Chase Kojima and Victor Liong are helping to solve the eternal dilemma: what cuisine will we eat tonight? If you whittled it down to Chinese or Japanese you may be into Chuuka, the heavy-hitting chefs’ new restaurant slated to open in July.
It’ll be on the waterfront at Jones Bay Wharf and will be the first property owned by the Star casino that’s not actually in the Star, occupying the space formerly taken by Flying Fish, which has moved into the casino proper.
Kojima is best known for heading up the kitchens at Japanese restaurants Sokyo (at The Star Sydney) and Kiyomi (at The Star on the Gold Coast), while Victor Liong is a firm Chinese favourite in Melbourne, currently behind the pans at Lee Ho Fook (with stints at Mr Wong and Marque in Sydney under his belt). At Chuuka, the two will join forces to create a menu that’s a little bit Japanese and a little bit Chinese.
“I heard Flying Fish was moving into The Star,” Kojima told Broadsheet. “I was chatting to the execs at The Star and said I was interested in the space. Even though my cooking background is Japanese, I said ‘let’s do Chinese food in there’. They said ‘cool’, because they have a lot of Asian clientele at The Star.”
There was one issue, though: Kojima hadn’t run a Chinese kitchen before. That’s where Liong came in.
“I thought that, even though I wanted to cook Chinese food, my CV would look very weak when opening a Chinese restaurant,” he says. “I thought it would be good to work with someone on that, and one person I thought of was Victor. He’s a pretty cool guy and I’ve eaten his food before and really liked it.”
Liong said yes to the proposition and will be commuting from Melbourne to run his two restaurants – though Kojima says a big part of his answer was the restaurant’s spectacular location on Sydney Harbour, with its views of the bridge and the water.
The two have landed on a menu that’s Chinese with a few twists. “We’re not going to do Cantonese food,” says Kojima.
Instead, expect Chinese food made with Japanese ingredients to give it a cleaner taste. “Usually, if there’s a Chinese ingredient there will be a Japanese equivalent,” says Kojima.
The restaurant won’t be opening until July, but Kojima says they’ll be serving fun food with interactive elements – duck, for example, might be served with an array of condiments for guests to create their own dish.
“The last couple of months I’ve been working with [Liong] I’ve learned so much,” he says. “He’s a genius – I try not to tell him that though, because he’ll get fucking stuck up. He just knows what to do and does it. He tells me to cut something differently and it changes everything. His way is faster, he’ll come up with something and get it out, and then I’ll come in at the end and tweak it and make it better.
“I grind, grind, grind. For me it’s all about the suffering. If I’m coming up with a fried chicken dish, there will be fried chicken every night for a week so that I can work on it and make it better. He just does it.”
The restaurant will be split across several spaces, with two dining rooms upstairs, and an outdoor area, bar and main dining room downstairs. A tank will hold live seafood. There’ll be a separate bar menu and, at the beginning, one menu for the rest of the restaurant, although that could change. Kojima says that people who want to have a luxurious time and splash some cash can do so, while those who just want to hang out at the bar for Sunday afternoon drinks can do that, too.
“Daytime and night-time will have two different vibes,” says Kojima. “During the day there’ll be views of the bridge, at night the music will change and there’ll be a different menu.”
And the name? “Chuuka” were Chinese dishes introduced to Japan in the late 19th and 20th centuries by Chinese immigrants, which were adapted for Japanese tastes.
Chuuka is slated to open in July.