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Sharpest Knives for the Best Results:

Kuon's Hideaki Fukada on Fuelling His Passion for Omakase with Tradition

By Orlaith Costello
September 28, 2023
  shares
By Orlaith Costello
September 28, 2023
  shares

"Cooking is like art. Serving our artistic creations to guests is a moment of joy and pride as a chef."

For the uninitiated, omakase is a chef’s choice meal like no other — it is an opportunity for a chef to showcase their skills and celebrate seasonal produce. Kuon Omakase is making waves in Sydney’s Darling Square, offering a taste of Japan in a pocket of the Harbour City. 

Kuon Omakase is part of the Kuon restaurant group in Sydney. In addition to the omakase outpost, there’s Sushi Sei for all your sushi needs, Irori Takibi bonfire bar and Izakaya Tempura Kuon. So, whatever your preference or budget regarding Japanese cuisine, Kuon has you covered. 

Kuon is co-founded by head chef Hideaki Fukada, who brings his passion, talent and exceptional set of sushi knives to the table to create unique expressions of Japanese cuisine infused with a touch of Aussie flavour.

“I have been in Australia for over 25 years,” Fukada starts. “I love combining local produce or cuisine elements into our dishes here at Kuon.” 

Kuon Omakase regards itself as “modern Japanese Edomae sushi”: an evolved, refined way of enjoying sushi and combining elements of the west and east, old and new. At Kuon, guests can enjoy aged sushi served with sake alongside fresh seafood caught off the coast of Australia — everything in balance. 

The menu changes with the seasons, using only the freshest, in-season ingredients. Accompanying this journey is a curated drinks menu and, right now, a bespoke complimentary Haku cherry and lychee martini. With the central ingredient of Haku Vodka — a craft spirit from the House of Suntory — the cocktail delivers a taste of spring.

Together with Haku, we sat down with Head Chef Hideaki Fukada to chat about passion, precision and his sushi knives.

Creating Memorable Experiences

How have you found your time as head chef of Kuon Omakase?

“My time as the owner and chef has been incredible. Creating new dishes and providing delicious meals to our customers has been an honour. Along the way, there have been many challenges, but they are more like opportunities for growth and creativity.

At Kuon, we can show our guests our skills in sushi and special techniques unique to Japanese cuisine while creating a special dining experience.”

“Kuon” translates to “timeless” or “memorable” in English. Is that your goal at Kuon, to create a memorable experience for your diners?

“Yes, we aim to provide a dining experience that is timeless, unforgettable and leaves a lasting impression on our guests. Like the name, we aim to create a timeless and unforgettable dining experience for our guests.

Every dish and detail is carefully curated to ensure our customers have an exceptional and memorable time here. No two evenings or dinner settings are the same. Each guest is unique, and each dish and serving is special.

We combine the spirit of traditional Japanese Edomae sushi with modern techniques and international elements.”

There are only 12 seats available at Kuon. Can you describe what it’s like to prepare food for guests seated in front of you in this intimate space?

“Preparing dishes in front of customers at this counter is a truly special experience because we engage directly with our customers.

It is very cosy. We can speak directly to our guests, tailoring our dishes to their preferences and expectations while having a conversation with them.

The intimate atmosphere and having the guests in front and directly involved in the cooking deepen our connection with them, leading to unique moments.

Cooking is like art. Serving our artistic creations to guests is a moment of joy and pride as a chef.”

From Ideation to Creation

Could you share your process for selecting courses, choosing ingredients and maintaining a seamless dining experience?

“Creating an omakase menu requires careful attention. Every dish and detail in the omakase menu is carefully curated. Firstly, we consider the seasonality of ingredients to ensure freshness and quality. Next, we aim to balance the menu’s flavours, textures and cooking techniques.

Our workday starts with sourcing the freshest fish from the fish market. Fresh vegetables are cleaned, sliced and made ready for cooking as needed. Meat is prepared according to what the menu needs. Prepping time is vital; 9am is for prep, and 1pm is for service. During the prep stage, we lay the foundation for providing our customers with the best possible dining experience using the finest ingredients. We are always mindful of the passion and quality put into their dishes.

