Now Open: Ronin Is Reinventing Omakase in Melbourne, One Lit Night Out at a Time

Like an ancient ronin samurai, Chef Patrick Kwong has no master. He's breaking the rules and doing omakase his own way.
Andrew Zuccala
February 29, 2024

There's no way you've ever had omakase like that at Ronin. Most Melbourne omakase joints are traditional fine-dining experiences where you delight in multiple courses of artful, meticulously crafted — but seemingly simple — seafood-centric Japanese dishes. The most intimate let you chat with the master omakase chef about the culinary techniques, produce and cultural significance of each dish. It's all about hushed tones and sophistication.

At Ronin, Chef Patrick Kwong has no time for such formality.

From the moment you sit down at the ten-seat omakase bar, the young chef will beckon you to "get lit" with him and every other guest. He'll likely join you in shooting some tequila and sake throughout the night while the tunes of Taylor Swift, Natasha Bedingfield and Miley Cyrus play in the background. And if you're able to join the second nightly sitting at 8.30pm, it's likely to get pretty rowdy.

Vibe-wise, it almost feels like you're at a uni house party. But despite Kwong's friendly laidback attitude, he's incredibly serious about his food.

Ronin Omakase in Melbourne

He learned his craft from a Japanese sushi master (who championed the traditional Edo period of omakase) in Malaysia before heading to Sydney, where he worked in several Japanese restaurants. He learned the traditional techniques and customs but had no intention of losing himself within strict codes of how he should behave and what kinds of ingredients he should use.

Like Ronin — a type of samurai who had no lord or master — Kwong went on to play by his own rules, deciding when to stick to convention and when to get playful. He started Ronin as a pop-up in Docklands, having to build and dismantle his omakase bar each night. There, he fully honed his rule-breaking style of omakase and became hugely popular.

Ronin Omakase in Melbourne

Now Ronin has a permanent location on Little Collins Street (as of December 2023) and it almost immediately books out every time new dining slots are released.

If you're lucky enough to get a reservation you'll be treated to 13 courses of outstanding food and, if you're an experienced omakase patron, you'll see how Chef Kwong doesn't just break the rules when it comes to service. He regularly infuses his own Malaysian heritage into dishes — like adding laksa butter to nigiri — while also bringing more contemporary Australian flavours to the experience. For theatrics, he'll even throw glitter on nigiri.

Ronin Omakase in Melbourne

But don't let this playful attitude to food fool you. The technique here is next level. And the flavour combos perfectly balanced. Even when he purposely numbs your palate with Sichuan peppers, you'll be keen for more.

We could roll through each of the courses and name all the ingredients, but a huge part of the fun at Ronin is just rocking up and going along for the ride, getting a surprise each time Kwong plates up a dish for you.

This rising star of Melbourne's food scene takes big swings. And he's absolutely smashing it. If you get the chance to get lit with Kwong, don't miss it.

Ronin Omakase in Melbourne

You'll find Ronin at 445 Little Collins Street, Melbourne, open from Tuesday to Saturday. Book a seat at either the 6pm or 8:30pm sittings via the restaurant's website.

Published on February 29, 2024 by Andrew Zuccala
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