Stop me if you’ve heard this before. There’s this tiny Japanese restaurant in a former fish-and-chip shop in Leeming. Nipponese trinkets adorn the window, timber counter and sparse, cream-coloured room. The restaurant’s menu reads like that of so many suburban Japanese takeaways. Chicken katsu. Teriyaki salmon-beef-tofu. Tuna, California, vegetarian and chicken teriyaki sushi is available by the roll and platter (advanced notice, naturally, required for catering orders).
Then just as you’re about to write Ichirin off as another cookie-cutter local, the offer of the $60 six-course omakase – a set-menu ode to seasonal deliciousness – catches your eye. Anyone else experiencing a bout of restaurant déjà vu? As keen Japanese-food observers have probably realised, the story of Ichirin closely mirrors the suburban origins of Marumo, the Nedlands restaurant that’s as famous for its $65 omakase as it is the frightening speed at which online bookings get snapped up each month. Could the 10-month-old Ichirin be the new Marumo? As a matter of fact, it’s actually the old Marumo. Ichirin’s chef-owner, Shiro Okuchi, not only took over the space that launched one of Perth’s cult restaurants, he also has Marumo to thank for menu inspiration.
“Most of my early customers were locals that used to go to Marumo,” says Okuchi. “They asked me if I could also do an omakase and I said, sure.”
Although Okuchi might have had modest plans for his first restaurant, his resumé is impressive. He’s spent time at a specialist fugu (pufferfish) restaurant in Osaka; done a spell at defunct Vic Park Japanese favourite, Fuji and – most impressively – worked seven and a half years at Kailis Brothers Leederville to learn about the local fish species he hadn’t used in Japan. This combination of East and West heavily informs the contents of his set menus.
Ichirin’s August omakase, for instance, kicked off with rosy slices of duck breast served with a smudge of grapefruit miso: fermented soy paste brightened and lightened with a flash of citrus. Translucent tiles of kingfish were served usuzukuri-style – essentially sashimi that’s been cut extra thin, a nod to our man’s years working with fugu – with a vinegary apple ponzu sauce. Yuzukōsho, Japan’s addictive blend of yuzu rind, salt and chilli, added savour to grilled Spanish mackerel. A slice of barely-there matcha cake made for an elegant send-off. While Okuchi admits his cooking mightn’t be exactly traditional – those who want more historically accurate tastes of the chef’s native Kansai region should take his hearty lunch-only Japanese chicken curry udon for a test-drive – it’s important the food he serves is a reflection of himself.
“I create Japanese-style dishes with Western essences,” he says. “That's why I like to go out, eat, study and take influences from different places. Everything I make, I always put my heart into. That’s one of the most important things.”
Doing the set menu requires a small amount of planning (the restaurant requests two days’ notice for omakase bookings), but compared to the military-like strategising and good fortune needed to dine at Marumo, snagging a seat here is a cinch. At least for now, anyway.
Ichirin’s omakase menu is $60 per person (includes corkage, miso soup and rice) and only available for dinner. Bookings must be made at least two days in advance. Regular dine-in and takeaway menus are offered at lunch and dinner.
Shop 2, corner of Beasley Road and Dundee Street, Leeming
(08) 9310 8255
Wed to Sat 11.30am–2pm
Tue to Sat 5pm–9pm