For an eat street as long and diverse as King, there’s a regrettable lack of good Japanese food that doesn’t approach you on a rotating train. As you can imagine, the situation is even more dire in Erskineville - so it’s little wonder that Kuki Tanuki has been so gratefully received.
This Japanese izakaya bar is pretty hard to miss, and not just because Erskineville is small. The exterior is vibrantly patterned and lined with a few plastic saké crates, and on the other side of the huge glass doors, murderous pieces of anime nigri and other peculiar graffiti cartoons adorn polished concrete walls (courtesy of street artist SMC3).
Perhaps the phrase 'Jack of all trades and master of none' only applies in the Western world, because Kuki Tanuki does many things and does them all with flair. The best time to stop by is a weekend afternoon, where happy hour coincides with live music in the front bar, but you can’t really go wrong whatever day of the week it is. Time isn’t an issue either — stop by in the morning for an inventive Bento Brunch Box ($25) complimented by a selection of 'morning drinks' (BYO coffee), or linger from afternoon to evening over share plates of melt-in-your-mouth Kingfish Carpaccio ($16) and deep fried Agadashi Tofu ($8). For the complete experience, finish with a serving of Panko Fried Ice Cream ($7).
Most of the eating goes on at the proper tables in the back bistro room but if you’re just after a drink and a snack, then pull up a plastic saké crate in the bar area. Don’t expect too much in the way of wines — unless you’re after the dessert variety — but there are an impressive number of imported beers and sakés. You don’t need to know how to pronounce Miyamizunohana to appreciate how tasty it is with tempura, and the servers are always willing to make suggestions. With Kuki Tanuki and the neighbouring Rose of Australia Hotel, Erko is giving King Street a serious run for its money.