• Sasaki’s menu is “sometimes anything but textbook Japanese”. (Yu Sasaki)Source: Yu Sasaki
A boutique restaurant in Sydney wants to do more than just serve delicious food - it wants to connect the cultures of Australia and Japan.
Junko Hirabayashi

5 Mar 2018 - 6:56 AM  UPDATED 9 Mar 2018 - 11:33 AM

Yu Sasaki opened up Sasaki a small restaurant (it only seats 25 people) in Surry Hills in 2017 to showcase his home prefecture of the mountainous Shimane in the San'in region in the southwest of Honshu, the main island of Japan. 

But what he cooks is not traditional Japanese nor is it Shimane’s local cuisine. It’s a fusion between Western and Japanese creations using Australian produce.

Yu was only 26 when he first opened up a restaurant.

Once you are inside, you are surrounded by the beauty of Shimane, with the interior decorations including tables, chopsticks and crockery, all created by artists from Shimane and the surrounding area.

They are usually defined by their simple, polished designs and their beauty is said to derive from their functionality.

Once you are inside, you are surrounded by the beauty of Shimane, including the bowls and chopsticks.

Yu entered the hospitality industry when he opened the Surry Hills macarons café Cre Asion seven years ago, when he was just 26 - an age seen in Japan as too young to set up your own food business.

But Yu defied the norm and by the time he had turned 30 he opened up yet another eatery – this time to introduce his home prefecture to people in Sydney with the aim of creating a bridge between Sydney and Shimane.

The restaurant has only 25 seats and was selected as one of the top 10 new restaurants in 2017 by online city guide Broadsheet.

But it's not traditional Shimane cuisine

Yu says Sasaki’s menu is not quite the same as those you'd find in Shimane and “anything but textbook Japanese”.

“What I cook is not Shimane’s local cuisine, but it’s a dish that gives a customer the feeling of Shimane”, Yu says.

“Any local cuisine tastes best when you visit the area and eat it from there. In Sydney, the cooking environment and the produce are different from those in Japan. So we have to be flexible and creative."

"I don’t have to use the produce from Shimane to make the elements of Shimane."

One of Yu's special dishes is cured kingfish, red pepper gazpacho, chilli oil and amaranth Leaves.

It's a dish that focuses on Australian produce with the kingfish, red pepper, chilli and akaza (wild spinach). 

But he also uses Japanese red vinegar made from fermented sake lees. Red vinegar is often used for making sushi.

Showcasing my home country in a new way – Yu Sasaki
Yu Sasaki, chef and owner of Sasaki, one of the most sought-after Japanese restaurants in Sydney, produced a short film to showcase the craftsmanship from the Sanin region of Japan.

He lets the kingfish rest overnight with smoked chillies, salt and sugar, and serves it with roasted paprika gazpacho, chilli oil and Amaranth leaves.

Yu says customers are more likely to gain a Japanese experience from more than certain elements in his dishes.

“I don’t have to use produce from Shimane to make the elements of Shimane. I use Australian produce and they [my customers] acquire something Shimane by going through my filter.

“It’s myself, my memories and personality." 

'Restaurants should do more than serve food'

Yu says he believes restaurants should do more than just cooking and waiting on guests.

He recently made the short film, San'in <> Sydney, to showcase artisans in Japan's San'in region and the surrounding area.  

“A restaurant could be an ideal place to [use more than food to] send out your lifestyle and values to lots of people.

"I’d like to make better use of this potential, like the short film I made," Yu says.

"It would be wonderful if I could reach and inspire more people.” 


Mon-Sat, 5.30pm-10pm

102/21 Alberta St, Sydney, NSW

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