Ocha is one of those places you'll never find, unless you're told about it. Hidden away in suburban Kew, we managed to secure a Friday night booking at the rather specific time of 8:10pm only because of a cancellation. From all reports, being on the waiting list for a table is the norm here, and regulars book their next visit as they leave. And for good reason.
A tiny twenty-odd seater, Ocha hits all the right notes: original, but not to the point of ignoring time honored Japanese techniques, it's arguably the best traditional Japanese you'll find in Melbourne, if you can find a table. Regulars will recommend the specials board, changing daily. We could have happily ordered purely from that, but the menu offers several temptations that we couldn't resist. Of particular note is the soft shell crab (the way crab was meant to be!), and also the Agedashi Tofu, deep-fried cubes of tofu topped with bonito flakes and served in a flavourful broth. For Alicia to like tofu, you know it has to be spectacular!
Also rather intriguing was a wasabi icecream, a competition between hot and cold in your mouth and sinuses that was oddly pleasing. It's something you just have to try. The wine list is small, but happily BYO is an option (wine only) so although we didn't hold back on ordering we were left with a rather smaller bill than we were expecting, for a meal of this quality. At the end of the day, we'll be going back soon - if we can get a table!
Specials, changing daily.