Supernormal has become a bit of a Melbourne food institution. Before we moved here, one of our colleagues used to talk about eating at Supernormal almost every time they visited Melbourne. It had to be on our list of places to try.
Tucked away in Flinders Lane, the front of the restaurant has its name, “Supernormal” in pink neon lettering in the glass, in the English alphabet and Japanese characters.
Once through the door, we found ourselves in a surprisingly large space that expanded further back than one would expect from the store front. It was a modern but quite minimalist fitout, with polished concrete floor slabs, and translucent ceiling panels that light glowed through.
There was an assortment of different table setups, round and square and varying sizes to accommodate different sized groups. There was a muted crowd roar, even at a late weeknight sitting. Music was barely audible in the background, just base beats above patron voices.
We were brought menus, and after looking through the various options on the a la carte menu, decided to go with the banquet menu, which promised favourite dishes from the a la carte menu, and other exclusive items. They have two banquet options, and we picked the slightly pricier one, as it included their famous lobster roll.
There was a complimentary table snack of soy roasted pumpkin seeds. These were crisp, light, and airy, and were pleasantly savoury from the soy coating.
The first dish was sashimi with a yuzu citrus dressing. The fish was fresh, and the finely diced yuzu complimented it well. There was a more strongly lemon dressing on the tuna. Neither was overpowering though.
The next item was a sesame flatbread, served still hot in the pan. It was accompanied by a sesame seed and herb oil dip. Despite its overall simplicity, this was one of our favourite dishes of the meal. The bread had good airiness and chew, and was just crisp on the outside.
A fresh salad followed, a mix of peppery leaves, sweet snow peas, edamame, sliced radishes, and a creamy milky dressing.
Their signature New England lobster roll was next. These were more a slider size than meal size. Despite being small, they were well done. The brioche buns were toasted so that the edges were just crisp. There was a good ratio of lobster to bread, and the lobster meat was not over-shredded, so you got actual chunks of lobster instead of just teased-out fibers. The mix was held together with a creamy mayonnaise sauce that had just mild sweet and saltiness to it, so that it let the natural sweetness of the lobster come through.
Next were pork and chive dumplings. These were served with a crispy net initially hiding the dumplings from view. The net was thicker than you would get at, say, Shandong Mama, and had a more cookie-like than wafer-like crunch. Still, it added a good contrasting texture to the soft dumplings. The dumpling skins themselves were also thicker than we would typically prefer. We also missed having vinegar to dip the dumplings in.
The effective main course (the other dishes playing a lead up to it) was Gippsland striploin, with a Jalapeno sauce. This was served with steamed rice and sauteed greens. The striploin was sliced up, which made it easier to share out. It was well cooked, so the meat was still pink and tender. The jalapeno sauce definitely had a fiery punch to it though, and we did have to take some of it off.
The final course was peanut butter parfait, with chocolate and salted caramel. This was neatly plated, with the parfait sitting in a pool of chocolate caramel sauce, a quinelle of chocolate mousse perched on top, and peanut pieces scattered over it. The chocolate mousse was rich, but not too dense. The peanut butter parfait was smooth and creamy, with definite peanut butter flavour. The caramel was rich and sticky, but not cloyingly sweet. The components all went together well, and it was a good dessert to finish the meal off with.
On the whole, we thought the meal at Supernormal was pretty good. Service was fine, but didn’t really stand out in our minds. We weren’t waiting too long between courses, and the dishes were quite well done as a whole. It wasn’t blow-your-mind amazing or creative, but they were quite consistent, rather than having obvious missteps. The best dishes were the bread and the lobster roll. Was it worth $120 per person though? That was a little unclear, but it still felt like Supernormal was a place we has to try for ourselves, given its reputation. You are paying for the name, the fitout, the staffing, and the location. We didn’t leave hungry, but we also weren’t stuffed, and felt like we could have had room for another dessert.
Price point: $120 per person for the banquet we had.
Value: Probably alright.
Address: 180 Flinders Lane, Melbourne CBD
Phone: 03 9650 8688