Shoya Japanese Restaurant, in the heart of Chinatown, offers the best of modern Japanese cuisine with plenty of nods to the traditional flavours of the past. The restaurant, which opened its doors in 2004, was the brainchild of Chef, Shigeo Nonaka, and well-known businessman and restaurateur, Mr. Ron Lim.
At that time, there were not many good Japanese restaurants around in the centre of the city. Ron offered Shigeo the opportunity to open a unique restaurant in the middle of the CBD, and together they have been entertaining and feeding the city folk ever since.
What sets Shoya apart is the variety of dining experiences on offer. The restaurant is split into four levels, with the lower two floors offering Japanese BBQ, and the upper two delivering more of a fine dining experience: traditional Japanese Horigotatsu seating on the third floor, and a sushi bar on the top floor.
Guests can choose a seating and dining option to suit the mood or the occasion. The Omakase Degustation Menus, offering tasting menus from eleven to thirteen courses, are another option that have grown in popularity just recently.
Manager, Toshihide Yabuki, is responsible for maintaining the smooth running of the venue and Sous Chef, Satoshi Yamanaka, helps Head Chef, Shigeo, in ensuring that diners are consistently delighted with the creations coming from the kitchen.
One of the signature dishes is the special Lamb Teriyaki – a perfect example of Australian produce meeting modern Japanese cooking. Lamb is not used much in Japanese food traditionally, but being an abundant and high quality ingredient in Australia, it makes sense to incorporate it into the restaurant here. Shigeo selects ingredients carefully, including the well-known Wagyu Beef from the Sher farm in Ballan, Victoria, as well as free range chicken, black hair pork, lamb and fresh seafood, also sourced locally. The fish used for sashimi and sushi are brought in daily from Oceania Seafoods, who supply fish from all over Australia.
Every ingredient and technique at Shoya is traditional, but Shigeo tries to improvise on the presentation, hoping to delight all the senses of diners. He had entered the cooking profession at the age of eighteen, when he was hired as an apprentice cook at the historical, 90-year old Okamoto Restaurant in Fukuoka.
Arriving in Australia in 1988 he worked at Shiki Japanese restaurant, before moving back to Tokyo to work at Unkai at the ANA Hotel. Finally he returned to Melbourne and opened Shoya. He is certainly now part of the fabric of the food scene in this city.