Don’t mistake Kagura for just another sushi joint. Housed in a fairly inconspicuous nook at the crest of Foveaux Street, inside you’ll find the sweet smell of smoked maple wood, a collection of rare and antique whiskies and a rustic, experimental bar menu inspired by regional areas of Japan.

Led by Japanese-culture enthusiast and cocktail master Flynn McLennan, alongside chef Yoshi Harada, Kagura aspires to be an authentic Japanese izakaya. “We’re trying to capture the atmosphere of those little drinking and eating places you find in the back alleys of Japan, where it’s a bit cluttered, offbeat, and so intimate and chill you can’t not have a conversation with the bartender,” says McLennan. “Although the casual energy doesn’t feel like a fine-dining experience, the quality of the food and drink rivals fancier Japanese establishments.”

There is perfected flavour-of-the-month karaage chicken, and theatrical dishes such as scallops coated with Bruichladdich Octomore whisky mist and served in a cloud of maple smoke, underneath a glass cloche. There’s also a pair of ox-tongue skewers and a tasting plate of house-cured and house-smoked sashimi.

A simple list of natural and organic wine has been selected by Bentley sommelier Ged Higgins, but the cocktail list and whisky collection belongs to McLennan. A drink called Youth of the Beast is McLennan’s spin on the tequila Old Fashioned, and is a combination of house-made tangerine bitters, chipotle liqueur, 123 Organic Reposado tequila and – once again – smoked with sweet, heady maple wood.

Kagura hosts smoking sessions on Sunday afternoons using its DIY smoking box built from recycled materials. “Yoshi chooses a selection of fish, beef and pork to cure with various flavours and we smoke them with various woods,” explains McLennan. “Sundays are for hanging out, relaxing and enjoying some tasty skewers and smoked meats with a beer.”

84 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills
(02) 9212 1981

Tue to Sat 12pm–3pm and 6pm–11pm
Sun 12pm–6pm