A cool and cosy casual Japanese restaurant and bar serving delicious plates for lunch and dinner. The Feed Me option is excellent and has to be one of the best around for only $45pp.
Location: 11 Burwood Hwy, Burwood, VIC 3125 Ph: (03) 8529 5749
If you cross the intersection of the Burwood Highway and Warrigal Road heading east too quickly, you’ll miss the modest street frontage of LiHO Shokudo. And that would be a real shame, as this dinky Japanese restaurant is a genuine find.
For those not in the know, a ‘shokudo’ is a casual kind of Japanese restaurant which serves budget-friendly food. Therefore, it’s more of a cafe than a fine diner and this more relaxed style of eating is one of the things that makes LiHO stand out from the Japanese-leaning crowd.
On a chilly winter’s evening, the compact bar and dining space is snug and welcoming. And busy. LiHO Shokudo might not be on everyone’s radar, but many of the locals who have discovered this gem are regulars and finding an empty table can be a challenge.
So what’s the attraction? Warm, friendly service and seriously tasty food. There’s also the added bonus of one of the best value Feed Me menus we’ve had the pleasure of eating in a long time.
Slotted between a real estate agent and the Lucky 13 Tattoo Parlour, you need to pay attention to spot LiHo Shokudo.
And once you’ve parked and headed through the door, the space is pretty tight.
It pays to book ahead for dinner at LiHO Shokudo or there’s a good chance you’ll be disappointed as there isn’t a lot of it to share around.
That said, this cute little Japanese eatery has oodles of charm.
A chalkboard carries a list of speciality Japanese drinks and a cocktail of the week – often yuzu gin or sake-based. A tiny, wooden counter holds a coffee machine and glass domes containing the cloud-light chiffon cakes that feature amongst the dessert selection. A bustling, miniscule kitchen can be spied behind a grey dividing curtain.
With low tables set against the window and another high table to the side of the bar, downstairs is intimate. But have no fear, as there’s a larger dining space upstairs with a communal table and a couple more placings for 4 diners.
On a drab Melbourne evening, the soft lights and buzz of talk creates a welcoming, cosy vibe.
The drinks list is surprisingly large and heavily focused on either Japanese beverages, or those influenced by Japan.
Hence, under the Beer & Cider there’s the popular Asahi Super Dry ($8.5), but also the Far Yeast Nightcrawler ($13.5) – a hazy IPA from Yamanashi, Japan – and the Hawkers Yuzu & Plum ($11.5) from Kettle Sour, Reservoir, Victoria.
If you fancy a cocktail, you could try the Yuzu Sour ($16.5) – Yuzushu, Kabuso Liquer, Yuzu Juice, Egg White, Orgeat Syrup & Orange Bitters. It’s perfect with a plate of sashimi. Alternatively, there is LiHO’s take on a Negroni ($16.5) made with Etsu Japanese Gin, Campari & Antica Formula.
The non-drinkers are similarly well-catered to sodas and mocktails. The Iced Matcha Yuzu Fizz ($9.5) – Matcha, Yuzu Jelly, Lime & Yuzu Soda is especially interesting and worth giving a go.
I’ve visited LiHO Shokudo a couple of times now and I’ve had both the Feed Me selection and gone free-style.
In my opinion, if you’re hungry, love Japanese food and aren’t scared of raw things, the Feed Me menu is a must-try.
This option gives you 6 savoury dishes and a dessert for the bargain price of $50pp (+40pp for matching drinks). The set menu is generous and introduces you to some of the venue’s best cooking. It’s also a very pleasant way to spend a couple of hours – eating great food and chatting with family or friends.
What’s more, the drink options are interesting too. The last time we dined there, the tipples covered 2 Sakes, as well as red and white wine.
You know you’re off to a good start when the first thing you are given is fantastic. Of course, it’s even better when it’s an amuse bouche which, technically, doesn’t even count as a course.
So our opening nibble was a crisp, wafer-thin shard of chicken skin topped with raw salmon in spicy mayo. It was an unassuming, fragile flavour bomb and got everyone excited for what was to come. Very smart.
We officially started our meal with a delicate plate of Hiramasa King Fish Sashimi & Spicy Yuzu Onion Dressing. The fish was clearly very fresh and the citrusy yuzu worked well with the sweet flesh.
Top Asian fusion restaurant Coda has a Japanese-influenced Kingfish sashimi entree which is also sublime. You can read our full review here.
