How I Melbourne: Koichi Minamishima

Published on 4 November 2020

Photo: Koichi Minamishima (credit: Eve Wilson)

Koichi Minamishima moved from Nagoya to Melbourne 22 years ago to take up a position at Kenzan. He thought he would return home after a few years here but ended up falling in love with the city. Minamishima held the position of head chef at Kenzan for many years, until the desire to showcase traditional sushi – with all its subtleties, seasonality, breadth and nuances – led him to open his own restaurant, Minamishima, in Richmond in 2014. 

In the mornings you’ll find me picking up a coffee at Mayday and getting a pastry from Penny For Pound. I then take a morning walk around the block, before checking in on my seafood order (pre-COVID you’d find me at the Queen Victoria or Prahran Market sourcing the seafood myself) and planning the day ahead.

My local is Mayday. They have really good coffee and Adam and his team are very friendly.

My defining food moment in Melbourne was when I worked with Koko's chef Tomotaka Ishizuka. I worked at Koko for a short period of time while preparing for the opening of Minamishima, and Ishizuka-san introduced me to some premium local produce (local wagyu, rare-breed pork) that I did not use as a sushi chef. My background is in sushi and Edomae sushi, which is very traditional, so it was Ishizuka-san who showed me how to adapt Western ingredients to traditional Japanese cuisine.

I know I’m in Melbourne when everyone on the street is walking around with a (reusable) coffee cup in their hand.

The best new thing I’ve found is Gelato Messina on Swan Street. I never had time to look around my neighbourhood in the past but now I have more time to explore my local streets. I came upon Messina during one of my walks recently and have been having too much gelato since.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I will go to Brae. I enjoy the drive to Birregurra and having a lovely and relaxing meal from Dan and his team. I like to stay overnight, too, so I can explore the town and the surrounding areas.

When I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them to Cutler & Co. Andrew McConnell's restaurants are always on cool streets and in cool areas. The restaurant, staff, customers and food all strike the right balance. They epitomise Melbourne to me.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than Aka Siro in Collingwood. It makes me feel like I’ve gone to a local eatery in Japan – great when I’m feeling homesick.

My favourite place to stock up on supplies is Queen Victoria Market or Prahran Market because I can see what the freshest seafood of the day is.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be for Melbourne to have a fish market like Sydney or Tokyo where there are more customer interactions. A market like this can be a more fun and exciting place for people to visit and explore.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is Melburnians being adventurous and inquisitive with food from all different countries and cultures.

Experience Koichi Minamishima’s craft for yourself, either at the restaurant (4 Lord St, Richmond) or with Minamishima at Home, available Tues to Sat for pick-up or delivery to the cities of Boroondara, Melbourne, Stonnington and Yarra. Order or find out more about reservations at minamishima.com.au

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