In Japan, chochin – sweet, creamy unfertilised egg yolk often fixed to the end of yakitori (or chicken skewers) – is a delicacy. In Melbourne, it’s hard to find in its full form, reproductive system and all, but chef Ken Ibuki is doing his damnedest to offer the next best thing.
It’s not advertised on the menu at his new eatery Kura – beneath a Brunswick East apartment block – but if you’re lucky, he may have some for you to sample. It’s first poached in tare (a sweet soy, sake and mirin glaze) then attached to yakitori, which Ibuki roasts over a charcoal parrilla grill left by the previous tenant, the now-closed Faye.
“My first job was at an izakaya,” Ibuki tells Broadsheet. “So it’s nothing new to me.” It was there that he mastered the art of robatayaki (translated literally to “fireside cooking”), a skill passed on to him by his dad. Ibuki spent the last 10 years as a sushi chef in restaurants including Kisume and Nobu, but Kura is a chance for him to return to his roots. “I decided to step back into hot food because my dad’s a chef and I’ve grown up with a lot of flavours within Japanese food,” he says.
“This is a homage to him.”
Ibuki’s dad came to Australia in the ’60s and opened one of Melbourne’s first Japanese restaurants. At the time, the cuisine was a novel concept to most Australians and was modified to suit the local palate. But at Kura, Ibuki is highlighting ingredients and preparation methods closer to what you’d find in Japan.
“We’re not aiming for 100 per cent traditional,” says co-owner Kelvin Low (The Elysian). “We’re just trying to do really good robatayaki, which is the art of cooking with coals.”
Yakitori – skewers made up exclusively from chicken – are a highlight and at Kura they’re made with virtually every part of the chicken, from skin to heart to liver. You’ll also find tsukune, a tender chicken meatball served with an onsen (slow-cooked) egg for dipping.
Other skewered items include pork belly with plum sauce and intercostal, a boneless cut of Wagyu sourced from between the rib bones that’s glazed in a master stock and grilled until lightly charred. Given Ibuki’s background, delicate sashimi also makes an appearance.
A varied selection of sake, several of which are exclusive to Kura, are designed to cut through the richness of the meat. Pours range from earthy and dry to fruity and funky, but if you’re overwhelmed by the options, co-owner and venue manager Michael Setiadi will gladly guide you with tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Just take a seat at the bar, which overlooks the small but efficient kitchen, and get ready to taste something special.
Shop 1 22-30 Lygon Street, Brunswick East
(03) 9972 1629
Tue to Sun 5pm–11pm