“I wasn’t trying to put together the Avengers,” Eugene Leung tells Broadsheet, of choosing his business partners to open Domo 39 (pronounced three-nine).

But the line-up behind the fresh St Peters onigiri and soft-serve shop is truly a dream team: Leung and business partner Dika Prianata of Cool Mac, Kurumac and Poketto; Matteo Pochintesta of Mapo Gelato; and Ophelia Ng, former manager of Cool Mac.

“It was quite organic the way it all happened, and I guess the most important thing is that we all enjoy working together.”

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It’s easy to imagine enjoying working in the open, industrial-style space opposite St Peters Station and Sydney Park. It’s light-filled, with a fit-out heavy with wood and concrete, and showcases an art installation made with rice – created by Leung’s mum – which is suspended from the ceiling.

Inspired by the ubiquitous konbini (convenience stores) of Japan, the centrepiece of Domo 39 is an open fridge filled with takeaway-ready onigiri and bentos. The menu is succinct: five onigiri options join five bento boxes, two soft-serve flavours and a handful of Japanese drinks and snacks, including Mame Cocoa chocolates from Melbourne.

Onigiri are generously filled, with flavours that make it hard to choose one. Salted salmon, ginger pork and egg, or takana (pickled mustard leaf) all make perfect quick-grab snacks when running for the train. Bento boxes are more substantial: Wagyu beef and egg; pork katsu; grilled salmon; or chicken nanban, a sweet-sour fried chicken with tartare and pickles.

Pochintesta oversees the soft serve, applying the same low-intervention, pure-ingredients approach that he does at Mapo. There are two swirls: a seasonal flavour – when Broadsheet visits, it’s plum – and the staple: rice. “Rice is hard to extract flavour from and Matteo is in the process of trying to perfect it,” Leung says. “He’s tried toasted rice, rice pudding, he’s still playing around trying to get it right.” Top your pick with kuromitsu (a deep caramel sugar syrup), the crunch of toasted rice, or a sprinkle of matcha or hojicha.

Like all of Leung’s cafes, beans are supplied by Sample and form the base for “your usual coffee things” plus matcha lattes, iced yuzu black coffees and Ng’s own Swamp, a muddy-hued matcha mocha.

Leung is an old hand in hospitality – Cool Mac opened in Kirribilli eight years ago, followed by Marrickville’s Kurumac and Chippendale’s Poketto – but he’s careful not to rest on his laurels.

“I feel like reputation can only carry you so far; if you slack off and bask in that glory, people will pick up on it,” he says. “It’s a different experience to open a fourth venue, but I still need to work hard and make sure things are in order. For now we’re going to focus on what we’ve got – slow down, make sure these places are doing well.”

His gratitude for his customers is evident in the St Peters venue’s name, which is a multi-language play on words. In Japanese, “domo” means “thanks”, while the numbers three and nine are “san” and “kyu”, which sound like “thank you”.

Domo 39
5/2 May Lane, St Peters

Hours:
Mon to Fri 7am–6pm
Sat & Sun 8am–4pm

@domothreenine