Hidden in an offbeat location on the ground floor of a residential block in Glebe, Osaka Bar Sake and Dining is an intimate sushi and kaiseki restaurant opened in March by chef Kazu Nakatani.  

His infectious smile and friendly service may be familiar from Osaka Bar in Kings Cross, which he opened in 2015, focusing on Osaka specialties such as takoyaki (octopus balls) and okonomiyaki. It moved across the road and rebranded as an omakase restaurant in 2018, before closing in 2020. Now, after a few years running a restaurant in Canberra, the chef is back in Sydney.

Kaiseki is a traditional Japanese multi-course meal that reflects the season and showcases various cooking techniques in dishes presented like edible artwork.

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“I have been to many cities in Australia, and I knew if I wanted to pursue kaiseki, then it had to be done in Sydney, where all of Australia’s seasonal ingredients and the world’s prestigious ingredients come together,” Nakatani tells Broadsheet.

While true kaiseki is almost impossible to produce outside of Japan, due to the differences in culture and availability of ingredients, Nakatani says he has redefined the term at Osaka Bar. Here he’s interpreting it as a modern Japanese meal that interweaves traditional cooking methods with Australia’s multiculturalism. 

“I want to share our Japanese food culture with Australians without imposing it,” Nakatani says.

Although it initially opened as a kaiseki restaurant in March, Osaka Bar has since evolved to offer sushi as part of its nine-course set menu.

“I realised that kaiseki alone could not fully express the abundance of ingredients available in Australia,” says Nakatani. “If my menu was set as kaiseki, then I won’t be able to incorporate the new fresh ingredients offered at the market daily. But with sushi-kaiseki, I can. 

“I consider myself a creator more than a chef. I must continually challenge myself to grow and evolve.”

For the same reason, he refrains from naming the restaurant’s signature dish. “That will hinder growth. If something [ingredients] is good, then I want to take it in and let it evolve.”

The nine-course meal ($220) starts with sakizuke (appetiser), followed by mukozuke (a dish of seasonal sashimi) and the savoury egg custard chawanmushi. Shojin (a vegetable dish), dai no mono (grilled dish) and nimonowan (a simmered soup-like dish) follow, then kawari-bachi (the main dish, traditionally grilled fish or seafood) and sushi are served. 

“There is no set limit on the number of nigiri. But I offer the freshest catch of the day,” says Nakatani.

As seasonal ingredients are at the heart of kaiseki, Nakatani will change half the menu every month, meaning it’s a completely new menu every two months. But grilled A5 Kagoshima Wagyu tenderloin, cured in saikyo miso, is one dish that will always be available.

“I think this is the first time Kagoshima Wagyu [has been] cured this way in Australia,” says Nakatini.

Allow yourself about two and a half hours for the full experience, in which every dish is carefully paired with sake from various prefectures of Japan, chosen by Nakatani’s wife, Mari Nakatani, a certified sake sommelier. An alcohol-free pairing is also available.

Osaka Bar also offers a mini kaiseki with six rather than nine dishes, as well as an à la carte menu of assorted sashimi, Wagyu katsu sandos and Tasmanian uni and ikura (salmon roe) donburi (rice bowl) for those with a smaller appetite or budget.

Osaka Bar Sake and Dining
18a Wentworth Street, Glebe
0431 562 800

Hours:
Tue to Thu 5.30pm–10pm
Fri & Sat midday–2.30pm, 5.30pm–10pm

osakabar.com.au
@osakabar