The gyoza at LiHo Shokudo are pleasingly geometric. They come as long, slender triangles, filled with wagyu beef, carrot, leek and onion. A quick bathe in a soy-based dipping sauce is all they need to make them sing.
More sweetness, but of a very different kind followed with the Ebi No Nasumiso Itame. This was a very memorable jumble of crunchy, shelled prawns and cubes of soft-yielding eggplant in a miso glaze. The sugary yet umami notes of the glaze enhancing the flavours of the juicy prawns and silky eggplant.
Next came a pretty dish of Wagyu Tataki. The barely seared raw beef arranged in an attractive flower pattern and drizzled with ponzu, onion and spicy daikon oroshi. We dispatched it in record time.
Soft shell crab is one of those delicacies that I often like the sound of more than the reality. However, not at LiHO Shokudo. Here, the crab arrives in a magically thin tempura crust which dissolves in the mouth. What’s more, the mild flesh is given a lift by a punch of wasabi-laced mayo.
Our savoury part of our evening was completed with slices of seared wagyu beef and hearty bowls of Omu Katsu Curry – chicken katsu and Japanese curry. The beef rich and tender whilst the chicken within its panko crumb, moist and flavoursome. If any of us were still hungry, we needn’t have worried. The Chicken katsu curry turned up on a bowl of rice, accompanied by a sunshine yellow doona of yolk-heavy egg.
But, that wasn’t all. In addition, there was miso soup and a side of dressed salad leaves. This last course alone would make a pretty satisfying dinner.
The MOSFiATA 8″ Super Sharp Professional Knife is a thing of beauty and is perfect for the aspiring home cook.
Finally, we hit dessert. Thankfully, this was a palate-cleansing plate of torn chunks of Matcha Chiffon Cake. It arrived with orange segments, a tart, refreshing trickle of yuzu and orange sauce and a surprisingly creamy quinelle tofu ice cream. An extra textural dimension came from a fine gravel at the side each of the dish – toasted cracked rice, maybe?
A La Carte
Having raved about the Feed Me option, it’s only fair I mention a few other standout regular menu items.
Now, I’ve never had a problem working my way through a bowl of lotus root crisps. Well, at LiHO the Renkon Chips are next level. What makes them so? A liberal sprinkling of truffle salt. Inspired.
Similarly, I always manage to find a little extra room for a Karaage. Again, the version here is elevated by a great spicy mayo.
If the Black Cod Saikyo Yaki is on the menu, do yourself a favour and order it. The world-beating Japanese fine dining restaurant Nobu has a miso glazed black cod signature dish. Whilst the one at LiHO Shokudo might not be quite as fancy, it’s still utterly delicious.
Lastly, if you have a craving for Agedashi Tofu, you’re in luck. One of my friends lived in Japan in a previous life and has maintained a love for this aromatic tofu dish. Needless to say, she was more than happy with it at LiHO.
Sushi nights with the family become interactive fun with this easy-to-use Sushi Making Kit.
Finally, it’s worth noting that LiHO Shokudo does a busy lunch trade from Wednesday to Saturday, inclusive.
Pop by around midday and you’ll find local workers and families alike tucking into bowls of Udon Noodles and rice-based dishes. Many of these plates are pulled from the Shokudo Set which offers meals like Zaru Soba ($23.5) – Salmon Tataki, Ikura, Cha Soba, Chilled Tsuyu & Onsen Egg. As all of these Sets come with a Salad and Otoshi, they are both economical and filling, as well as tasty.
And as they are open until 4pm on those afternoons, it’s also a great place for a good cup of coffee and a cheeky slice of one of those Chiffon Cakes. Or maybe even their decadent-looking Matcha Tiramisu ($9.5)!
Another great local Japanese eatery is Haiku Cafe down the road. Read all about Haiku and more of the Best Cafes in Camberwell, here.
LiHO Shokudo is a real find.
In a city where decent Japanese cuisine is common even in the suburbs, it’s offering something quite different.
Here we have a neighbourhood bar and casual dining venue that happens to create some of the best Japanese food we’ve eaten in a while.
When you couple this with delightful service and a great drinks list, it’s the kind of place you’ll happily return to again and again.
And as for the Feed Me menu. It’s worth making the journey to Burwood for. Just make sure you book first. This Japanese restaurant is tiny and already has a staunch following amongst locals. I know. I’m one of them.