Sam Prince says good food isn’t enough anymore; if you want to open an exceptional restaurant you need a philosophy and a concept. This is how Kid Kyoto was born. It is the Sam Prince Group’s third venture following Mejico and Indu, two restaurants he says were simply about getting excellent food on the table.
But at Kid Kyoto, ’80s and ’90s grunge and rock rules. In fact, it permeates everything, from what you eat, what you listen to perhaps even how you feel.
Prince says he got the idea while in a Japanese fine diner that was playing Nirvana. “I thought, rather than build a restaurant, how about we built an album? We created eight tracks, things like Jane's Addiction mixed with Portishead and Bjork mixed with Soundgarden and I said [to chefs Richard Prout and Seb Gee], let this inspire your food.”
It’s an abstract concept and the grunge theme is more obvious and effective in some instances than it is in others. One dish called Lake of Fire is a Nirvana-song-inspired kingfish ceviche with pickled watermelon, lemon aspen and roast wakame kosho. Other times it’s more about Gee’s personal connection to the music.
Black Hole Sun pork belly is Kid Kyoto’s headliner, a sticky mound of nori-jam-glazed, deep-fried pork belly plated with a clump of bright yellow pickled daikon – a riff on the colours and contrasts of Soundgarden’s 1994 Superunknown album cover. “The tragedy of Chris Cornell’s suicide [Soundgarden’s lead singer] was fresh in my mind when we created that dish,” says Gee.
The Japanese-ish menu is punchy and flavour-packed and at the bar you’ll find equally creative and colourful cocktails and a large range of sake and shochu.
The venue and atmosphere, designed by Pinnacle Commercial Interiors, is more representative of Sydney dining trends than any venue or place associated with grunge. It has exposed ceilings, polished concrete, dim lighting, torn posters and a “come as you are” sign written in kanji.
Prince says eventually he’d like to host unplugged Aussie bands inside the restaurant. “People say to me you’ve over-engineered this, but I just wanted to do it,” he says.
17/19 Bridge Street, Sydney
(02) 9241 1991
Mon to Fri 12pm–3pm, 5pm–11pm