Future Future is the new restaurant from Milieu Hospitality, the group behind Collingwood wine bar Congress. A former art gallery, the 108-year-old corner site has undergone almost 14 months of renovations, but after a long gestation, the restaurant is damn slick.
Guests enter the restaurant via a back bar, once the stables for the century-old residence. In the front dining room are expansive windows and low wooden tables, and a line of seats along the open kitchen bar. The countertop is charcoal terrazzo tile, while the edges and sides are a riff on the same pattern, made from recycled tyres.
This speckled motif is echoed in the TV-static-pattern logo on the windows, menus and chopstick sleeves. Irregular exposed bricks and dints in the walls are not out of place in this angular restaurant.
“The beautiful bones … That’s where it’s got a point of difference to more modern, polished fit-outs,” says co-owner Stefanie Breschi.
There’s a not-so-private private dining room, too – brick walls shelter the round table but don’t shut out the restaurant’s ambient noise.
On the walls are Australian works from government initiative Artbank.
It makes for an excellent first impression.
And a good second one. As diners are seated they’re presented with a bowl of sweet-potato crisps and a cup of camomile, green and mandarin-rind tea on the house.
Breschi is former front-of-house at Jacques Reymond. Together with Frank Body co-founder Alex Boffa, she joined Milieu co-owner Shannon Peach to launch the 130-seat venue.
Breschi has taken the reins managing front-of-house, onboarding a fresh team of wide-eyed floor staff that strives for good first impressions. The staff was hired for personality over experience, which – though not without some teething problems – means each server is bubblier than the $5 sparkling cucumber water.
Head chef Atsushi Kawakami, former sous-chef at Kappo, has created an extensive menu based on Tokyo cuisine, with a strong focus on omonetashi, a Japanese tradition of looking after guests wholly and selflessly.
The food is fun and accessible. It’s markedly untraditional, but authentic in its simplicity. Raw Wagyu strip loin sliced so thin each piece drags apart with chopsticks is laid on top of wasabi-spiked creme fraiche and sprinkled with toasted wild rice. It’s delicious, and familiar – similar to Congress’s kangaroo pastrami dish. “You want to be ticking all those boxes … the creaminess, the saltiness, the bit of acid cutting through,” says Breschi.
In another small dish, cubes of raw tuna are tossed with matching cubes of avocado tofu – tofu made in-house from soy milk and pureed avocado – which has a light, mousse-y texture. The inspiration for the dish came from Sorano, a dedicated tofu restaurant Breschi visited in Tokyo where chefs make tofu fresh using different vegetables and flavourings.
The kitchen’s hibachi grill flames yakitori skewers to order. The chicken-skin skewer with sweet soy is – unsurprisingly – the winner.
Breschi says when she travels to Japan, she always eats donburi rice bowls with chirashi.
“The sushi chef would cut perfect slices of sashimi and then with the offcuts – which is still beautiful fresh fish, but not in those perfect slices – they’d chop it up and put it on a rice bowl, and generally marinate it in soy, sake, mirin to bring out all the flavours,” she says.
The chirashi donburi bowl here is raw tuna, salmon and kingfish with avocado, salmon roe and nori crisps atop sushi rice. “It’s pretty simple because you’ve just got really good ingredients,” Breschi says. There’s also a pork belly donburi with potato crisps and yuzu salt, and a mushroom and pumpkin tempura version.
The heavier end of the menu carries Wagyu sirloin marinated in miso for 10 days and grilled hapuka (a fish similar to bass or groper) with seaweed lemon butter, as well as a monstrous okonomiyaki; a dinner-plate sized matcha crepe filled with cabbage, onion and pickled ginger, smothered in Japanese barbeque sauce and Kewpie mayonnaise. Provolone cheese anchors the umami without adding overpowering richness.
An upstairs balcony and bar is due to open in December for drinks backed by Japanese disco music, and an upstairs dining space will open in 2019.
191 Swan Street, Richmond
(03) 9965 7900
Wed & Thu 6pm–11pm
Fri & Sat 12pm–11pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet September 11, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.