The sophistication of simplicity – what it’s like to dine at One-Hat restaurant Mu Omakase | HerCanberra

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The sophistication of simplicity – what it’s like to dine at One-Hat restaurant Mu Omakase

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Since its opening in 2021, Japanese restaurant Mu Omakase has quickly become a must-visit for serious diners looking for a unique experience – and it’s joined a slew of local one-hat restaurants for a second year in a row.

Recognised by the 2023 and 2024 Good Food Awards for its innovative fare, Mu is the first restaurant of its kind in Canberra, where diners leave it completely up to the chefs to select and serve a seasonal degustation of dishes.

Brought to life by the Chairman Group (one of the longest-standing culinary families in Canberra and local leaders in Pan-Asian cuisine) to turn fine dining on its head, Mu is nothing like the Omakase restaurants found in Sydney and Melbourne.

Instead of serving a full sushi and sashimi menu – although these dishes are still the strengths of the team – they instead offer a fusion of Kaiseki, Robatayaki and Omakase dining experiences, with a twist.

Photography: Pew Pew Studio.

The Mu Omakase Experience

The HerCanberra team was lucky enough to try it for ourselves the day after the talented team received their 2024 hat. Here’s what it’s actually like to dine at Mu Omakase.

Walking into the elegant, enclosed dining area of Mu, the first thing that strikes you is the utter privacy of the space. The next thing is that the kitchen located at the centre of the wrap-around counter, lit up almost like a stage – which is a perfect metaphor for what happens next.

Using the best available products in Canberra – from seafood, poultry, and beef to native herbs and plants – for Chef Chuck Yu, carrying out the true Omakase experience (which literally translates to “I’ll leave it up to you” in Japanese) is all about taking diners on an unforgettable dining journey.

Photography: Pew Pew Studio.

Artfully preparing the first dish in front of us – carving through fish like it’s butter and zesting an orange with what looks like a simple flick of the wrist – Chuck talks us through the flavours and how to best enjoy it as a bowl is gently placed in front of each of us.

Strongly focusing on seafood and robatayaki using a binchotan grill to enhance the quality of ingredients and uplift the flavours, the 12-course menu is too long to talk about each course in detail, but there were some standouts across the evening that we can’t help but spotlight.

Photography: Pew Pew Studio.

The Hokkaido scallop with butter corn puree, XO sauce and potato duo (the sixth course) was inspired by the chef’s memory of winter on the Japanese island of Hokkaido, where butter corn ramen with scallop, canned corn soup from the kiosk machine, and the fried potato snacks that are everywhere in the Northern Island.

Photography: Pew Pew Studio.

The Patagonian toothfish (the ninth course) shocked everyone with its almost pancake-like flavour and texture. Incorporating new flavours into the classic Japanese dish, it’s a fatty fish sustainably caught from the deep sea around Heard Island that’s cured in white miso for at least two days before the chef grills it over the charcoal. The slightly charred flavour was complemented by the rich and nutty hazelnut miso and brightened up with the zingy finger lime.

Yes, we wanted to lick the plate.

As for the Wagyu steak (the eleventh course) – where Chuck once again delicately cut through the ribeye cap like it was made of butter – the combination of fresh wasabi salsa and mushrooms sautéed in garlic and duck fat was the perfect example of how Mu’s every dish is a burst of flavour.

Photography: Pew Pew Studio.

And while we were incredibly full and satisfied (11 small but delectable courses will do that to you), we’re never ones to skip dessert – and with blackberry swirl gelato, yuzu jelly, burnt white chocolate and matcha powder on the menu, every mouthful was pure heaven.

More than food

It’s worth noting here that Mu is about more than food.

For those looking to kickstart their night at the funky neighbouring Cicada Bar – which also serves as the entrance to the wood-panelled Mu – there’s an extensive range of delicious cocktails, mocktails and wines (including drops by Japanese winemakers) that serve as the perfect taste what’s to come.

But when a restaurant is as serious about sake as Mu is, you can’t go past their impressive, paired tasting.

Photography: Ben Calvert Photography.

Elevating the dining experience by serving small glasses of rice wine with each dish – varying from a dry to sweet taste – the matching sake pairing is curated by Manager Jasmine Choi based on the food menu for the evening.

Also affected by seasonality and designed to showcase what Jasmine believes is best at the time, the pairing showcases a wide spectrum of sake – from ‘Pressed Moto’ sake that tastes almost like an apple cider (much to our delight) to the unique Ine Mankai Akai Sake, which is made with an ancient strain of red rice and has strong pomegranate flavours.

Bringing out the flavours in the food and complementing the dishes beautifully, it’s honestly a must-do if you’re heading to Mu – and even those of us who’ve never had sake before delighted in the experience.

From the moody yet minimalistic interiors to the intimate feeling of watching the talented team, unlike other busy and bustling restaurants, dining at Mu is also incredibly relaxing, making each dish even more enjoyable.

You had time (and were encouraged) to take in the flavours, each dish looked like a piece of art and both Jasmine and Chuck loved it when we asked questions about the meal and drinks.

It’s no wonder the vibrant husband-and-wife duo – that’s right, they’re partners in life and business, which is probably what makes the pairing of sake and food so good – have been recognised yet again by the Good Food Awards.

Perfect for date night (if there’s ever a lull in conversation you can both watch in awe as the Chef makes the next mouth-watering dish), a special event, or a treat-yourself night out in the heart of Canberra’s city, dining at Mu will change how you look at, and enjoy food.

Because it’s more than a meal, it’s an experience.

THE ESSENTIALS

What: Mu Omakase
When: Tuesday to Thursday: one sitting at 7 pm. Friday to Saturday: two sittings at 5:45 pm and 8 pm. Bookings required.
Where: 1 Constitution Avenue, City
Web: chairmangroup.com.au/mu

Feature image: Ben Calvert.

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