When it comes to the development of Sydney's beachside suburbs, Cronulla has admittedly taken a bit of a backseat. But it's slowly making up for lost time. And a driving force behind this are Harry and Mario Kapoulas. The brothers, whose Greek-inspired cafe and deli HAM is somewhat of an institution for Shire residents, are keeping the wheels turning with their newest venture Rushi.
The pair joined forces with another longtime Cronulla establishment, Chain Reaction Bicycles, to launch this small eatery inside the store earlier this year. While this type of hybrid may not be an altogether fresh idea for Sydney (see: Rising Sun Workshop, Deus Ex Machina), it is for Cronulla.
For the new cafe, the Kapoulas duo brought in friend Lucy Brenton, from Paddington institution Jackie's. And with her, Brenton brought chef Derek McMullan, sous chef Yopi Tjandra and a collective passion for Japanese cuisine.
The cafe's Japanese influence starts with the branding — "rushi" is the Japanese translation of "Lucy" and the logo, which kind of looks like a smiling emoji, is one of the Japanese characters from the name. You'll see the 'smile' straight away when you enter the cafe — it's on the floor tiles at the door — and it's a good sign of what to expect service-wise, too.
Nestled into the front corner of the bike store, the cafe is compact, with the open kitchen and counter on one-side and a wall of jarred spices on the other. The approach to seating, we think, is to put them wherever there is space — including under the stairs that lead to an office above.
The size of the kitchen calls for a succinct menu, but all the major Aussie brunch favourites are present, albeit with a Japanese twist. A standout is the egg yariman roll (we'll let you do that translation yourselves). It's a decadent combo of parmesan scrambled eggs, avocado, bacon and Sriracha mayo served on a soft milk bun. The ricotta hotcakes and Forbidden Rice — warm sticky black coconut rice pudding with seasonal fruit —are good choices for sweet tooths. For lunch, expect a tataki salmon poke-style salad, a yuzu steak sandwich and an almost-permanent special, the Phomen: a pho-ramen hybrid.
The coffee is a custom blend from local roasters White Horse Coffee, but, if you're tempted to experiment, the range of 'alternative lattes' is fairly appetising — with raspberry cocoa, charcoal and mint slice options.
In this new spot, the Kapoulas duo and Brenton have together created a beachside eatery that stands out from the rest — for more than one reason. And they're about to do it all again — the team is working on a new 'concept chicken shop', named CC Babcoq, which will join Salts Meats Cheese in Cronulla's new development The Banc in November. Stay tuned for details.