The best dining approach at Shira Nui is to secure a stool at the sushi counter and let owner/chef Hiro Nishikura impress you with the freshest ingredients Omakase Sushi style. The joy of an Omakase experience is to simply “leave it up to the chef” and just worry about how many of those sublime morsels your belly can accommodate. To enjoy the meal simply sit back and let Chef Hiro and his assistant take turns serving you a minimum of 9 courses comprising of sushi pairs. After the 9th course, you will be asked if you can handle more and upon nodding the tasty pairs continue to appear without delay. As delicate and petite as they may seem, we usually surrender reluctantly at the 10th course without dessert. The meal requires about 1.5 hours and will set you back $80-$90 per head which is very reasonable considering the prices hardly budged in almost 10 years.
The setting is very simple and uncluttered with an emphasis on blonde wood surfaces . The dining area can accommodate 13 at the counter and about 25-30 at the tables. The kitchen where cooked food is prepared is well hidden away with a small window while the sushi counter takes the spotlight situated in the middle of the restaurant. The staff are very attentive and courteous and they always look more terrified of Chef Hiro than the diners; could be something to do with his resemblance to a Samurai warrior.
Before I elaborate further on each course, it is important that you get an insight on Chef Hiro’s background and his somewhat peculiar temperament. Humble beginnings had Chef Hiro leave school at 13 to work on a fish trawler in a small and remote Japanese island. He was surrounded by an abundance of fresh seafood and it was there his love of cooking began. At 23 years of age and with only 10 years of training, he was an accomplished sushi chef as well as a licensed Fugu chef (Fugu is a lethal puffer fish loved by many as a delicacy but yet kills a few unfortunate diners each year). It is comforting to know that Chef Hiro never lost a diner. He came to Melbourne in 1983 and worked at The Club in Smith Street, Collingwood. In 2002 he took a big risk location wise and opened Shira Nui in Glen Waverley, a very odd choice for a sushi restaurant indeed. The risk paid off and today, Shira Nui is a destination and many are willing to travel 30kms from the city or further to get a seat. Luckily for us, it is only a 10 minute drive from home but that is only little comfort knowing how difficult it is to get in. There are strictly two seating times for both lunch (12pm or 1pm) and dinner (6pm or 8pm) and they never fail to call you on the day to confirm your booking.
Chef Hiro has a very short fuse and is known to abuse parents of ill behaved children and he even showed a diner the door when she ate only the fish and left the rice. He told her she should have just ordered sashimi. There is hardly any chatter or small talk when he is preparing his precious sushi. At most you will hear a command every time you are served a course – NO SOY SAUCE or WITH SOY SAUCE and you had better obey. On rare occasions you might see him let out a sigh of relief when the service has come to an end and he may strike up a conversation, perhaps telling you how much he despises council regulations and paying credit card fees. I am also pretty sure its not tea he drinks from his cup during service breaks. We used to be offended to be acknowledged one time then ignored the next; we have since grown accustomed to his fickle emotional traits and we just switch off and concentrate on the food. This is one place where good tucker forgives all.
The meal at Shira Nui always starts with a cold appetizer regardless if it is Omakase or A La Carte. The one we were served in this photo seems to be a staple for a long time now; deep fried fish pieces lightly tossed in a sweet mirin broth with pickled onions. The staff will at this point ask if there is anything you don’t wish to be served and I always make sure I don’t get Mackarel. I find our local Mackarel quite fishy and you will understand what I mean when you see how it is served; highly seasoned. Although Omakase primarily showcases the chef’s creativity using the freshest seasonal produce, Chef Hiro has not changed certain courses and how they are served no matter what the season for a number of years. It is for this reason we dont go as much as we would like fearing we would soon tire of the familiar courses. We have ordered A La Carte a few times when we couldnt get counter seats and was initially surprised to find some of the Omakase Sushi courses permanently available as a main course on the menu. Sometimes if it is early in the night and Chef Hiro is in a good mood, you might be able to request a main course serve of any Omakase dish you have had in the past. It may sound like there is nothing special after all dining Omakase style at Shira Nui but I think some people will welcome the flexibility. I had craved for the Grilled Oyster Sushi and after eating six of them A La Carte, it would suffice to say that I was very satisfied.
1st Course – Cod Fish topped with Flying Fish Roe, dash of Lemon and a sprinkle of Salt – NO SOY SAUCE.
2nd Course – Pan Fried Salmon with Shichimi(Jap Chilli Flakes), dash of Lemon and torched- NO SOY SAUCE
3rd Course – Mackarel with Ginger, Sesame, Spring Onions, Shichimi and a pickled slice of paper thin Radish sheet – NO SOY SAUCE
Mr. Photographer always has this course as he doesnt mind the fishiness.
3rd Course for me – Spicy Salmon Cubes with Mayonnaise topped with Spring Onions – NO SOY SAUCE
4th Course – Barbequed Beef (Yakiniku) topped with Spring Onions – NO SOY SAUCE
6th Course – Tuna Steak topped with Spring Onions – NO SOY SAUCE
7th Course – Grilled Ocean Trout torched - WITH SOY SAUCE
9th Course – Grilled Oysters with Mayonnaise and Miso topped with Spring Onions – NO SOY SAUCE
Complimentary Dessert – Lemon Sorbet
As always, dining at Shira Nui never dissappoints and this meal was no different. The control of flavours is faultless and the produce is consistently fresh with two deliveries a day. Chef Hiro obviously takes his fresh seafood seriously if not he wont be closed on Sundays and Mondays. Many restaurants in Glen Waverley have come and gone due to rent hikes and steep competition in 10 years but Shira Nui has weathered well through the hard times and looking more confident than ever, even after losing its 2008 One Chef’s Hat awarded by The Age Good Food Guide. It is evident that behind the modest and unassuming shopfront and the absence of a website, the true success lies with Chef Hiro’s passion. Let’s hope he never gets sick of moulding that ball of rice between his hands.
Shira Nui Sushi Restaurant
247, Springvale Road,
Glen Waverley, 3150
Tel : 03 9886 7755