After seeing the Miso and Ghostpatrol ‘Nesting and Dying’ exhibition at Metro 5 gallery I went across the road to have dinner at the Aya Japanese Restaurant with my girlfriend. Aya was almost empty when we arrived at 7pm. We were seated at a table for two, read the menu and ordered food and wine (a glass of Mornington Pinot Noir). We shared a tofu salad and croquettes then each had the Kabayaki Unagi, grilled eel glazed with sweet soy sauce on rice served with miso soup and tsukemono (pickles).
While the meal was good, the company was not. After we had ordered, two bogan scrubbers in their late 30s to early 40s were seated at the next table. They alternated between talking loudly to each other (about 30% of the time) and talking loudly on their phones to numerous people (about 70% of the time).
Based on the conversation we could not avoid overhearing, one seemed to own a shop on High St. I can only surmise it sold bimbo fashion for mutton dressed as lamb. They discussed ordering a bottle of wine but one of them dismissed this idea as “too fattening”. They ordered several small dishes and ate quickly. We got a break when they went out but suffered when they came back in stinking of cigarettes.
We amused ourselves by talking in code about them. One of them bitched about not wanting to work and about insisting on going to a party incognito using a false name that someone was meant to put on the invite list. It was all a bit surreal. They were not 20 year old models or z grade celebrities doing promotions work but spoke like they were, putting on fake professional voices when they took phone calls. They seemed more like Frankston working girls on a night off from what we could tell. Fortunately they left before us.
Our conversation experience set the tone for the meal. Aya has no ambience, and the tables for two are placed too close together. The interior looks tired, the seat I sat on was uncomfortable and the table legs were oddly placed and made sitting an exercise in rigid straight legged discipline.
In contrast, the food was good and the eel in particular was plump, fresh and well proportioned (top photo). I’m not sure how authentic the croquettes and salad were (above). For what we got, I thought it a little overpriced ($28 for the Kabayaki) but you also have to consider the location.
I was a bit distracted after leaving the gallery. As Aya was a Japanese restaurant near the corner of High St and Glenferrie Rd, it seemed to be the place I meant to go to, but I was wrong. In hindsight I realised I meant to go to Ayame around the corner on Glenferrie Rd, which has received positive reviews. The similar names and my poor familiarity with the area caught me out.
Given that it was not my intended destination and that the meal will be memorable for the wrong reason, I doubt I will be returning. If you do go I’d suggest going in a group so you can get an entire section to yourself.