Pitched as a lux­ury food des­ti­na­tion for both din­ing and high-end in­gre­di­ents, this new res­tau­rant and re­tail space fails to in­spire

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents - CALIA: RE­VIEWED BY DAN STOCK

New re­tail/res­tau­rant con­cept Calia.

WHERE were you when the apoc­a­lypse came? Were you hid­ing in your shel­ter with your beans, bot­tles and zom­bie re­pel­lent? Or were you spend­ing your life’s sav­ings on gold salt, $16 jars of macadamias, four-fig­ure bot­tles of whisky, wagyu and ike jime fish?

Judg­ing by the crowds at Calia, the new high-end re­tail/res­tau­rant con­cept that’s made its home in Em­po­rium, there’ll be lots of the lat­ter.

Tak­ing over the sim­i­larly themed, if more ac­ces­si­bly priced, Jones the Gro­cer space, the res­tau­rant at Calia serves a menu cre­ated by Miche­lin-starred chef Fran­cisco Javier Araya (of Tokyo’s 81 Res­tau­rant) mak­ing a hero of those same luxe in­gre­di­ents, in­clud­ing Rob­bins Is­land wagyu and Mark Eather’s sus­tain­able fish.

The cut­lery is gold, the glasses Riedel, the staff as­ton­ish­ingly plen­ti­ful and the cook­ing medi­ocre.

Alaskan king crab claws come un­der a blan­ket of torched miso mayo that, while tasty, over­pow­ers the del­i­cate sweet­ness of the crab. An even pret­tier dish of scal­lops is let down by be­ing over­dressed in ponzu that ren­ders the thin slices limp and flavour­less, and also un­able to com­pete against sliv­ers of raw red onion. Look, but don’t touch.

Seared wagyu is ex­cel­lent, though it sits on a bed of claggy rice, and the subtlety of the wagyu is over­whelmed by the shichimi sea­son­ing. A pal­lidy­olked egg and flavour­less gin­ger fin­ish an­other dis­ap­point­ing dish.

Three min­i­mal-in­ter­ven­tion wines are avail­able by the glass – though don’t ex­pect much guid­ance from staff – and a cou­ple of bot­tled beers from Tem­ple aug­ment Ja­panese Orion draught.

Given all of the above is avail­able to grab and go, if you’re in the mood for a $40 steak or piece of sus­tain­able salmon, sure come to Calia, but best cook it your­self at home.

From top: scal­lops in ponzu sauce, the busy din­ing room, and Alaskan king crab claws.

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