Set within a heritage sandstone building at the Darlinghurst end of Crown Street, Moku is the kind of place you could easily miss if you didn’t know what you were looking for. But when you spot the red noren curtains concealing the entrance – don’t hesitate. Inside is a small but sophisticated Japanese diner punching above its weight.

The big drawcard at Moku is its omakase experience, led by former Sushi E and Sokyo chef Ha Chuen Wai. Available every Wednesday and Thursday evening, six guests are invited to dine counter-style and watch Wai theatrically prepare a menu of the day’s best produce.

When Broadsheet visited, starters included a signature “crystal bread” (a transparent, thumb-sized block made from water and starch that’s baked until crisp) ferrying sea urchin and caviar. Sushi and sashimi followed, including delicately sliced John Dory with pickled plum vinaigrette. For a main dish, it was buttery miso Glacier toothfish with koshihikari rice. Wai paces the meal with generous explanations for each dish, between moments of slicing, hand-shaping and blowtorching.

In addition to the omakase experience, Moku offers an à la carte menu of Japanese plates reimagined with native Australian ingredients. Think Sydney rock oysters with ponzu and finger lime, chicken and saltbush tsukune with smoked chilli miso and a raw yolk for dipping, and tea-smoked duck breast with tomato dashi and muntries.

The drinks list – designed by mixologist Charles Chang – is big on Japanese booze, and kicks off with a tight edit of fruit-forward highballs (Moku also offers a bottomless highball brunch on Saturdays). House cocktails include a play on a matcha latte featuring hochija tea, vodka and salted coconut cream. Joining those is a selection of Australian and French wines, Japanese beers and sake.

Split over two intimate levels, the venue lives up to its name (“moku” is the Japanese word for timber) with plenty of warm, wooden surfaces throughout. The neighbourhood setting makes it a different proposition in Sydney’s omakase scene, with most of the bigger players dotted around the CBD.

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Updated: September 7th, 2023

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