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Koku Culture

This Ashfield cafe and miso shop serves up Japanese brunches and fluffy matcha pancakes.
By Marissa Ciampi
December 18, 2019
By Marissa Ciampi
December 18, 2019

A new Japanese cafe in Ashfield has garnered much attention since it opened in 2019. But its owners, former chefs at Lotus Barangaroo and Billy Kwong, didn't set out to open a cafe — they just wanted to make great miso.

"We started off making our own miso paste and dressing, and people kept asking us how to use it," says Donna Chau, who co-owns Koku Culture with Kenji Okuda. "So we decided to open a cafe around these products, where we'd make everyday food but with a Japanese twist."

Think smashed avo on thick-cut milk toast from Newtown's Azuki Bakery ($16); zucchini, corn and nori fitters with yuzu sour cream and chilli salt ($15.50); and a matcha soufflé pancake ($16) topped with brûléed custard and served with fresh fruit and honey comb.

You'll find these three on Koku Culture's all-day brekkie menu — a second lunch menu kicks off from 10am. Everything on both, apart from the seared wagyu ($23), comes in under $20, so a brunch here won't bust your summer holiday budget.

On the later menu, there's a confit king salmon with green tea soba noodles and house-made miso dressing ($19) and the popular crispy rice burgers (with rice in place of buns) featuring beef, koji chicken or a corn fritter (all $15). Another fan-favourite is the wok-fried eggs, which is a little like a deconstructed okonomiyaki (savoury Japanese pancake): the crispy eggs are laid on a bed of purple cabbage and topped with bacon, dancing bonito flakes, Sriracha and okonomiyaki sauce.

A daily specials board offers the likes of a sesame-crusted tofu noodle salad with spicy soy dressing and a matcha sundae, which we hope makes a reappearance during the hotter summer days. And for drinks, there's Single O coffee and weekly changing blends, plus matcha, hojicha (roasted green tea) and yuzu teas. You can order iced versions of all of these, too.

The intimate 29-seat Ashfield cafe is meant to feel like an extension of Chau and Okuda's nearby home. It's a simple fit-out with herringbone tiled walls, light timber tables — with a mix of low, high and bench seating — and heaps of natural light.

If you (understandably) develop a miso addiction after visiting Koku Culture, you can nab the duo's packaged products for takeaway at the cafe and at the Erskineville Farmers Market. A vegan kimchi will also be released imminently and a range of soy sauces is slated for release sometime in 2020.

Images: Kimberley Low.

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