Shop 8, Level 3, Emporium Melbourne, 287 Lonsdale Street, Melbourne
03 9662 1688
- The Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl
- Aburi Samon
- Matcha Lava Lava
- Hokkaido Chizukeki
The Aburi Samon was rather delicious. Beautifully presented, the circular spread of seared sashimi exhibited some nice charring on top, which provided a great depth in flavour. The fish itself was fresh and very tender. This was well complemented by the ‘secret CALIA sauce’, which, let’s be honest, has nothing secret about it as it tastes just like any other ordinary sweet teriyaki sauce. All served on a handful of hot jasmine rice, this was like eating a warm bowl of deconstructed sushi.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly the Matcha Lava Lava. Breaking open the outer layer reveals an ooze of warm matcha that was mixed with a good amount of cocoa. The matcha itself was fragrant and flavoursome, and it’s slight bitterness was perfectly offset by the sweetness of the chocolate. This was accompanied by a couple of fresh raspberries and a generous dollop of cream, topped with a liqueur-flavoured, slightly dark chocolate, which distracted away from the matcha cake itself.
Coming highly recommended by other foodies, we had to sample the Marbled Sukiyaki Bowl. Unfortunately, we were less than impressed on this occasion. The so-called ‘premium Marble 9+ wagyu slices’ were nowhere to be seen in our bowl. What we did receive was overcooked and chewy slices of beef. While the beef flavour was pleasant and forward, the textures of our protein undeniably poor. Coupled with a stone-cold egg that failed to be runny, one starts to wonder if Rice Workshop may have been a better choice.
We found the Hokkaido Chizukeki exceptionally spongey but not airy, which was all well and good except for the fact that the dough was soggy and watery, as if it had been frozen and defrosted. There was also an absolute and distinct lack of cheese flavours or aroma. The blandness of this so-called cheesecake was undeniable, and you’d be better off getting a cheap egg sponge cake from any Asian bakery. Having sampled many cheesecakes in my time, yes even in Japan, associating this piece of disaster with the name ‘Hokkaido’ and ‘Cheesecake’ is a travesty. The was undoubtedly the most disgusting ‘cheesecake’ I’ve ever sampled.
The service also left a lot to be desired. After more than an hour’s wait, which we were originally promised to be 50 minutes, our high-browed waitress insisted that we order our desserts with the mains. The intelligence, or lack thereof, of this advice is simply lost on me, as the desserts were served to us BEFORE our mains even arrived. When we told this to the wait staff, they angrily took the desserts away. No apology. No nothing.
In my books, Calia succeeds only as an Instagram-able money printing machine. With the kind of price tag attached to such tiny portions , you’d expect near-flawless execution of quality ingredients coupled with impeccable service across the board. This was clearly not the case on our visit.
Would Penguin Eat Again?
It matters not whether your menu was designed by a Michelin starred chef. Piss poor execution and snobbish service will always ruin a good menu.
While the Matcha Lava Cake was definitely worth a try in and of itself, the other dishes were honestly rather unremarkable and there simply exists no reason for my return.