I get more than a little excited when I see Mooloolaba prawns, Queensland scallops and local spanner crab on a menu, especially when I'm sitting in a Japanese restaurant. Japanese cuisine, with it's preference for extremely fresh, raw product, is a perfect way to enjoy the delicate flavours of top seafood.
At Cherry Blossom Tree Japanese Restaurant in the heart of Mooloolaba, chef Jeff Leong and his team are creating some mini masterpieces. In this unassuming location on a busy Mooloolaba street, Cherry Blossom Tree is a little haven of Japanese food. There are tatami rooms for a private dining experience and a well crafted menu that includes Japanese classics given a Queensland twist.
I started with an amuse bouche or tsukidashi of Mooloolaba king prawn tartare with ponzu and green mango accompanied by a small fritter of giant taro.
The chef's selection of futomaki (sushi) included a king prawn, mango and coriander combo that was hard to beat. However imagine rolls made with Mooloolaba yellow fin tuna or local spanner crab and you'll guess that the competition was tough.
I always enjoy oh-so-crisp and light tempura and Cherry Blossom Tree's effort did not disappoint. There were no tell-tail oily patches on the plate when I finished which means they've got this one nailed in the kitchen.
The clean flavour of perfect seafood sashimi was next on the list with Tasmanian salmon accented by a spiced ginger and white miso dressing and yellow fin tun topped with wagarashii, umeboshi and a little black caviar.
My favourite dish of the day, and it's a tough call, was the crisp pork belly topped with pickled nacho pear and a side of kabocha and kabu salad. The house made plum sauce was the finishing touch to this dish with the contrast of crisp pork crackling and soft pear.
Second favourite was the teriyaki glazed chicken roll with lotus root and gobo filling, sprinkled with king oyster mushrooms. It came with wakame rice.
The meal finished with a selection of house made sorbets.
Chef Jeff Leong recently had a short stint in Singapore as head chef at Izy Bar and Dining. He worked with executive chef Kazumasa Yazawa, who trained with Tetsuya for seven years, and famous Japanese chef Yoshihiro Harisawa who flew in to do a 12 course degustation for the owners.
Jeff says Kazumasa was using fantastic produce at the restaurant including fresh truffles, foiegras, lobster, and northern bluefin tun toro at $1000 a kilo.
It's clear Jeff's Singapore experience has enriched the menu at Cherry Blossom Tree.
There are three tatami rooms but also plenty of standard tables available if you prefer.
If you love Japanese food this is a real find in Mooloolaba.
Bottom line: Entrees around $16, mains around $28, desserts $13.
Best tip: A five course chefs selection is available for $70 per person.
Best for: Japanese food lovers
Disclaimer: Ed+bK was a guest of Cherry Blossom Tree Restaurant