Type of Venue: Restaurant
Cuisine: Modern fusion-Japanese
Highly Recommended: The King, Umami Fries, The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl, Aburi Salmon, CALIA Wagyu Bowl, The Toro Bowl, Matcha Lava Lava, Matcha Mia Tiramisu
Given the media hype surrounding Calia when they first opened, it’s a relief to know that they live up to their reputation. An exciting restaurant and retail space located within Melbourne’s Emporium, their unique concept offers customers a seamless experience between their dine-in restaurant and adjoining retail shop.
Starting with the restaurant part of this venue, the stylishly sleek and modern décor is complemented by marble tables, thus hinting at the prestige associated with Calia. Further elevating their status is the fact that their menu is designed by a Michelin Chef, Francisco Javier Araya. His culinary bio includes experience in Chile, Spain, Japan and China, with his Tokyo restaurant, 81 Restaurant, earning a Michelin Star in 2015. Passionate about sourcing high quality and sustainable ingredients, and using them in cross-cultural cuisines, Francisco’s food philosophy is demonstrated in Calia’s impressive menu.
Focusing on contemporary, Japanese-inspired cuisine using produce sourced both locally and internationally, you can’t go wrong with any of their dishes. The skilful chefs work like seasoned professionals in the open kitchen, whilst floor staff are knowledgeable and helpful when it comes to menu recommendations. Head Chef, Kerry Lam, is responsible for the clockwork nature and professional attitudes of the staff, consistently cooking and plating up dish after dish of their Michelin-designed menu.
Hojicha Latte ($5.00)
Classified as a grazing dish, the Alaskan King Crab Claw is delicately presented atop black pebbles, yet this gives nothing away as to the intense flavours released after the crab is baked in a misu mayonnaise. Other impressive grazing plates include the Scalloped Sakuru (dressed in a wasabi ponzu sauce) and the Umami Fries (sufficiently served to feed 3-5 people).
The King ($18.20)
Scalloped Sakuru ($14.50)
Umami Fries ($8.90)
Arriving at their bowls that are equally ideal as an individual serve as they are a shared dish, the majority of items are rice-based, with a single noodle-based dish to break up the monotony. The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl is a recommended favourite of the staff, featuring premium marbled Wagyu slices that remain tender and enjoyably flavoursome despite its well-done cooking style, topped with a gooey 63deg egg.
The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl ($16.90)
Another Wagyu beef highlight is the CALIA Wagyu Bowl, which is a chef’s selection. A neat array of premium Wagyu beef is grilled to medium-rare perfection, also topped with a perfectly cooked 63deg egg.
CALIA Wagyu Bowl ($33.80)
Aburi Samon is flame-seared and topped with ikura, dressed in Calia’s secret sauce. The sauce produces a mouthwatering glaze atop the salmon, which is intense enough to seep into the rice underneath and thus produce an accompanying sauce.
Aburi Samon ($18.30)
If you like your raw fish and seafood, the Chirashi is a bowl containing a selection of fresh and sustainably caught sashimi, whose delicate texture and freshness is superbly impressive.
A tasty yet extremely rich bowl, The Toro Bowl features sliced tuna belly glazed with suki sauce, accompanied by a quenelle of tuna belly tartare.
The Toro Bowl ($39.80)
There are only three options for dessert, but you will find it difficult to not order all three. The Matcha Lava Lava is impressively theatrical, with a rich chocolate cake that oozes warm matcha ganache upon a single slit with a knife. Topped with a quenelle of matcha ice cream, the Japanese infusion into this traditionally decadent dessert is a match(a) made in heaven!
Matcha Lava Lava ($14.90)
Matcha Mia Tiramisu is my personal favourite, with a layering of mascarpone-matcha cream and ladyfingers topped with fresh raspberries and coffee-drenched chocolate… because, why not?!
Matcha Mia Tiramisu ($9.95)
Last, but not least, the Hokkaido Chizukeki is, essentially, Calia’s version of the light and fluffy cheesecake originating from Hokkaido, accompanied by a Yuzu jelly. The imperfect shape of the cheesecake adds to the spontaneous excitement associated with the presentation styles and colours of Calia’s menu.
Hokkaido Chizukeki ($11.20)
Once your belly is full, wander over to the adjoining retail store where you will be so overwhelmed with the variety on offer that you won’t know where to start! Featuring an extensive catalogue of high quality produce, including Robbins Island Wagyu beef and Yarra Valley Truffles, this is the perfect place in which to do some shopping for a dinner party, or to gift-wrap a hamper for someone special. The draw-in factor for this retail shop is the fact that most of the ingredients used in their Michelin-inspired restaurant dishes can be purchased here, thus enabling customers to recreate some of Calia’s dishes at home. A word of warning, however, is that the price points of many of the products are quite high.
Aiming to set a new standard in fine foods and dining, Calia’s unique fusion-Japanese concept offers a significant point of difference compared with other restaurants in Emporium, or Melbourne even. The quality of their food and produce is undoubtedly of an exceptionally high standard, which is potentially their justification for the handful of menu items that are a tad more expensive than you would expect to find in what is, essentially, a shopping centre restaurant. Nevertheless, any fan of fine cuisine and impressive flavours should pay Calia a visit, especially now that they have been announced as Zomato Melbourne’s newest ambassador.
Note: I dined at Calia at an intimate blogger event, on behalf of The City Lane. Thank you to the staff and management for their generous hospitality throughout our experience.
Shop 8, Level 3, Emporium Melbourne
287 Lonsdale Street
Melbourne, VIC 3000
Ph: (03) 9662 1688
Hours: Sat-Wed 10am-7:30pm, Thurs-Fri 10am-9:30pm.