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Yugen Dining

Chapel Street's sumptuous subterranean Japanese diner and bar has a flair for the dramatic.
By Libby Curran
December 14, 2022
By Libby Curran
December 14, 2022

In a two-level subterranean space beneath sibling Yugen Tea Bar sits this sumptuous Japanese restaurant — a multi-faceted drinking and dining destination with a dramatic aesthetic and an impressive commitment to detail.

Downstairs is home to a lofty, open restaurant space and adjacent bar area, with soaring ceilings and a majestic chandelier by artist Jennifer Conroy Smith cascading from one corner. Meanwhile, the mezzanine above plays host to Yugen's six-seat omakase bar and a series of private dining rooms — including the eight-person Golden Orb that's suspended in mid-air. The striking fitout by Architects EAT draws inspiration from the five elements according to Japanese culture: earth (chi), water (sui), fire (ka), wind (fu) and void (ku).

Culinary Director Stephen Nairn heads the creatively-charged a la carte food offering, paying equal respect to the traditional and the contemporary. Highlights include the likes of shio-koji-marinated wagyu with tarragon ponzu and lime ($110); a silky smoked eel chawanmushi glistening with brown butter and spiked with crispy chicken skin ($28); and a memorable take on the humble prawn toast featuring Chinese doughnut and a sweet-meets-sour chilli amazu ($26). A stellar sushi and sashimi situation also awaits.

Gareth Sobey

Scallop fried rice might feature kani miso ($31), crispy lamb ribs are done with a shiitake soy glaze and green Sichuan crumble ($36), and a dedicated late-night menu is on offer after 10pm on weekends.

Meanwhile, the omakase bar showcases the masterful talents of Head Chef Alex Yu and Head Sushi Chef Samuel Chee, across an experiential dining adventure that clocks in at $285, with a $180 beverage pairing available. It's a study in sharp technique and top-notch produce that promises plenty of 'wow' moments.

A vast, yet considered array of quality sips beckons from the drinks list — technique-driven cocktails might include the likes of the Ume Negroni built on Davidson Plum liqueur ($12/24), and the Sudachi (an inventive blend of squid ink, tequila and Japanese citrus) ($24), with a strong spread of sake and wines to round out the fun.

Marcel Aucar

Gareth Sobey

Images: Gareth Sobey, Marcel Aucar and Sam Davis.

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