While the Carlton segment of Lygon might be a mini Italy, the East Brunswick end of the street is a trip around the world. Superb culinary options from India (Kake Di Hatti), Lebanon (Rumi), Italy (Bar Idda), Thailand (Thaila Thai), Greece (Hellenic Republic) and beyond are on offer here; Kumo completes the world tour, taking us to Japan via its expansive izakaya-style restaurant.
In Japan izakayas are known for their homeliness: a neighbourhood place to drink and dine where everyone knows your name. While Kumo's mess hall-style space (built in 1956 as a large bank) is not necessarily conducive to an intimate, homely feel, the friendly staff and long communal table down the centre — lined on one side by cosy booths — really makes a go of the idea.
The menu is an education in the contemporary izakaya dining experience. Go for the omakase option ($59) and let the chef feed you his best selection of dishes — think sher wagyu tataki with ponzu, crushed prawn katsu with tonkatsu sauce and plum tartare, seared scallops with butter, soy and bonito flakes, and a spicy black vinegar karaage chicken.
If you want full control over your menu, the confit duck leg with plum wine chutney and watercress salad ($17.80), pork belly butakushi skewers with chilli mayo ($11.80) and seared scallops sashimi with ume salsa and crispy wonton pastry ($12.80) are great options.
The food is sophisticated, delicate and beautifully presented — just as you'd expect from experienced Japanese chefs who have previously frequented the kitchens of Yu-U, Bar Lourinha, Kobe Jones and the Royal George Hotel.
The menu can also be presented specific to almost any dietary requirement, with vegan, gluten free, egg free, fish free, dairy free, nut free and many more (even allium/onion/garlic free) menus available.
About drinking as much as it is about eating, Kumo offers its own rare brand of premium sake, bottled exclusively for the restaurant by owner and renowned sake master Andre Bishop. If you don't like the drink enough to drop $120 on it — don't worry — there is an extensive list of alternatives. Of course there's also house cocktails, wine, beer and plum wines to finish.