152 Lygon Street
Brunswick, VIC 3057
This post is proudly brought to you by two of my coworkers, Lily and Andy. They’re both fans of Kumo Izakaya; Lily for the pescatarian-friendly food, and Andy for the Japanese beers on tap. Backed with these two glowing recommendations, Kumo received the honour of being the last restaurant I visit before I head off on my two-week Asia sojourn.
Usually known for being extremely popular, Kumo is quiet and family friendly on a rainy Tuesday night. The decor was dark and woody, reminding me of a maritime izakaya – kind of like the Japanese equivalent of a sailor’s tavern, but much, much better. The pages of sake with detailed tasting notes alone should convince you of that, but if not, the extensive tapas menu and the selection of daily specials should do the trick.
I had a hard time choosing just one sashimi dish, but I eventually settled on the Salmon Tataki ($14.8, 6pcs). The thickly-cut slices of salmon were plump and streaked with fat, the buttery flavours brought out by a quick once-over with a blow-torch. What really made the fish shine though was the sweetly earthy miso paste, accompanied by shavings of peppery scallions.
I was really eager to try the wagyu beef onigiri, but it was unfortunately unavailable for the night, so we had to settle for some Agedashi Tofu (11.8, 3pcs). The addition of cornstarch made the sauce thicker than I’m used to, but it meant that the ginger and soy flavours clung more to the wobbly pieces of tofu. I still wish we could’ve had the onigiri though.
The Calamari and Spicy Fish Roe Udon ($14.8) is Lily’s favourite dish at Kumo, though admittedly it was probably the first thing I would’ve ordered as well. This dish is seriously good; slippery udon noodles and chewy squares of calamari swam about in a thick sauce that was in turns spicy and briny. And if that doesn’t sound amazing enough, there is also a gooey onsen egg to mix through the sauce to add extra creaminess. I ordered some extra Rice ($3.8) just so I could mix it with the sauce.
The Shiitake Mushroom Stuffed Tsukune Chicken Ball ($12.8, 5pcs) was absolute sacrilege. You start with a juicy shiitake mushroom and top it with a lightly spiced ball of minced chicken and teriyaki sauce. Then you top it with cheddar cheese and bake it until it forms a chewy crust. Although it’s the stuff of heathens, I would more than happily eat this again.
To finish off, we shared the Black Sesame Caramel Mousse ($9.8), mainly because Chris refused to have the green tea and coffee tiramisu. Thankfully this turned out to be wonderful. The airy mousse was infused with the nuttiness of black sesame, as well as the toffee-sweetness from the caramel. It’s a subtle fusion dessert that will likely please anyone and everyone.
Although I wasn’t initially sure what to expect from Kumo Izakaya due to the lukewarm review online, this actually turned out to be the best Japanese meal I’ve had for a while. I was especially impressed with how the chefs managed to fuse a traditional menu with more modern elements, resulting in a dining experience that is simultaneously comforting and exciting. No wonder this place has previously won an award for the best Japanese restaurant in Victoria.
Rating: 15/20 – new fave.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.