When chef Motomu Kumano closed his Japanese restaurant Komeyui in mid-March 2020, the plan was to relocate and reopen just a few days later, with the old space set to become a yakitori joint. But it didn’t work out that way. Instead of taking days to move Komeyui from Port Melbourne to South Melbourne, the coronavirus pandemic meant it took months.
In between lockdowns, Kumano and his team were finally able to open Komeyui once more.It’s a much larger space than the cosy original, and it feels more modern. Instead of the old floor-to-ceiling blond timber fit-out in Port Melbourne, architecture firm Baenziger Coles has given the new spot concrete finishes, white walls, slate floor tiles and black furniture.
Behind the sushi counter is a large cast-iron pot called a hagama, a traditional Japanese rice-cooker (the method dates back more than a thousand years). It’s said to bring out the natural sweetness of the rice – fitting, as Kumano’s philosophy revolves around the grain. Kumano grew up in Hokkaido, in the north of Japan, and moved to Melbourne in 2005. He worked as a sushi chef at Kenzan’s offshoot at the GPO for six years before leaving to open the original Komeyui in Port Melbourne in 2011.
As at the original, sushi and sashimi feature prominently at the new diner. Toro (tuna belly) is imported from from Japan, but Hiramasa kingfish, King George whiting, calamari and garfish are all locally sourced. A great hulking piece of stone runs the length of the 12-seat sushi countertop, reserved for those ordering the 10-course sushi omakase, or tasting menu. Instead of plates, each piece is served directly on the cold stone.
Everywhere else in the 80-seat dining room diners order from the à la carte menu, which incluses sushi and sashimi as well as larger dishes such as hitsumabushi (a grilled eel rice bowl served with green-tea broth that’s poured from teapot); Canadian black cod (marinated in sweet saikyo miso from Kyoto, then chargrilled); and pork belly (braised for 10 hours in soy sauce).
Smaller dishes include crisp seaweed topped with your choice of spicy tuna, abalone pate or grilled eel with mascarpone; chawanmushi, a savoury steamed custard that can be served with foie gras; Wagyu tataki with egg yolk cured in soy sauce; and deep-fried salmon-skin crisps. There’s an eight-course omakase available in the dining room too.
To drink, there are 30 sakes to choose from; 50 wines; Japanese whisky; yuzunade (yuzu lemonade); and brown-rice tea.
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