In the mood for Japanese, but something different from your standard dons and bentos, I decided to try Heirloom, a bit of a higher-class and modern take on Japanese cuisine. When you pass it on Bourke St, you won’t realise it’s Japanese and might mistake it for an upper class bar.
Well, perhaps it is, but with a strong focus on Japanese food and drinks. The service was prompt and faultless. Our waitress did not have the best English skills but she was attentive and willing to help. The overwhelming part was when she provided us with about five different menus. This might be an area that they want to brush up in. One standard booklet would be sufficient rather than separate sheets with her explanation of what each one was.
You’re probably curious as to what they were – they included small and large tapas, some degustation courses, sushi degustation, bar food and their drinks menu. She also pulled a sheet out of her pocket and started to recite the specials. It might be helpful to display this somewhere for forgetful minds like us!
After pondering over the many menus and finalising our order, I realised I might want some greens. So our first dish we received was the tofu salad (above). I feel their menu is quite more extensive than their current menus online. I can’t remember prices but this dish was fairly cheap at $10 or less.
The dressing was light and the tofu chunks were large and cold. Thus the tofu was understandably plain but I found it the perfect dish to have on the side, especially to balance out any accidental tasting of wasabi. My friend on the other hand wasn’t a big fan. Usually, I tend to like cooked tofu in nice sauces, but this did the trick as a healthy side dish.
The wasabi happened to be in our order of salmon sushi aburi shio nigri (top, $7.50 per 2 pieces). This means the salmon is slightly grilled and I really enjoy that Japanese style of cooking, which provides a subtle smoky feel. There were bits of wasabi hidden underneath the salmon. I know they are making it traditional but perhaps they should ask about it in the future, as I know a lot of people who prefer no wasabi (yes we’re weak).
I also ordered a drink but not wanting to splurge on a cocktail, I noticed that they had an offer of shochu (Japanese spirit) mixed with various fruity flavours and soda for $9. I picked the lychee flavour and both my friend and I enjoyed it, along with an actual lychee.
Next up were the sliders. I was tempted to have these after seeing another friend’s photos. I think they were only $5 each or so. We had the ebikatsu (fried and crumbed prawn, left) and pork belly (right). They were both so delicious that we couldn’t quite figure out which one was our favourite. They are both complimented by shreds of slaw and their own, rich sauces in soft brioche buns. There’s not too much of anything and the sizes are perfect for a non-messy fare.
After trying the nigiri sushi with the salmon on top, we went for the soft shell crab sushi roll (above, $14 for 4 pieces). Each end seemed to have a great deal of crab, whereas the middle pieces seemed to only have avocado and a tiny piece of crab. This wasn’t too special and I preferred the nigiri.
In addition, I almost we forgot we had the wagyu kaburi skewer ($4 for about 3-4 pieces of scotch fillet). By itself, the skewer is pretty plain. For skewers I would try somewhere like Pabu Grill and Sake, as it’s more of their specialty.
We managed to remember one of the specials, so we ordered the teriyaki salmon ($18). It was served with orange/mandarin pieces, which I found a bit weird drizzled in teriyaki sauce. However, I really enjoyed the sauce, which seemed to have an extra sweet kick from the mandarins, and the salmon was cooked perfectly.
These dishes didn’t exactly leave us hungry or full so we dived in for one last dish – dessert. We went with the Houji tea sticky date pudding (below, $13). This included caramel apple pieces, vanilla ice cream, (Japanese) nikka whisky caramel sauce topped with a sort of biscuit. The staff were happy to provide the whisky sauce on the side, so my friend wouldn’t need to avoid the alcohol.
The sauce had a strong taste of whisky. I enjoyed it as it still had a base of caramel, but I couldn’t have too much of it, otherwise it felt too rich and strong. I enjoyed the addition of the biscuit on top to provide some crunchier texture and to lessen the sweetness of the dish. The Houji tea (a roasted green tea) made the sticky date a bit drier but with an interesting taste, so the ice-cream and sauce provide the needed cover, and I think it was an innovative take on the classic dessert.
Overall, Heirloom really delivers the service and food for a good night. If you go by your instincts and order what sounds good you’ll most likely be fine. The lights provide a great setting whilst they project anime on a screen in the distance. Service is attentive and swift, so I feel like it’s always going to be a place where you know you will be looked after. It’s not the cheapest but we paid less than $50 per person, so I feel like it’s a reasonable price for the quality.
Heirloom is located at 131 Bourke St, Melbourne CBD. It is open for breakfast, lunch and dinner. They serve a buffet breakfast (who knew!) Mon-Fri 7-10am and 7.30-10.30am on weekends.
They have daily specials for lunch, Mon-Fri 12-3pm and serve bar food 3-6pm. Finally, they serve dinner 6pm-10pm on weekdays and 6pm-10.30pm on weekends. Check out their menus here, but as I mentioned I think they have more items than this now.