At the base of an apartment block in Brunswick East, Kura is all about the Japanese art of robatayaki (translated literally to “fireside cooking”), where skewered morsels of protein and vegetables are cooked over hot coals and served immediately to your table.
For chef Ken Ibuki, robatayaki is a skill passed on to him by his dad, who came to Australia in the ’60s and opened one of Melbourne’s first Japanese restaurants. At the time, the cuisine was a novel concept to most Australians and was modified to suit the local palate. But at Kura, Ibuki champions ingredients and preparations closer to what you’d find in Japan, and employs a charcoal parrilla grill left by the previous tenant, the now-closed Faye.
Yakitori – skewers made up exclusively from chicken – are a highlight, and are made with virtually every part of the chicken, from skin to heart to liver. You’ll also find tsukune, a tender chicken meatball served with an onsen (slow-cooked) egg for dipping.
Other skewered items might include pork belly with plum sauce, and boneless cuts of Wagyu that are glazed in a master stock and grilled until lightly charred. Given Ibuki’s background as a sushi chef (he’s worked at both Kisume and Nobu in Melbourne), delicate sashimi also makes an appearance.
A varied selection of sake, several of which are exclusive to Kura, are designed to cut through the richness of the meat (Kura means “cellar” in Japanese). Pours range from earthy and dry to fruity and funky, but if you’re overwhelmed by the options, co-owner Kelvin Low is quick to provide tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Just take a seat at the bar, which overlooks the small but efficient kitchen, and get ready to taste something special.
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