Tyron Simon, Frank Li (who own Longtime together), chef Nathan Lastevec and Simon’s partner Bianca Marchi are behind Hôntô, a moody-looking Japanese restaurant hidden down a gritty Valley backstreet.
Technically, there are only two tables in the restaurant. They're huge, branching out from a central raw bar almost like a tree. There’s also some stool seating at the open kitchens. Simon handled the fit-out himself. He used shou sugi ban – a traditional wood-burning technique that leaves most of the walls and hard surfaces charred black. The result is a darker-than-dark space; the barest of light is cast by hanging chandeliers. The focus of the room is on the kitchens – the raw bar in the centre of the restaurant and an open kitchen at the back.
The Japanese-inspired menu is split into four sections: Raw, Bites, Bigs and Greens. Raw dishes include scampi ceviche with ginger, crushed macadamia and finger lime. From Bites you might try prawn doughnuts with yuzu curd. Bigs are designed to share and include whole snapper karaage with sweet and sour cucumber and papaya pickles. And there’s a slow-cooked lamb shoulder with sesame yoghurt and Japanese flatbread.
The wine list includes more than 130 bottles, and there’s a lengthy list of sake and Japanese beer and whisky. Talking of whisky, a separate bar, called ÔÔ, is home to around 150 bottles of the stuff. In this room, the lights are even lower and moodier. It’s also where you can hang out before your table becomes available.