Ume, the Japanese word for plum, is as ripe with possibilities. Taking over the site that once housed former Surry Hills French favourite Bistrode, the trio behind Ume have a lot to live up to.
Chef Kerby Craig had a chef’s hat tattooed on his neck after his former employer, the now defunct Japanese restaurant Koi in Woolwich, was awarded one by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide. Ume now has one too, so it was a sound ink investment on his part.
Now in the eastern suburbs’ hippest nook, the chef – along with wife Hiroko Muranishi and Iranian-born floor manager PJ Choroomi – have created a minimalist feel, both for the interior and menu.
Aside from a mural of a cherry blossom trees on one wall by artist Mr Person, the décor is sparse, with the layout inherited from Bistrode. The food, on the other hand, is a clean palate of Japanese flavours, with no concessions to fusion – two little thumbs up to Cone Bay barramundi in a small pond of soy and yuzu dressing and sea flora ($32).
Forget the sushi, though. There’s not enough great sushi chefs in Sydney and with so much competition, Ume will soon drop it off the menu (where it is, in traditional Japanese style, is located at the end of the meal, pre-dessert). There are also plans to open a nearby bar on Bourke Street to cater for a pre-dining clientele. So it looks as though Ume will become a permanent feature on the strip. Tattoo that if you dare.