It plays hard to find (look for a nondescript door on a city street, key in a provided code, walk down a corridor, find a lift, go down one floor, hit the buzzer on the next nondescript door) but this refined excursion into the Japanese dining art known as kaiseki rewards the effort.

With only 16 seats lined up along a wooden counter, the dégustation-like procession of small, elaborately prepared dishes is equal parts dinner and culinary theatre. It’s also no-expense-spared luxury. Beluga caviar tops a puck of soft tofu with a thrilling back beat of real wasabi.

There’s pale, fatty tuna belly done as nigiri sushi and nine-score Wagyu, briefly torched to release the fats. A sparse, atmospheric room dominated by a white lantern the size of a small hot air balloon adds to the seductive multi-course air of unreality.

Open Wednesday-Sunday for dinner

Ishizuka, Melbourne

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Best for: Elevated Japanese
Stand-out dish: Beluga caviar topped with tofu
Fab factor: Nabbing one of the exclusive seats will make you feel like a member of the A-list
Address: Basement, 139 Bourke Street, Melbourne
Phone number: (03) 8594 0895 

Top image Eve Wilson; Image Felix Forest

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