A taste of Japan in Australia.
Japanese food and drink are centred around socialisation – the bringing together of friends around a table with a range of snacks made with the finest of ingredients all paired perfectly with quality cocktails or a few sips of sake. If you combine this with the intimate atmosphere and attentive service, then you are in for a wonderful night. Luckily for us in Australia, we don’t have to travel far as we have a selection of amazing Japanese bars providing us with an authentic Japanese dining experience.
Nikkei Bar & Restaurant
Named after the term for Japanese immigrants living abroad, Nikkei is also the name of the special fusion of Japanese and Peruvian food, techniques and flavours which have been developed and perfected over centuries. Sydneysiders can thank Nikkei Bar & Restaurant for indulging us with this distinct cuisine in the comfort of our city. The menu is designed to share in izakaya-style and is heavily focussed on seafood all served with Peruvian vegetables mixed with an array of spices such as Peruvian black mint. Alongside some quality wine from the coastlines of Australia, South America, Spain and France, you are sure to have a great night experiencing the colliding worlds of Japanese and Peruvian cuisine.
Kuro Bar & Dining
The best part about Kuro is that there are four venues in one, meaning the restaurant has you covered for your morning coffee all the way through to dinner and cocktail time. The beautiful restaurant is housed in a heritage-listed building and includes a Brew Bar with house-roasted coffee beans. As well as that, Kuro seats 40 in a mid-range degustation setting, a cocktail bar and lastly, a fine dining experience seating 10 people aptly named Teramoto by Kuro. The cocktails are simple and refined with unique details such as apple-shaped ice. Kuro is a beautifully designed place and fulfils the needs of all those visiting.
Hidden away in Belmore Lane in Sydney’s Surry Hills is Tokyo Bird, a small Japanese bar seating only 60 guests and serving an impressive selection of whisky, cocktails, beer and sake alongside the greatest food companion; yakitori. In true Japanese style, the cocktails are simple and focus on using technique and key ingredients like the Japanese Negroni made with Roku Gin, Campari, Punt e Mes sweet vermouth and orange umeshu. Pair your tipple with a few of their chicken, pork belly or beef skewers and you are set for a really enjoyable night.
Bancho is another small bar in Sydney’s Chinatown enticing locals with a variety of Japanese whisky to choose from as well as Taiwanese and Australian varieties, including a 35-year-old Hibiki from Suntory. Brought to us by the team behind Tokyo Bird, Bancho’s cocktail list is well and truly one of the best thanks to the locally sourced ingredients from local markets and grocers across Chinatown – so you can definitely assume these will be the freshest and tastiest cocktail concoctions in Sydney.
Bar Wa Izakaya
This isn’t just your average bar in the heart of Hobart, this is a family-run bar serving quality Japanese beer, sake, whisky and cocktails all alongside a food menu filled with fresh and authentic Japanese meals. The best part is that all the meals are designed to be shared among friends so you rid the hard decision of picking one meal and indulge in a few. Bar Wa Izakaya also offers a sake tasting plate for those who haven’t tried the Japanese tipple before as well as providing popular Japanese beers like Asahi and Kirin. Plus, the bar recently launched their lunchtime ramen menu that had local Hobartians racing to try their chicken, pork or vegetable ramen, cooked fresh each and every day.
Kin Japanese BBQ
Kin Japanese BBQ is a small-scale yakitori bar in Hobart that serves local and fresh produce cooked on a traditional Japanese yakitori grill. The bar is intended to be cosy and intimate, only seating 13 people, meaning each meal that is served is delivered hot off the grill. The yakitori sticks include local produce from Tasmania such as octopus, scallops, wallaby eye fillet and quail, but the real beauty lies in their Feed Me menu which provides diners with six-courses for $60 per person or $70 with a glass of sake. Like any great Japanese bar, Kin Japanese BBQ has a stellar cocktail and beer menu that should definitely be explored.
Operated by chef Koichi Minamishima who has over 30-years experience in Japanese fine dining, one can not look past Richmond’s Minamishima. The team provides a sushi menu that is so perfectly crafted and made with the finest of ingredients that it feels like you have flown to Japan for the night. Offering sushi bar dining experiences or the dining room for larger groups and gatherings, guests will be able to indulge in variations of nigiri that are served piece by piece or experiencing the dining room which serves shared dishes, followed by a 10-course meal. Either way, we can assure you that this is the best Japanese food on offer in Melbourne.
