Three Japanese Charcoal Grill

$-$$$   Hat iconHat iconHat icon   Glass iconGlass icon
133 Elizabeth Street, Hobart
03) 6231 8035
Open: Tuesday to Saturday 5.30pm to 9.30pm.

“It’s the best dish in Hobart ”, claimed one of our leading chefs.

He was referring to the Three Japanese’s chawanmushi, a creamy, junket-like “pudding” of house-made dashi set with duck egg and topped with a slippery, citrusy yuzu fruit and kuzu sauce, kuzu being a vine-root product widely used in Japanese cooking as a thickening agent. Supporting the chef’s claim, owner Yasuko Hayashi said that, along with a dish of grilled, miso-topped eggplant, chawanmushi has proved the most popular item on the menu since she opened the restaurant last September.

And, in its elegant simplicity and delicious balance of umami-rich savouriness, chawanmushi is one of those dishes that, for me, effectively sums up her restaurant’s ethos and appeal.

Yasuko first came to Tasmania as a 19 year old student. She then returned eight times over the next eight years before divorcing in Japan and moving here permanently with her daughter three years ago. Her new husband, Drysdale-trained Yuya, is now sous chef to Ken Hirai, Yasuko’s Japanese school mate, who brought with him 15 years of cooking and management experience in various izakaya-style eateries in his home country. Between the three of them they have lifted the city’s Japanese dining options to a whole new level of stylish excellence.

In place of their a la carte menu, they offer a set, six-course $60 menu on Fridays and Saturdays and our dinner last week started with a amuse plate consisting of slices of delicately marinated kingfish and beautifully flavoured pickled and pureed vegetables accompanied by a glass of sake.

Then came the chawanmushi followed by the day’s special of two pieces of Bruny Island belly pork in a mildly spiced broth. Next were yakitori skewers of chargrilled chicken hearts, chicken skin and chicken ribs plus cubes of marinated beef and pork in turn followed by another of the night’s highlights, yakionigiri chazuke – a ball of Japanese rice with kombu, bonito, sesame, spinach, wasabi and red plum paste chargrilled and presented in a delicious and light mirin-flavoured chicken stock. “A sort of Japanese risotto” said Yasuko.

Dessert to finish was a tiny and elegantly presented bowl of two types of Japanese cakes.

There’s a small but excellent selection of different sake by the bottle or glass plus some local and natural wines from France with six on offer by the glass.

It was a truly memorable meal with, for me, the most intriguing aspect being their subtle and varying combinations of mirin, koji – a fermenting culture – red plum paste, soy and white rice, brown rice, plum and ordinary vinegars used in their picklings and broth flavourings. As well, of course, as the superb quality and balance of their dashi, the Japanese master stock, which they make themselves from kombu and dried bonito they source from Yasuko’s home town of Saga on one of the country’s rice-growing southern islands.

“If the dashi flavour is no good”, says Yasuko, “nothing is good”.

“Japanese food depends on the quality and freshness of the ingredients and this has been our biggest challenge. But things are improving. Our chickens are now being cut to our specifications. Their offal for the authentic yakitori experience is becoming more accessible. Our fish are being killed Japanese style and come to us on Wednesday – which means we only offer sashimi on Wednesday evenings. Then we use everything, fish frames, chicken frames etc elsewhere in our menus. And if we can’t get it here, then we import it from contacts we have in Japan”.

It is this level of commitment plus their undoubted talent that makes their restaurant such a welcome and exciting addition to the Hobart scene.

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