For the past eight years, Yurippi in Crows Nest has been one of the best places in Sydney to eat yakitori. Not because the skewers are good (which they absolutely are). It’s because a session at this compact diner feels like one you might have in Osaka or Tokyo, in a smoky neighbourhood izakaya where the charcoal grill is white-hot and the highballs are flowing.

But the lease was up, the building slated for demolition, and Hatena Group had a call to make.

“Do we close it down? Do we move it somewhere else?” says Mitomo Somehara, who originally ran Yurippi as a pop-up with co-owner Tin Jung Shea out of The Cliff Dive back in the day.

“Then we found a good spot across the road, the three-storey building where the old Bravo [Trattoria] used to be. I said, I think this is it. So we jumped on it.”

But this isn’t just a new era for the Crowie favourite. It’s phase one of an ambitious three-part project by Somehara, Shea and third owner Chris Wu: Yuruppi 2.0 will take the ground level of the building, and in a few weeks will be joined by the group's debut ramen joint – Ramen Auru – on the first floor. Japanese sports bar Ichiros will be the crown on top.

Somehara says regulars will recognise “bits and pieces of the old Yurippi”, not least the huge konro grill directly from Tokyo’s Kappabashi Street.

“It’s like a hospitality street, where you can buy everything from plates to shelves to frypans. It’s got everything there. It’s very famous.”

From chicken thighs to gizzard, skewers are salted or smeared with sweet-soy masterstock and grilled over long-burning Ogatan charcoal. Somehara says the addition of a U-shaped counter was an operational choice as much as an aesthetic one, estimating an output of more than 500 skewers on a busy night at Yurippi.

“There are a lot of one-person, two-person operations in Japan so they need to keep things very efficient. We’ve tried to do the same thing here.”

On the drinks front, there’s a continued focus on imported Japanese beers (Orion, Hitachino Nest, Yebisu), and the group has revamped the sake menu to reflect Sydney’s growing appreciation of the Japanese spirit.

“When we opened Nomidokoro Indigo, it was all about getting more people into sake. So we’ve brought over some of the sakes we tried out there, to match the skewers at Yurippi.”

Hatena Group – who’s stable also includes Tachinomi YP up the street and Nakano Darling in Haymarket – proudly flaunts one of the city’s steadiest supplies of Suntory Kakubin, Japan’s highball whisky of choice.

“It’s no longer imported here, so we get it from a couple of different suppliers.” says Somehara. “Sometimes we have to check random bottle shops in Ashfield, Strathfield. Melbourne and Queensland. Whatever we can find, we buy.”

The group trains its staff to make highballs to the letter (45-millilitre whisky pour, three parts soda, lemon), and it’s the fine details like this that add up to some of the most legit Japanese drinking and dining experiences you’ll find in Sydney.

“For us, it’s really cool when a non-Japanese person who’s never been to Japan comes to one of our venues and says they felt like they were in Japan. We’re trying to give people a cheaper form of travel. You don’t have to physically go to Japan, but you’re there, you know?”

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Updated: April 5th, 2024

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