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calculating... February 22, 2021

Shige Restaurant

Fremantle Octopus featuring on East Perth Japanese restaurant, Shige

I was walking down the side of my house not long after nightfall when I saw it: a face, with a psychotic leer and empty eyes. It was scrawled on the wall and I was sure it had something to tell me. But what?

The arrow once drawn in yellow chalk on the footpath outside meant dog-nappers were eyeing my medium-sized mutt (or so the nice man on the police switchboard told me).

Newfoundland woman Jade Jules recently thanked her TikTok followers for “saving her life” after they told her the symbol drawn in snow on her bin lid meant she was about to be abducted and trafficked as a sex slave.

Turns out the face has been there since we moved in eight years ago, and I’ve walked past it at least twice a day every day since.

Which brings us to Shige, a non-descript restaurant my mate lived around the corner from for half a dozen years and barely ever noticed, much less visited. It claims to be the longest-running Japanese restaurant in Perth.

The eponymous Shige is an enigmatic Japanese chef and skilled sashimi swordsman, and raw fish is the reason we sought him out.

And the large sashimi combination ($55) was a platter of pelagic perfection

We reckon salmon can sometimes be the rockmelon of sashimi: the cheap stuff you use to extend a dish. Even the salmon here is just-off-the-boat magnificent, served two ways: au naturel and flash seared. This cornucopia also boasts sublime magenta big-eye tuna from Freo, Octopus also from Fremantle and South Australian hiramasa kingfish — even, expertly carved rectangles of oily belly meat.

The restaurant’s Facebook page has a gallery of photos that show all kinds of clear-eyed fish lying on chopping boards. It’s a quaint touch that serves to reinforce the quality and freshness of the product.

Dengaku ($13) is four blocks of wobbly tofu lightly fried in a tempura batter and hunks of charred eggplant, all daubed with smears of what at first glance looks like Vegemite and peanut butter but is actually black and red miso. The umami-rich paste is a classic complement to the earthy aubergine and silken bean curd.

Japanese food calls for frosty beer and the kind of wine that won’t overpower the subtle flavours. Though a chardonnay, the Vasse Felix Filius ($61) didn’t trounce the sublime beef tataki ($19.80) that followed. Prime seared eye fillet, a gentle ponzu, shredded daikon and spring onion and a wedge of lemon. Magic.

A not-your-average seaweed salad ($14) sat on some slaw and had mayo and sheets of kelp folded through. Nice. Unusual.

Chicken teriyaki is a not cheap $34 but it too, is a cut above: a tenderised thigh encased in a thin batter and the kind of sauce that clearly came not from a bottle. More miso eggplant and a smattering of edamame beans made for a pretty plate.

The dinner menu extends to sushi and noodles, with a smaller offering at lunch.

Shige’s fit-out is appropriately minimalist bordering on sterile but the charming service (the chef’s daughter Mai on the night we visited) adds plenty of character.

So does a dress code displayed at the entry, which stipulates no hats, thongs or “offensive, vulgar or inappropriate attire”. Only “subtle” cologne or perfume is allowed and no sleeveless tops for the fellas.

Singlet or not, Shige is worth seeking out.

Written by Amanda Keenan
The Sunday Times

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