Japanese cuisine is all about employing a “lightness of touch”, says acclaimed Sydney chef Chui Lee Luk.
The former chef/owner of hatted French fine diner Claude’s, as well as Chow Bar and Eating House, is best known for her French and Chinese culinary skills, but has now brought her signature style to Fujisaki - a modern fine-dining Japanese restaurant at Barangaroo.
Make no mistake, though - Fujisaki's menu may be built on the foundations of Japanese technique and tradition, but it has the hallmarks of Lee Luk.
The chef has put a deliberate French spin with a modern Australian influence (read: you'll find native ingredients) on dishes, so Fujisaki is like no other izakaya you'd find in Sydney (or Tokyo, for that matter).
Plus, she has a secret weapon in the form of sushi master Ryuichi Yoshii (formerly of The Rocks' Yoshii restaurant - you can hear Sydney's collective 'hurrah' at the chance to eat Yoshii-san's expertly-formed nigiri once again).
Together, they are serving up a menu that’s divided into three main categories: raw, grilled and steamed.
“The aim is to offer modern Japanese cuisine in combination with Yoshii’s sushi and sashimi, which is steeped in the venerable traditions of Japanese cuisine,” Lee Luk tells SBS.
Which means you can sit down for a traditional omakase (chef’s choice) by Yoshii as well as tuck into a robata-grilled flounder in paperbark, or a steamed pumpkin, tofu and zucchini flower dish (the majority of the vegetarian menu items are also vegan).
Not to be missed is the robata-grilled duck breast dish that’s served with muntries - a berry that’s native to the southern coast of Australia and tastes like spiced apples.
“One of my proudest moments during tastings is Yoshii-san saying how much he liked my grilled duck breast,” says Lee Luk.
And then their are dishes that have DNA injected from Claude's but reimagined for Fujisaki.
"I love using butter and cream and couldn’t help but put a chicken liver parfait on the menu,” Lee Luk admits. “However, I have flavoured it with umeshu, a Japanese liqueur made from ume fruits.”
Lee Luk went on a delicious fact-finding mission to Tokyo to gain menu inspiration prior to Fujisaki’s opening.
“I remember having sushi at one of the very old sushi shops, called Yoshino, in Nihonbashi, where older couples came in to have a casual lunch alongside business people, and we all sat together at the counter,” she says.
“What was reinforced to me in the recent trip was the incredible attention to detail in everything; nothing is done without intention.
“This was the case with dishes like the hassun [seasonal platter] at Daigo, a vegetarian restaurant near the Tokyo Tower, where I had a kaiseki [traditional multi-course] dinner.”
Fujisaki's 140-seat space - the latest addition to the Lotus Dining group - soaks up expansive harbour views with indoor and outdoor seating, including a tatami room.
An encyclopaedic 300-strong wine list spills over to offer sake, whiskies and cocktails - which means booking the tatami room for post-prandial reclining ain't a bad idea. Especially when there are sweets from pastry chef Kumiko Endo - like the wasabi dessert pictured above - or sakura blossom blancmange to end on.
Mon-Sun: lunch, 12 pm- 3 pm; dinner, 6pm-10pm.
Shop 2, 100 Barangaroo Av, Sydney, NSW.