Elisha Tran is part of the family behind Footscray’s D&K Live Seafood, a longstanding retailer and wholesaler that has been in business for more than 21 years.

Now Tran has opened Elka Sushi – a name that combines her nickname, El, with the Vietnamese word for fish, cá – just across the road from D&K on Leeds Street. “We call it the Lygon Street of Footscray,” Tran tells Broadsheet. “We love this street. It’s where I grew up, same as my dad and grandparents.”

The Elka menu is full of sushi bar classics: spicy salmon maki, aburi scallops and tuna belly nigiri, all with a pared-back approach. Rice is delicately seasoned, fish is elegantly garnished, and spice maki rolls are light on dressing.

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The fish, which changes seasonally, features staples like Ora King salmon, tuna and kingfish, with a rotating weekly special of something interesting. (When Broadsheet visits, it’s raw trevally.) It’s dry aged, a method that improves the texture and flavour of the fish, which has become increasingly popular in restaurants in recent years.

Nikiri shoyu, the venue’s house-made soy sauce, is brewed weekly and adjusted to complement the seasonal changes of Elka’s dry-aged fish. It has a sweeter and milder taste than most mass-produced soy sauces, which allows the flavours of the seafood to sing.

"I’m a sauce girl, but with the dry aging of our fish I don’t want people to miss out on the texture and flavour by overloading everything with sauce,” Tran says.

Since Elka is Tran’s first venue, she enlisted Brendan Liew of Warabi to help with menu consultation and team training. Outside of sushi, there’s a small selection of rice bowls. Chirashi, or scattered sushi, features a mix of fish, flash-poached oysters, braised abalone, scallops, salmon roe, yellow daikon, cucumber and seasoned sushi rice, served alongside a box of seaweed. The kaisen-don is topped with salmon sashimi and roe.

Tran says her father Ken Tran, a former fisherman turned construction worker, has “a deep connection with the fishing community” and has been instrumental in developing relationships with the new restaurant’s suppliers. He also ran the entire fit-out of the space, including the unique wave wall feature as you enter. “Our contractors tried to talk us out of it, but it’s my favourite part of the restaurant,” says Tran.

Running parallel to the undulating wall is the bright white sushi counter, which displays the day’s offerings. Elka is currently focused on takeaway, but there are a few seats in the restaurant and some white perforated tables outside. A small group of two-top tables leads to an imported Japanese vending machine filled with Japanese drinks including Calpis water, grape soda and canned coffee.

Guests are also welcome to bring in outside food that complements their sushi feast. “I always tell our customers to order from our neighbours and eat with us,” Tran says. “Next door [The 2 Men Cafe] does one of the best matchas in Melbourne.”

While it waits on the confirmation of a liquor licence, the team is sourcing a small list of family-run sake producers and working to create a dinner offering. Another goal is to collaborate on desserts with Albin Lawang of Peck’s Road to have sweet and savoury doughnuts available at the sushi counter.

Elka Sushi
7-9 Leeds Street, Footscray
No phone

Hours:
Wed to Mon 11am–4pm

@elka.sushi