Haru Inukai is back. The loved chef who opened, ran and sadly closed Sussex Centre’s beloved Ramen Ikkyu and the Potts Point French-Japanese fine-diner Blancharu, has now opened a robata grill and ramen restaurant in Darlinghurst with ex-Aria chef Shimon Hanakura.
“I’ve been thinking about robata [a Japanese method of charcoal-grill cooking] for six or seven years,” says Hanakura, adding that his version won’t be traditional – there’s enough of that style in Sydney already, he says. “[Inukai and I are] both from fine dining; we want to use that as a base and use top-range ingredients but make it more casual.”
Additionally, Hanakura is bending genres by incorporating French sauces into his Japanese recipes, in the reverse way eateries such as Acme, for example, throw Japanese sauces and ingredients into Western recipes for extra umami.
The restaurant isn't big and looks like a modernised version of a classic Japanese izakaya – dark, intimate and only decorated by sake bottles and old Japanese ornaments. If you want to watch the action, get a stool at the bar overlooking the robata grill and a glass ingredient display.
Unfortunately, though, the grill isn’t on just yet. The pair don’t have council approval and are unsure when they will, so in the meantime they’ll be working skewers on a gas grill.
That means for lunch it's ramen – including a tart yuzu-spiced duck broth with duck meatballs, and a chicken tonkotsu – as well as izakaya-style sides like karaage chicken and gyoza.
For dinner you’ll find the bar shaking Japanese cocktails; a grill roasting skewers; and a menu with Japanese dishes lavished with French sauces and high-end ingredients, such as truffles, caviar, 9+ marbled Wagyu and more. Hanakura says dishes include a bonito and soy-dressed burrata and smoked clay-pot duck with fresh truffle.
“Five or six years ago in French fine-dining kitchens you couldn't use soy and miso. Everything was cooked in categories. Now there’s complete freedom.”
Gaku Robata Grill
2/132 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
02 9380 2145
Daily 12pm–2pm, 6pm–11pm