Yakimono is Chris Lucas’s take on Tokyo, in Melbourne – with the volume turned up.

It’s right beside Lucas Restaurants’ most recent opening, Society, in the 80 Collins precinct. And yet, it’s a world away.

Here, chef Daniel Wilson (from the now-closed Huxtable and casual offshoot Huxtaburger) can serve up to 70 people around what could be Melbourne’s largest kitchen bar. There’s room for 300 people across two levels, including high tables jutting from the bar, a private dining room for 14 people, an outdoor terrace, and booths on the second level. It’s loud, it’s futuristic and it’s unapologetically stylised.

Openly drawing inspiration from Blade Runner 2049, a lofty neon sign announces the entrance just off Collins Street. Blue, pink and purple hues illuminate glass walls and windows. Orb lights glow in all sorts of different shades. All that’s missing are the holograms.

Lucas lived in Tokyo for three years and considers Yakimono his charcoal-fired homage to the places that left a permanent impression. Beyond that, it’s a tribute to the interplay of tradition and modernity that pervades so much of contemporary Japanese dining.

“The reverence of [Japanese] cooking is precious,” says Lucas. “But then, in a very Japanese way, all the rules go out the window and the irreverence of the late-night Tokyo dining izakaya scene mixes it all up while still drawing on rich cooking history. That irreverence, that fun, is Yakimono. It’s a large-scale, hustle-bustle eatery that you would find in a huge city that doesn’t sleep.”

From this Friday, Yakimono will also be open daily for lunch from noon. The rice and noodle section of the menu is an ideal way to punctuate the day. Think smoked-eel udon with shimeji mushrooms and an onsen egg; squid-ink somen noodles with chilli and cured egg yolk; and spanner-crab-and-prawn egg rice with toasted nori.

“In terms of the ingredients and techniques we’re using, we are trying to add a bit of an Australian touch,” says Wilson. “For example, using a lot of king prawns from Mooloolaba to hiramasa kingfish [from South Australia], Yarra Valley salmon roe – all these types of products that we love to champion.” Committed diners can work their way through bites such as crisp gyoza; a mochi waffle with smoked salmon roe and yuzu crème fraîche; and the karubi dog, served on a soft bun with miso mustard and jalapeno mayo. There’s a raw section too, including hand rolls with fillings like spanner crab and bacon and egg, and skewers grilled over fire (think tsukune, or chicken meatballs, and a sweet, smoky barbeque baby back rib).

The biggest dish on the menu is a whole miso-glazed Bannockburn chook served with a myriad of sides. It’s butterflied and charred on the bottom, with the radiant heat and smoke turning the top golden before it’s glazed with miso, mirin and sake.

And then there’s the Yaki-kult ice-cream sandwich – you’ll want to snap a photo before you bite into it. The monaka-style wafer shell is shaped like a milk bottle and filled with yoghurt soft serve and raspberry gel. Wilson is also thrilled with the banana-shiitake cake; the mushroom adds a slight savoury note to the dessert, which is piped with crème fraîche and topped with cubes of plum-jelly wine and caramelised banana slices.

To drink, there are a dozen or so Victorian beers on tap, plus eight Japanese beers by the bottle and can, as well as sake, shochu and nearly 40 Japanese whiskies. Cocktails are named after Tokyo neighbourhoods – like the Nippori, which has mezcal, oloroso sherry, rum, purple carrot, shiso, jalapeno and lime.

Yakimono
80 Collins Street, Melbourne

Hours:
Daily 5pm–late (12pm–late from Friday November 12)

yakimono.com.au