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Sunday, 24 January 2016

Mr. Miyagi

It's the place that was made infamous by the 'chopsticks incident' last December, where a young Richmond Tigers AFL player drunkenly threatened to attack a woman dining nearby with his chopsticks. But of course, Mr. Miyagi had already developed a cult following well before that.


Opening in October 2013 on the ever-so-hip Windsor portion of Chapel Street, and tickling nostalgic fancies with its reference to 1984 classic The Karate Kid, the restaurant has enjoyed a steady stream of customers since. I remember stopping by with a friend one Thursday night mid last year to enquire about a table, and we were told it would be a two-hour wait. Well! Either this place is really good, I thought, or really good at hype.

Always a queue at the front desk

I made a calculated plan with friends to score a table there on a Friday night recently. I rocked up nice and early, 6:45pm-ish, and put my name down for a table. They advised the wait would be approximately an hour, probably less, noted down my mobile number and encouraged me to wait out the back, in what turned out to be quite a spacious, pleasantly vibey but quieter, separate bar area (--yesss! wine).

Waiting on my own at that point, I was directed to a bench stool - not only uncomfortable to sit in for long periods of time, but also facing a very boring wall. However, the staff were lovely and helpful, if a bit rushed. I sampled some of the long-awaited food whilst waiting - unintentionally, I chose two things wagyu: the wagyu brisket betel leaf, and the wagyu tartare pipe. Both were delicious, and I washed them down with a lovely Sem/Sav from Margaret River - one of my favourites, but a bit precious at $13 a glass.

Betel leaf and wagyu tartare pipe

At around 8pm, just when I was reaching tiredness/boredom/sore butt peak, my friends rocked up and almost on cue, my phone beeped with a cheeky text saying our table was ready (15 minutes later than advised, but not too bad). The 'cheeky' thing is played up throughout the restaurant: the website makes reference to 'going down' and a 'little black book', the menu to 'finish him' with a 'sweet ending', and similar phrases are dotted around the restaurant decor. I get that they are going for what they think is a sexy, fun vibe, but I actually found it all a little crass. And in what seems to be commonplace these days, there is also branding on EVERYTHING.

People, hip trendy people everywhere

My bar tab was neatly transferred to our restaurant table tab and we were led through the pumping restaurant to one end of a communal table. Next to the bar and smack-bang in the middle of the restaurant, our spot was a great viewing point for the rest of the venue (and all the swankily-dressed, hip, young, southside things), and thankfully had regular-height chairs (my butt thanked me).

Being a Friday night, the staff - though plentiful - were stupidly busy and, post menus, we had to ask for pretty much everything: drinks, to order our food, extra water, the bill. Again, the staff were nice and friendly (and strangely, all very young - and I'm not that old), but it did feel like the restaurant was doing us a favour by deigning to serve us, rather than the other way round. We felt almost like a hindrance.

The noise level also made us feel old! OK, so I'm all for vibe, and understand that pretty much everywhere along Chapel Street is full to the brim on a Friday night, but this place was like a noisy club. That may appeal to some, but I was there to try the food in a stylish environment and catch up with my mates. The food was great, but the experience of sampling it was dampened by the extremely loud music and rushed atmosphere; and my friends and I could barely hear each other and all left with sore throats from having to shout. At one point we even asked one of the nice waitresses about the likelihood of having the music turned down - even a notch - and she said it was impossible, because they kept it that way on purpose, for the vibe. Again - I get it - but it made the entire Mr. Miyagi experience quite unpleasant for me and my friends, even disappointing. Shame.

Painkillers... necessary for the loud-music-induced headache

Food-wise, we went for the 'feed me' option. Don't you love how that's become a thing? It's not only the lazy (wo)man's easiest bet in a world of far too much choice, but it's also usually quite economical, and a good rounded sample of the menu. At Mr. Miyagi, it meant heeeeeaps of food, bordering on too much - all pretty good quality and (despite lacking enough fresh/green things) pretty good variety - for $55 per head. We ate:


Nori taco...

...with cool marbled shell effect

Small ngiri and sashimi combo... all beautiful quality

Even the food was branded.

Tempura broccoli - surprisingly delicious

Prawn 'dawg' x3... meh...
basically deep-fried prawn-flavoured meat on a stick

DIY steamed bao pulled pork buns

(I did mine good)

Geddit... MIYAGI Fried Chicken? (= more branding)

Pumpkin toast... yes really

I didn't really 'go nuts' for these, but the
pistachio and gingerbread ice creams were nice

I thought Mr. Miyagi was a schmick affair: obviously a tightly-run ship and, on the whole, well thought out. The food, service, layout and decor were all great, but until I can hear myself think in there (and the wait times are reduced), I won't be going back.

Mr. Miyagi Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato