In the past two years Sydney has lost a fair chunk of its fine-dining scene. Big hitters such as Sepia, The Bridge Room, Oscillate Wildly and Eleven Bridge have closed. And Est followed in December. In the same period smaller but equally ambitious restaurants such as ACME and Billy Kwong have closed too. While it may feel as though Sydney has fallen out of love with high-end dining, this week we welcome a restaurant that bucks the trend.
Kuro is a multifaceted restaurant concept from Alan Wong (Kahii) and Taka Teramoto (formerly at Michelin-starred restaurants Restaurant Pages in Paris and Florilège in Tokyo). They have aspirations to be the very best, but to do things differently. “Everyone thinks I'm crazy. Everyone is asking why I’m going against the trend and going into fine dining, but truth be told, we are not just fine dining,” Wong says.
Kuro is split into four distinctly designed spaces: a gadget-heavy brew bar that sits along the restaurant’s Kent Street window, a mid-range dining room run by former (now-closed) Bar H head chef Nobu Maruyama, a cocktail bar run by two of Japan’s best and brightest mixologists, and a 10-seat fine diner that frames the back kitchen. “I didn't want to open just another restaurant,” says Wong. “In my mind it had to be unique. But to say I’m not scared would be kidding myself.”
Open from 8am Monday to Friday, this is the place for coffee, high-grade matcha and pastries made by the same team that’s running Teramoto (see below). It has a long polished-concrete bar covered in the glass and metal sheen of 160 kilograms of high-end coffee equipment. The Kuro-branded beans are roasted with help from industry legends Collective Roasting Solutions. “[The coffee will change each season and come from] four regions of the world. All single origins. This is a step up from Kahii [cafe] – it's a really premium offering,” says Wong.
When the coffee orders drop off and the dinner reservations kick in, all the gadgetry disappears; the brewing machinery sits on a moveable plate, and with just a switch of a button it’s lowered into the concrete bench. The brew bar then becomes a large communal dining table, and what will probably be Kuro Dining’s best seats.
Wong and Teramoto both describe Kuro as a casual dining experience, the kind you’d book for a work lunch or a simple night out. But a glance at either the menu or the fit-out betrays that. This doesn’t feel like a place for an average night out.
The dining room is framed by 56 parallel illuminated oak beams that stretch from the floor to the ceiling. The concrete floor of the heritage building has been hammered to form cracks, which have been filled in with gold paint to replicate a Japanese method of repairing ceramics called kintsugi. Each of the dining room tables are made from a striking dark marble.
The menu, by Teramoto and chef Maruyama, lists black fried chicken, bass grouper with harusame (glass noodles) and crab sauce, and aged duck breast with black garlic and soy vinegar. The prices range from $28 to $42 depending on size.
The drinks are by Teramoto’s partner, Wanaka Teramoto. There are 120 wines, most by small-batch Australian minimal-intervention winemakers, and a solid selection of sakes, plum wines and Japanese beers.
This area isn’t as visually striking as the other areas, but it’s framed, charmingly, by the original heritage bricks. This is where Fumiaki Michishita and Yasushiro Kawakubo work – two Japanese bar tenders with endearing old-school attire (one in a bow tie and surgeon’s jacket and another in tie and vest). Both were plucked by Wong and Taka from two of Japan’s best bars.
Each one is the master of a different style. “Fumi is more American and European style, [making] very classic-styled cocktails. He’s also a specialist in absinthe,” Kawakubo says. “I am more focused on Japanese classic style and Japanese ingredients, but also on molecular gastronomy. Taka and I worked in Pages in France and I did a cocktail pairing there focused on chemical compounds ... I want to create new flavours.”
Aside from cocktails the bar will offer a good selection of shoju, sake, gin and whisky. The snack menu, still in progress, will be designed by Taka and chef Maruyama and the dining-room team.
This is the crown jewel – what Taka and Wong hope might get them a seat at the World’s 50 Best awards. This section has just 10 seats, all of them overlooking the kitchen where patrons will see Taka, Wanaka and Maruyama prepare a degustation experience (Teramoto isn’t open yet).
Both Taka and Maruyama have a hard time explaining exactly what it will involve other than it will be innovative. “When I got this offer from Taka, he said it would be all about sustainability, a no-waste restaurant,” says chef Maruymama.
Taka also says they are keen on using predominantly Australian produce, including a lot of natives. “I don’t need to use Japanese ingredients. I love Australian ingredients.”
If there’s one thing Kuro is, it’s ambitious. “I want to try and make a new category of food. I want it to be not only tasty. I am not only giving food – I want it to be an experience,” says Taka.
Kuro Dining, the Brew Bar and the Bar are open now. Teramoto and Kuro Dining lunch will be opening soon.
364/368 Kent Street, Sydney
(02) 9262 1350
Mon to Fri 8am–3pm, 5pm–late
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on November 5, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.