“Man who catch fly with chopstick accomplish anything.” Luckily there are no flies to catch tonight but, as I catch a final sliver of sashimi with mine, I’m feeling euphoric – like Daniel-san after dispatching Johnny Lawrence with that crane-kick shit. Wax on, wax off, indeed. I’m talking seminal ’80s blockbuster The Karate Kid, pop-culture-obsessed Melbourne eatery Mr Miyagi the fount of this particular foray into misty-eyed nostalgia. Lightly imbued with a knowing nod to popular culture, there’s thankfully none of the wretched 1980s irony overdrive you might expect from a venue taking their name from one of the era’s most famous characters. Miyagi enters Daniel LaRusso’s life with intelligence, poise and a wry sense of humour – and that more or less sums up the inspiration this Windsor restaurant has taken from their namesake.
Ever been told you’re a loser? You have now. Tongue-in-cheek installations, cutesy street art, kitschy murals and subtle design touches – nowt overly brazen, nowt overly subdued; there’s a nice balance to Mr Miyagi’s cool aesthetic (courtesy of designers Eades & Bergman), and it continues into the kitchen. The dishes are spliced into rounds: one, two, three and perhaps the finest (only?) incorporation of Mortal Kombat vernacular into a restaurant menu ever – Finish Him. Talking of being finished, we were. Sub-Zero’s sensational ‘spine rip’ fatality may be doing Miyagi’s Kabocha Pumpkin Toast some injustice, this was soul-rippingly good. Accompanied by white chocolate and pumpkin ganache, honeycomb and yogurt sorbet, and pumpkin ice-cream. As Mr Miyagi might say: Banzai!
That wry humour is all over Round 1 dish, Miyagi Fried Chicken – complete with colonel-baiting branded box. Umami depth-charge Tuna Cracker gets things off to a winning start, Round 2’s nigiri and sashimi combo ensures the opponent has no way back into tonight’s bout. Round 3 (for the competitive eater) delivers Soba Noodle Salad; buckwheat noodle, shallots, carrots, podded edamame, and a soba soy soup. Scrumptious. Liquor? Saké, plenty of it. Cocktails, divine. The Hello Kitty Sour continues with that knowing-nod… nowt overly brazen, nowt overly subdued, it’s terribly girly, but terribly good.
There’s a scene in The Karate Kid where Miyagi karate-chops the tops of three beer bottles, “how did you do that, how did you do that” begs a clearly excited Daniel LaRusso. “Don’t know. First time.” Comes his sensei’s response. And that’s it: cool, assured, without ever trying to be. Mr Miyagi, we salute you.