The courses are carefully selected and crafted to convey an omakase story. We incorporate surprise elements to keep the dining experience exciting. Ultimately, the goal is to create a memorable omakase journey for our customers, where each dish harmonises with the last one, and the overall experience becomes greater than the sum of its parts.”

Can you talk me through the selection of dishes included in the Sugiita Hachisun, hassun dish and the menu’s first course?

“Our hassun is a play on surf and turf, making it a rare omakase treat that is a perfect partner to the Haku martini. There is fresh sushi alongside aged, crispy fried zucchini flowers and scorched scallops with salmon roe. Every texture is included, and the flavours partner well with the martini’s cherry and lychee notes.”

Kuon has been described as modern Japanese Edomae sushi and a fusion of east and west. Can you explain the philosophy behind that?

“The philosophy of Kuon is rooted in the traditional techniques and spirit of Japanese Edomae sushi while incorporating modern creativity and international elements.

We highly value fresh Australian ingredients alongside the essence of traditional sushi. This fusion allows us to offer our customers a unique tasting journey. While respecting the traditional techniques of Edomae sushi, we explore new flavours, textures and ideas while harmonising elements from both the east and the west.”

Tradition Meets Passion

You have a beautiful collection of sushi knives. How essential are the tools you use to prepare your dishes?

“In Japanese cuisine, the sharpness of a knife is extremely important. That difference between professionals and amateurs becomes evident, especially in simple dishes. It’s immediately apparent when you look at the cross-section of sashimi.

You can still create great-tasting dishes, but the knives allow for a more refined dining experience for our guests.”

Where did your own passion for cooking come from?

“My passion for cooking began at my grandparents’ Japanese restaurant in Yokohama, Japan. From a young age, I helped with cooking. Inspired by the chef’s skills, I learned the basics of handling ingredients and traditional cooking methods.

I was captivated by the power of food to bring people together and provide joy. Serving delicious meals to customers and seeing their smiles fuels my passion.”

Kuon's Haku Martini

Lloyd Jiho Kim, bar manager at Kuon, and the Beam Suntory team created a bespoke martini that celebrates the seasonality of the omakase dishes created at Kuon.

“Haku Vodka is quite a versatile spirit, which makes for a great pairing to the food,” says Fukada.

Haku Vodka is made with 100% polished white rice and filtered through bamboo charcoal. This attention to crafting the Japanese spirit results in a vodka with a soft, well-rounded mouthfeel and a subtly sweet taste. The team emphasises that slight hint of sweetness using a Japanese cherry liqueur and Japanese lychee liqueur. The slight tartness of the cherry liqueur and perfume notes of the lychee liqueur blend with Haku Vodka for a unique martini that is unmistakably a celebration of Japanese springtime.

Ingredients:

45ml Haku Vodka
10ml Cherry Blossom Liqueur
10ml Lychee Liqueur
Ice
Lychee for garnish

Method:

To a mixing glass, add ice, 45ml of Haku vodka, 10ml of cherry liqueur and 10ml of lychee liqueur, then stir down. Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with lychee pierced with a Haku pin to serve. This martini is served alongside the first course of the omakase menu.

It’s evident that from the moment you arrive at Kuon, you’re embarking on a culinary expedition carefully curated by Hideaki Fukada and his passionate team. Although the omakase menu is constant, the martini is not. Book your spot now to enjoy the unique pairing.

Kuon Omakase is serving its complimentary bespoke Haku cherry and lychee martini with its omakase menu from Tuesday, October 3, until Friday, November 3. This offering is available across two seatings: Tuesday – Sunday at 5.15pm and 7.45pm. Mark your diaries: the booking window opens on September 5.

Haku Vodka’s signature serve is the Haku martini — a drink that showcases the craftsmanship, nuanced flavour and exceptional quality of the premium Japanese liquid. To learn more, head to the House of Suntory website.

Images: Brooke Zotti

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