In Japan, koshien—the sweet, creamy, unenriched egg yolk often pinned to the end of yakitori (or chicken skewers)—is considered a delicacy. In Melbourne it’s hard to find in full form, reproductive system and all, but Chef Ken Ibuki does his best to deliver the next best thing.
It’s not advertised on the menu at his new restaurant, Cora – down an apartment block in East Brunswick – but if you’re lucky, he might have some to savor. It is first poached illegally (sweet soy, sake, mirin satin) and then attached to the yakitori, which grills ibuki over a charcoal grill left by the previous tenant, now closed Fai.
“My first job was at Izakaya,” Ibuki says. big cut. “So it’s not new to me.” It was there that he mastered the art of robatayaki (literally translated to “cook by the stove”), a skill passed down to him by his father. Ibuki has spent the past 10 years as a sushi chef at restaurants including Kisumi and Nobu, but Kura is a chance for him to go back to his roots. “I decided to go back to eating hot food because my dad was a chef and I grew up with a lot of flavors in Japanese food,” he says.
“It’s an homage to him.”
Ibuki’s father came to Australia in the 1960s and opened one of the first Japanese restaurants in Melbourne. At the time, cuisine was a new concept for most Australians and it was modified to suit the local taste. But at Kura, Ibuki highlights ingredients and preparation methods that are closer to what you’d find in Japan.
“We’re not aiming for 100 percent traditional,” says co-owner Kelvin Low (The Elysian). “We just try to make robatayaki really well, which is the art of gastronomy using charcoal.”
Yakitori – skewers made exclusively from chicken – are a distinctive feature and in Kura they are made from almost every part of the chicken, from the skin to the heart to the liver. You’ll also find tsukune, which are tender chicken meatballs served with an onsen (slowly cooked) egg for dipping.
Other skewers include pork belly with plum sauce and warby, a boneless piece of wagyu sourced from between the bones of a glazed rib in a prime stock and grilled until lightly charred. Due to the background of Ibuki, thin sashimi also appears.
A variety of sake, many exclusive to Kura, are designed to cut the richness of the meat. Liquids range from earthy and dry to fruity and funky, but if you’re overwhelmed by the options, co-owner and venue manager Michael Setadi will gladly guide you with tasting notes and pairing suggestions. Simply sit at the bar overlooking the small but functional kitchen, and prepare to sample something special.
Shop 1 22-30 Lygon Street, East Brunswick
(03) 9972 1629
Tuesday to Sunday from 5 pm to 11 pm