Yakikami is the fine-dining Japanese restaurant taking Melbourne by storm

Surrounded by high-end bars, restaurants and shops on South Yarra’s Toorak Rd, Yakikami is the type of fine Japanese restaurant everyone wishes was in their locale. Translating as ‘god of ‘grill’ the intimate restaurant is cleverly designed with an elegant private room, cosy booths and chef’s table spaces to enable diners to choose superb degustation or à la carte menu experiences. Yakikami’s Japanese chefs are excited to showcase the exquisiteness of Japanese cuisine using the best ingredients available in the country.

The concept at Yakikami

Owned by Emily and Roy Yu, of Wagyu Ya and Niki Ou fame, and renowned for holding the ‘golden ticket’ for Japanese restaurants – the Kobe Golden Calf Certificate of Authentication – Yakikami is one of the only restaurants in Australia where diners can savour Kobe beef.

Since opening in 2022, Yakikami has quickly gained noterity. The diversity of décor and dining experiences within the restaurant is one aspect that sets it apart.

Wagyu connoisseur? The 20-course Sushi Kappo Omakase, prepared by Head Chef, Hitoshi Miyazawa, is served in the plush 10-seater Josper room. Date night? Book a romantic booth tucked away behind the main dining room. Quick dinner on a school night? Pop in for the best ramen outside Kyushu. Lunch with colleagues? The restaurant is open 12pm to 3pm weekdays (except Tues). After work tipple? Sip on a cocktail (or mocktail) and order a selection of sushi and sashimi. And then there’s home and hearth of the restaurant – the Yakitori counter where chef Daiki Miyamoto and his team create foodie magic.

Fine-dining at Yakikami

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First impressions

Crossing the road from South Yarra railway station, I could already see people milling around outside Yakikami which is always a good sign. At 5:59pm, the door swung open. From the moment I stepped inside, I knew this was my kind of restaurant. From a plain exterior, the interior exudes intrigue. I was able to explore the various spaces before settling in on a comfy chair at the heartbeat of the restaurant – the yakitori counter.

On my plate

Hailing from Kyushu, the Japanese ‘foodie’ island renowned for its yakitori, ramen and exquisite restaurants, chef Daiki Miyamoto exudes enthusiasm. After running his own yakitori restaurant for several years in the Kumamoto prefecture, he was lured to Melbourne and enjoys seeing how much Australians embrace Japanese cooking. 

“I think there is an appreciation for our culture and the care we show our produce.”

Opting for the deluxe omakase yakitori experience, I soon discovered the versatility of the humble chook. Sourced from Aurum Poultry, where the birds are raised on low-density family-owned farms and cooked over Binchotan charcoal used traditionally throughout Japan. It is as if I am tasting chicken for the first time. Using every part of the chicken, options for the skewers range from drumsticks and wings to gizzard and neck. There was even one I’d never heard of – chicken oysters, delicious bite-size pieces of succulent meat served simply with salt and lemon. Another skewer highlight was the tsukune – chicken meatballs served with a sweet tare sauce and onion then dipped in glossy egg yolk.

Yakikami translates to ‘god of ‘grill’
Yakikami translates to ‘god of ‘grill’

Yakikami’s house specialities

In addition to the skewers, there was the ‘real’ oyster with a delicate yuzu kosho dressing, kingfish carpaccio with miso dressing, and one of the most popular dishes on the à la carte menu, wasabi king prawns served tempura style with a refreshing apple salad.

Yakikami’s ramen is a showstopper. Daiki shares the secret that it’s all in the broth. “The better quality of the core ingredients, the better the result. It also takes time, we cook ours for 18 hours.” The proof is in the bowl – a perfect balance of flavours and textures – from the soft-boiled egg, to the hints of spice, tender noodles and sliced pork.

The beverage pairing was also exceptional, especially the imported sakes. A personal favourite was Kuromatsu Senjo ‘Deer’, translated as ‘on a night like this’. Once poured into the white ochoko (sake cup), a pink cherry blossom scene magically appeared.

Fine dining at Yakikami, South Yarra
Fine dining at Yakikami, South Yarra

The service

When people love what they do it shows. Even though it was a busy night, the atmosphere in the kitchen was relaxed and totally professional. It was a joy to watch Daiki, and his team meticulously prepare and proudly present each dish. Although there was a lot going on, the pace of each course enabled time to savour each bite. 

Yakikami’s accolades

Still a baby by restaurant standards, Yakikami has made a splash on the fine-dining Japanese scene in Melbourne with ‘best dining experience’ mentions on various ‘people in the know’ lists.

If only…

Yakikami was there when I used to work in South Yarra.

Where to find Yakikami

Around 5 kilometres from Melbourne’s CBD in leafy South Yarra, Yakikami is easily reached by tram, train or taxi.

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