“Konakara” is Japanese for a small measurement of sake, roughly a shot glass full. “It’s not too much to drink at night and it makes you have good sleep and good health,” says Mariko Takeuchi, who recently opened a Japanese restaurant in Surry Hills of the same name.

Sake isn’t on the menu yet; Konakara is still waiting for its liquor licence. In the mean time, Takeuchi and her partner Nabe are finding the perfect dry sakes to accompany their food. The sake menu will feature versions of the spirit from all over Japan, and the menu will change monthly. For now, it’s BYO.

Konakara’s food is simple, traditional Japanese fare. “It’s authentic, like home cooking in Japan,” says Takeuchi. Fried chicken karaage is a standout dish. The chicken is marinated in soy sauce and ginger before being battered in tapioca starch and fried. Slightly sweet Japanese mayonnaise is served on the side for dipping.

Konakara’s ramen is different from the* tonkotsu* (pork-based stock favoured by many Japanese restaurants). “Tonkotsu stock is very popular,” says Takeuchi. “It tastes rich and nice, but it’s very heavy.”

By contrast, Takeuchi’s torigara (chicken stock) is light. As a rule, she prefers light flavours. “Sometimes [foods with] strong taste, one bite, two bite is okay and very tasty. But you can’t finish it.” She says a lighter flavour is moreish.

For homemade miso-based ramen, Takeuchi does chashu (grilled pork neck with corn and shallots). For soy-based, chashu is served with seaweed and spinach.

It’s not surprising that Takeuchi chooses steamed pipis as her favourite dinner dish. She’s from a rural area on the mid-west coast of Japan where seafood is a staple. The clams are cooked in pipi stock infused with sake.

Konakara occupies the corner spot of a newly renovated row of terrace shops on Fitzroy Street in Surry Hills. Pairs of French doors are spaced at regular intervals around two walls, letting in sunlight gleams through trees outside. The fit-out is typically Japanese: spartan with plenty of natural wood. It’s light and simple, just like the food.

96 Fitzroy Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9360 6753

Mon, Wed–Fri, Sun 12pm–2.30pm, 6pm–9.30pm
Sat 6pm–9.30pm