little restaurant that I’ve often glimpsed as I walked past the many alleyways of Chinatown, but have always been a little too terrified of getting mugged to venture down and give it a go.
But when I finally plucked up the courage to visit with Ethan, we found Yamato to be warm and homely with nooks, crannies and knick knacks, perfect for a romantic date (just as long as she doesn’t think you’re trying to steal her money by taking her down the alleyway picture above). There was even a separate section with a low table and mats to kneel on, a la Japan.
Ethan ordered the Yakiniku ($13.5), a small serve of sliced beef and vegetables on a sizzling plate, with a serve of Rice ($1.3). This was nicely sweet and savoury, with a mix of crunchy vegetables, but unfortunately the beef was bone-dry, and the serving was very small, even for the price paid.
I had wanted to get chirashi but upon hearing that it only consisted of tuna and salmon, switched to the Ten-Ju ($20.1), a bento box of tempura and sashimi served with miso soup. The soup was hot with little cubes of tofu and strands of seaweed, but whilst nicely gritty, the miso flavour wasn’t particularly prominent.
The bento was downright disappointing. The tempura was stock-standard, with a not-heavy-not-light batter encasing a prawn, a piece of salmon, and a selection of vegetables. The salmon sashimi was lifeless, and the side salad was an odd concoction of mixed greens, fried crab sticks and overly sweet egg omelette drizzled in Japanese mayo. At least the rice was fluffy and soft, and I loved the fragrant sichimi powder on top, but there’s something seriously wrong with a dish if my favourite component of it is the rice.
I really wanted to like Yamato; it was everything a girl could possibly want – an out of the way location, cosy interior, and a broad, attractive and affordable menu. But what good is any of that when the food was downright appalling?
Rating: 10.5/20 – i wish i loved you.