Melbourne and Sydney Thai restaurant Longrain has taken up residence in Ebisu, one of Tokyo’s most respected culinary suburbs.
Owner Sam Christie says the Longrain expansion felt like a logical step after launching his Sydney restaurant – Greek favourite The Apollo – in Ginza, Tokyo, last year. Longrain opened in Sydney in 1999, with a Melbourne outpost following a few years later.
So far, he says, it’s been fairly smooth sailing.
"People are responding to the fresh Australian take on Thai cuisine, the attentive yet relaxed Australian style of service and they love the space by Luchetti Krelle,” Christie says.
The venue was in part the catalyst for expansion. “My partners found this unique site in Ebisu, which is a great dining district of Tokyo. And when I saw the site and the spectacular view, it was really easy to envisage Longrain in the space,” says Christie
Sitting 39 floors up, the view of Japan's bustling capital city is staggering.
As in Sydney, Longrain Tokyo features work by Australian artist Christopher Hodges, who created new pieces specifically for the moody, glamorous restaurant. White LED lights illuminate Hodge's seven-metre-long bronze sculpture, Hikari Shiro (“white light”), and bounce off the room’s main window, giving the illusion of a serpent floating above the Tokyo skyline.
Hodges’ three-painting series Desert Rose, White Flower *and *Dark Flower – in the private dining room – combines Japanese simplicity and clean lines with a bold Australian aesthetic.
“Our restaurants are very large and offer a real sense of occasion and interiors that Tokyo diners like," says Christie says. "Australians are a lot louder and tend to drink a touch more than our Japanese counterparts, so it means a lot of dining rooms in Tokyo are more hushed."
Another point of difference with local restaurants is the menu's variety.
“In Japan, restaurants tend to focus on one style of cooking. For instance, tempura, ramen, sushi or teppan. Whereas in Australia, a Japanese restaurant would almost always serve everything. The experience of enjoying a fine dining menu and style of service with more of an izakaya atmosphere is quite a new thing in Tokyo.
“There is a real thirst, particularly among the well-travelled professional young people of Tokyo, for more cosmopolitan dining experiences."
The menu features Longrain's classic miang kham (one-bite wrap) using seasonal ingredients – the current version is filled with pomelo, coconut, cashew and chilli.
“Our executive chef Griff Pamment had worked in Japan previously and really understands taste and dining traditions. We have included more noodle- and rice-based dishes as well as using some of the fabulous, truly seasonal produce that you can get in Japan,” Christie explains.
Larger dishes include a green prawn curry, and a salad of pork, prawns, bean sprouts and herbs wrapped in an egg net. There’s a little of Australia in the ripple ice-cream dessert, which has coconut and raspberry butter on an Anzac-style biscuit, topped with fresh figs.
The wine menu leans heavily towards Australia and New Zealand drops. There’s Thai beer staples Singha and Tiger alongside a number of Japanese craft releases, plus local mainstays such as Sapporo and hometown brew Ebisu Meister. Cocktails have a Thai take, such as the Jungle Gin with Aperol, gin, lemon and pineapple.