At the heart of Japanese hospitality there seems to be something so culturally inherent that, when you come face to face with it, you just can't grasp what 'it' is. The gracious interactions, the gentle presence — the exchange of goods using both hands. It's meticulous, considered and downright beautiful. Ocha has been bringing a slice of this generosity to Melbourne for over 15 years and, with it, has built a name synonymous with some of the best Japanese fare in town.
Recognised as a one-hat restaurant for thirteen years by The Age Good Food Guide, Ocha focuses on a traditional Japanese offering with a contemporary twist. With the height of popularity forcing them out of their old digs in Kew (now home to Ora) the restaurant sits within the Bee Hive Hotel building in Hawthorn. For all good reasons the space is larger, with chic shimmering curtains creating private dining areas, while the white fit out brings a sense of modernity. Despite more tables bookings are still essential.
Ocha's menu runs as a homage to shared dining. Traditional techniques are combined with sublime imaginative touches to make for a truly memorable meal. Don't be surprised if your sushi (starting from $16.50 for eight pieces) arrives at your table like it's been turned inside out or upside down. This playfulness extends to crowd favourites including the beef tataki ($18.50) and vegetable tempura ($22), with the gyoza ($15) finishing off a list of delectably light dishes. This aesthetic sensibility is what separates Ocha from the crowd; Japanese cuisine demands high quality ingredients and scrupulous attention to detail. For this, Ocha remains acutely serious, culturally relevant and as contemporary as ever.
The restaurant also runs a ten-course degustation menu ($120 per person) on the last Monday of every month. For more casual occasions, little sister Ocha2Go (at 64 Burwood Road, Hawthorn) offers the full Ocha experience within Japanese canteen surrounds.
Ocha offers a fine dining experience that is both lively and unforgettable. Handled with absolute ease of control but nowhere close to resting on its laurels, Ocha will impress with its finesse and modernity. Elegant Japanese fare never looked so good.