Sushi Room is not a Japanese restaurant. Simon Gloftis will allow you a moment to let that sink in.
“I have specifically not opened a Japanese restaurant,” he says. “It’s not Japanese. It’s 90 per cent sushi and sashimi.”
It’s a very Simon Gloftis distinction to make. In these provenance-obsessed times, Gloftis is more doctrinaire than almost anyone about getting the freshest food possible on your plate. Seasoned Hellenika-goers flick to the Fresh Fish Market menu to get at that restaurant’s true essence. Downstairs, SK Steak & Oyster pays similar attention to its beef.
Sushi Room, then, is the purest expression of fresh produce from an operator who prides himself on having deep connections with suppliers, farmers and fishers. There will be no karaage and kewpie mayo here. Instead it’s kingfish, grouper and alfonsino nigiri and sashimi; vinegar-mackerel and bug-tempura sushi rolls; tempura lobster; toothfish and Wagyu yakimono; and Sturia oscietra caviar.
That’s Gloftis the restaurateur. Gloftis the diner’s relationship to sushi started further back, as a teenager – first in Japan at a stand-up counter in Narita airport, and then in Australia at a walk-up spot on the Gold Coast.
“There was this place in Surfers Paradise that I can’t remember the name of, this total hole-in-the-wall that I started going to,” Gloftis says. “The owner, Tommo, was straight out of Osaka and couldn’t speak much English, and you’d sit down at one of these four seats, buy yourself a beer and him a beer, and he’d just make you sushi until you were full. I remember he had family dramas and had to go back to Japan, but I really miss that. It was very unpopular, there was no one ever there. He just loved drinking beer and making sushi.”
Sushi Room, as you might have already gathered by the marketing, is nothing like your neighbourhood izakaya. If the food is Gloftis and business partners Kelvin Andrews and Theo Kampolis (who, together, form STK Group) going to town on their love for produce-driven sushi, the design is architects Richards & Spence getting inspired by 1960s neo-futurism. Downstairs, the 60-seater is fitted out with stone-top tables, grey upholstered booths and vertical blinds. In pride of place is a 9.3-metre solid hinoki timber counter imported from Japan, while a textured domed ceiling provides a peek into an upstairs private dining room, painted bright red. Slotted into the ground floor of The Calile Hotel on James Street, the restaurant sits behind a single nondescript door between the hotel lobby and a stairwell down to the car park.
Throughout, from the physical design to its branding, the restaurant celebrates its minimalism. One of the few extravagances is head chef Shimpei Raikuni’s collection of Kurieto tableware, which ranges across 60 different pieces, with each dish matched to a certain plate.
“I wanted something like you’d see in Tokyo, which is really pared back and really beautiful,” Gloftis says. “Even with social media, I didn’t want any comments on there. It’s Japanese 1960s office block meets Mad Men meets Christian Bale’s apartment in American Psycho. Jared [Webb] from Richards & Spence took the lead and they’ve just nailed it.”
The drinks list is purposeful rather than extravagant, with 20 sakes, a clutch of shochus and umeshus, and 25 whiskies. An internationally roaming wine list peaks at a handy rather than hair-raising 160 bottles, but you can also go deep from the neighbouring Hellenika and SK Steak & Oyster cellar lists, if you please.
Gloftis says Sushi Room isn’t designed to break your wallet. Yes, there are extensive omakase and enkai (banquet) menus, but you can also just roll in and keep it sensible on an à la carte basis. The wines range up to a $7500 jeroboam (three-litre bottle) of 2002-vintage Roederer Cristal, but you can also order $80 bottles of Ministry of Clouds riesling or Garagiste le Stagiaire pinot noir.
“I want people to be able to have an adult experience where you can go and get looked after, have a night out and have a bit of fun,” Gloftis says. “This is something you can use for a special occasion, but also something you can use three times a week.
“People build memories around food and conversation and restaurants. And that’s why it’s important to me that people understand that, yes, this is a special environment, but it’s not a one-off environment. This is something you can eat whenever you want.”
The Calile Hotel, 48 James Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3741 5976
Mon & Tue 5.30pm–late
Wed to Sun 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–late