Dinner Review: Nami at RBar
It's kind of unforgivable to preface a review by calling a restaurant an undiscovered treasure, but there's not really any other option with Nami, this sadly underappreciated restaurant tucked away underneath the RBar in Port Melbourne.
Located on Beach Road in Port Melbourne, Nami boasts a magnificent ocean view, and while we ate we watched the sun set and the ferries chug across the bay. That said, it's a location more often associated with scandalous footballers and ostentation than the kind of eating on offer from Nami. Signs in the window boast of new management, and a focus on Japanese Fusion food, although much of what you find on the menu is good old fashioned Izakaya-style Japanese pub-food.
As well as staples such as seasonal tempura there's an extensive selection of sushi and sashimi, served straight up with a very Japanese emphasis on freshness and clean flavours. This simplistic approach, which teases elegant flavours from quality produce, is exemplified with the beef tataki; tender wagyu, lightly seared, finely sliced and served chilled and dressed with a light, slightly citric Japanese mayo. It's fresh, delicious, and allows you to savour the texture of gently cooked and well-rested meat in a way that only Japanese chefs seem able to do.
I've long considered fusion to be a dirty word -something to stay in the 80s along with French Onion Dip and INXS, a fond memory never to be revived. That said, the Japanese chef who trained in Paris for three years steps very lightly on the fusion pedal, and it works. The subtle touches enhance rather than detract from the Japaneseness of the food. The hand behind dishes like the salmon yaki (Fried Salmon Steak) dressed in a smoky, spiced miso marinade, knows how to be clever without showing off.
Case in point, we finished the meal with a trio of deceptively complicated and delicious desserts. A green tea panna cotta perfectly skirted the line between sweet and savoury, as did a scoop of elegant and earthy sesame-seed ice-cream. A lemon and miso yogurt sorbet laced with tiny shocks of raw lemon zest finished the meal, and left the palette surprisingly clean and refreshed for someone who'd just eaten a Salmon Yaki the size of his head.
The wine list is localised, smart and full of crisp, fruity whites to accompany the virtuosity of the food. There's a surprising dearth of quality Saki for a restaurant with Japanese written all over it, although apparently that's going to change in the near future.
Pretty, well situated, inexpensive and quality food with pretence. If you find yourself on the beach this summer, it's well worth a little drive down the coast to try this restaurant out.