best authentic japanese in melbourne
Hako - 310 Flinders lane - does a mix of authentic and progressive Japanese food with mains usually between AU$20-30.
Chocolate Buddha - Federation Square - also offers a mix of authentic and progressive-ish sitting more around the AU$25.
Although truly authentic Japanese can be difficult to find in Melbourne particularly relatively inexpensive Japanese. Most places particularly around Swanston St (CBD) provide more of a food court 'this is what white people think Japanese is' experience, so beware!
Yu-u is about the only Japanese place I have eaten at (in Australia) that a waft from the air vent has triggered childhood memories I didn't know I had (lived in Japan from 7 months to 3 years of age)!
It's the kind of Japanese food my parents re-introduced me to back in Australia, either in our home (mum went to Japanese cooking school in Tokyo) or a particular restaurant (long since closed) the company my dad worked for owned (oh the heady 1980's eh?) in order to entertain their Japanese customers.
Funnily enough I told my parents about this place and every time they go to Melbourne they have to eat at Yu-u. I wish we had something like this in Sydney.
The best and nearest to authentic japanese I've enjoyed here in Melbourne is Jamon Sushi in South Yarra (sashimi/sushi) which can be as cheap or as expensive as you like, Maedaya Sake Bar & Grill (upstairs you cook food on your own tabletop grill and downstairs is a little more sophisticated and they cook the food on grills) pretty cheap, I paid $50 for 2 and we stuffed and drank ourselves to happy oblivion. My last place is Osaka in St Kilda (more traditional style japanese) make sure you get a seat where you sit on the floor and it's not too pricey.
authenticity is hard to define and japanese food isn't just 'japanese food'! (pretty much like how chinese ppl call any non-asian food 'western food') but whatever, here are my 2 cents:
izakaya chuji - lonsdale, nr cnr russell - izakaya = japanese pub, rough n' ready, all sorts of mish mash (sushi, grills, stews), great w beer for a relaxed night out
kenzan- old school japanese (for melbourne). good bento lunches, dinner can be pricey. sukiyaki there is good, but sashimi is great, providing you remember to ask for what's in season/special that night - other sashimi is a bog standard
yu-u and tempura hajime as everyone else mentioned
maedaya as TKE mentioned is great for sake and yakiniku (grills/bbq), you'll kinda stink after though (think korean bbq)
misuzu's in sth melb which burnt down earlier is operating out of their bar next door - easygoing, well-priced bento/sushi
Kuni's (although I haven't been there in about a year, but it is consistently rated on of the best in Melb. It's been around about 25 years, so that is a statement in itself)
Yu-Yu's is a must...
And if you get out to the 'burbs, Shira Nui in Glen Waverley is also touted as one of Melbourne's best.