Ichi Ni Nana
With a number of beautiful spaces within the restaurant including a courtyard with a retractable glass ceiling and plenty of greenery, this is definitely the spot to gather your friends for a delicious drink and some quality share style snacks. Ichi Ni Nana’s menu is more modern than the traditional Japanese restaurants which is where the beauty lies in this restaurant. Here you can indulge in various Japanese dishes like sushi, sashimi, robatayaki, yakitori, tempura and gyoza. The drinks list includes various sake’s, Japanese spirits and a slew of creative cocktails using infusions like lemongrass vodka.
En Japanese Bar and Restaurant
Stepping into En Japanese Restaurant and Bar is like walking into two different worlds. Out the front, En Japanese Restaurant Bar serves up a range of larger Japanese meals and then heading out the back, the atmosphere changes and a more traditional izakaya-style restaurant where bar-goers are encouraged to try out a number of different Japanese drinks with a few snack items to carry them through. On the menu, we suggest trying the array of sake available or if you are after an under the radar Japanese drink, then the shochu list is for you.
Located on Melbourne Street in North Adelaide is the cosy, yet sophisticated Yakitori Takumi. Opening their doors in 2004, today, Yakitori Takumi is still described by locals as a hidden gem. Don’t let this scare you away though because Yakitori Takumi always makes a strong impression on the Adelaide crowd with its amazing service and delicious yet affordable food. The team behind the restaurant are experts in yakitori so you can expect an extensive menu list of different skewers – we’d highly recommend the scallops. If you pair this with one of the many Japanese beers on offer, then your meal is complete!
When hospitality masterminds Andy Freeman, Eamon Sullivan and Scott Bridger come together to create an underground Japanese whisky and cocktail bar, you know it is going to be something special. Hidden on Hibernian Place, Goody Two’s is a late-night Japanese bar enticing locals with its lengthy selection of drinks including a three page Japanese whisky menu. If you prefer to sip on a cocktail, the Kofuna ($24) is a crowd favourite as well as their highballs which are equally as impressive. To complement the drinks we’d recommend either the fried chicken or the delicious pork dumplings which are available on Thursdays for $1. Goody Two’s is a true Japanese experience in the heart of Perth.
We present you with Nobu, the world’s most recognised fine dining Japanese restaurant which is a must on any Perth foodies list. Fusing Japanese cuisine with South American flavours, Nobu is renowned for its delectable mix of cold and signature hot dishes. A few favourites include the Yellowtail Sashimi with jalapeno’s ($29) and the Black Cod Miso ($49) as well as dishes made just for Perth diners, like the Western Australian marron and rock lobster. Nobu Perth is also the first restaurant part of the franchise to offer teppanyaki in a private dining setting. So if you are looking for something unique, then this is definitely for you!
Sake Restaurant and Bar
Sake Restaurant and Bar overlooks the water on the riverfront of Brisbane’s exclusive Eagle Street Pier. A dinner date at this restaurant allows diners to experience the creativity of the restaurant’s chefs first-hand as you delve into a menu best described as traditional Japanese with a modern twist. Either keep control of your meal by ordering a la carte or put your trust back into the chefs and opt to dine omakase. Wondering what you’re going to drink with these exotic Japanese dishes? Sake Restaurant and Bar have that covered too with the option of choosing to add on a drink pairing that compliments each meal.
In the bustling suburb of Fortitude Valley in Brisbane’s city sits the dark and moody hôntô. The restaurant is made up of three spaces – a small bar called OO, a raw dining bar where the kitchen is in the centre of the restaurant and a main dining room – and is known by locals for its creative food and drinks menu and its minimal styling. Diners will be pleased to know the food menu has been consciously created to include delicate pairings of ingredients where each bite packs your tastebuds with flavours like the grilled Mooloolaba king prawns with kombu butter and fermented chilli ($23). If you pair this with a biodynamic glass of Australian wine, a rare glass of Japanese whisky or a creative cocktail, then you are in for a fun night at hôntô.
Feature image: Kuro Bar & Dining. Image supplied.