Omotenashi – Delightful food and service

Omotenashi – Introduction

Omotenashi is a brave new venture launched by relatively new arrivals in Tasmania, Sophie Pope and Lachlan Colwill. They first came to the attention of food lovers during their stint at the Port Cygnet Cannery, then with gigs with Dier Makr and at 7 and a half with Luke Burgess.

Now they have Omotenashi which is pure Sophie and Lachlan with some homages to previous experiences in Tasmania and South Australia peeking through.

The Omotenashi Web site gives some hints on what to expect and how Sophie and Lachlan divide up the duties:

“The team (Lachlan Colwill, Sophie Pope) are both formally trained chefs yet throughout the meal can swap roles between cooking, serving and story telling with the aim to create an experience that is informative about the produce served and the methods and techniques behind the cookery.”

For those of you who are wondering about the name, it derived initially from the Japanese tea ceremony but has become more widely used in that country to refer to doing everything possible to please your guests.

Those who have been to Japan know that omotenashi is practiced widely. When we enter a bar and ask for natural wine, we will very soon be eagerly shown an array of the very best they have with advice about which one we might like to choose. This is omotenashi. If you are lost and looking at your phone to work out where to go, you will very quickly be surrounded by strangers offering assistance – this is also an example of omotenashi.

Back to Sophie and Lachlan! Currently they are treating diners to two sittings per week on Friday and Saturday night starting at 6:30pm and going through till 9:30-10:00-ish. At the current time the cost of the meal and beverages is $300, but check the Web site below to make sure.

The meal consists of an array of carefully designed snacks based on the very best produce from Tasmania and interstate (but mostly Tasmania) accompanied by very thoughtful pairings of wine and sake. There is also, for those who prefer non-alcoholic drinks, some very well-designed drinks to match the food.

We’ve had some delicious meals in restaurants sitting among new cars (most notably MG Garage in Sydney) but never in Hobart. This tiny restaurant is a counter hidden at the back of a Lexus showroom on the ground floor of the Rox apartment complex in Elizabeth St.

It’s a brilliant use of a secluded space and has a “secret restaurant” feel to it – like so many hidden spaces in Tokyo, where you get a huge adrenaline rush just from the achievement of finding the entrance.

The inspiration is Japanese but it’s not a Japanese restaurant (fortunately it is Japanese enough to have a glorious chawanmushi though!).

Three hours gone in a moment … Here are some of the tastes but not everything. Part of the joy of this meal was the anticipation and the surprises after watching all the final cooking at the counter and it seemed a shame to lay it all out here step by step. We want to leave surprises for others who come after us.

We now provide some information about some of the dishes, in the order they were served were (with a few comments where appropriate):

Fermented vegetables – we have been served Sophie and Lachlan’s complex ferments on a number of occasions and thoroughly enjoyed them. This time was no exception with an array of ferments arranged around a plate, some that had undergone a single ferment and others that had been double fermented to add complexity to the flavour.

The vegetables were followed by 4 fish dishes namely:

Broadbill, wasabi, shiso

Wood smoked barramundi – there was some discussion regarding the “food miles” for this snack that relied on a fish from the Northern Territory. However, the discussion was interesting and the reasons given for using this particular fish at this time of the year were valid. There was also the topic of the “freshness” of the fish raised and, for this, the work of fish guru Josh Niland is worth considering as he “cures” his fish over many days before serving them in his restaurants or selling them in his fish butchery.

Cured tuna, blackberry

This was a very minimalist dish but comprised a perfect, small slice of tuna topped with one perfect blackberry.

Then a very clever dish of:
Quail egg, quinoa, honey

You will notice that in the photo above the quinoa had been turned into a cracker to cradle the quail egg.

Then some slightly larger dishes including :
Tomato, blueberry, basil

followed by:
Chawanmushi, garlic, scape

Chawanmushi is one of our favourite dishes that we have enjoyed in a number of Japanese restaurants including in Hong Kong and Japan. This one stacked up very well with the liquid perfectly set and the flavour amazing.

As a hint here we learned how to make this dish by using the recipe from what we consider to be the best recipe book devoted to Japanese cooking, namely the book Japanese Cooking: A Simple Art. This book was compiled by Shizuo Tsuji who was a true Renaissance scholar turning his inquisitive mind to many topics. He was a graduate in French literature, he compiled the world’s largest collection of Bach recordings and he also found the time to compile the best book on Japanese cooking!

There followed two other more substantial dishes including a slice of yellowfin tuna and a slab of Robbins Island wagyu before moving to dessert and “mignardise” (a slice of Castella cake and a delightful mochi) which brought the evening to a close:

Three hours gone in a moment!
It’s a unique addition to Hobart’s fine dining options, different enough to have carved out its own niche and that’s good for everyone. Thanks @sophie__pope and @lachlan_colwill for choosing Tasmania!

The current details about opening times and how to book are available on their Web site here, where you will find a very nice photo of the dining space which many people from Hobart will notice the influence of Sidecar on the design.

We have also included Omotenashi in our survey of places we like to dine in Hobart which you will find here.