It may only have been open for a few weeks, but Tamura Sake Bar has already won the hearts of locals of the inner-city suburb of Fitzroy, Melbourne.
Most nights, you'll find a bunch of people sitting around the U-shaped bar eating Takako Tamura's Japanese fare and drinking sake selected by Fumi Tamura.
The couple, originally hailing from Hokkaido and Yokohama respectively, met in Melbourne. They started out in the city's food business with Horse Bazaar in the CBD, but now they want to have a more intimate setting as well.
"Tamura Sake Bar is pretty much everything that we love: We love sake, we love people, we love Japanese food, we love music and we love good vibes," Fumi Tamura tells SBS.
When he's not serving customers or chatting about the rice-based beverage, he's playing records on the turntable behind the bar. "What I play really depends on the mood and the time of the day. I might play funk and soul to start the day and then jazz at night or even hip hop," he says.
Takako Tamura has developed her own yakitori technique using a combi oven, which she says helps the skewers of chicken wings, thighs, meatballs and breast come out extra tender.
With the kobore sushi (kobore translates to ‘overflowing’), you can go classic with raw fish or opt for vegan toppings like enoki mushroom, avocado and miso eggplant. Takako Tamura mixes traditional sushi rice with red rice, giving her sushi a striking purple colour.
There are two ramen bowls. One has a double soup (chicken and fish) and is topped with pork chashu. The other is vegan thanks to agedashi tofu, mushrooms and a broth made with shiokoji, a mixture of salt and koji.
"It's all recipes I've created along the years. I was vegan-pescatarian when I was younger so I wanted to challenge myself to be creative and come up with good vegan options," Takako Tamura says.
A sake sommelier, Fumi Tamura has a rotating selection of three or four different bottles at any one time, which he writes up on a blackboard. "I want to introduce craft sake rather than just big breweries; sake made by hand and in microbreweries," he says.
For an extra $25, you can add the sake pairing to the set menu. "There's a sake pretty much for every food. For chicken and meat, you'd usually go for a sake with more body. If you have fish, it would be a dry, crisp sake or even a fragrant aroma sake," Fumi Tamura explains.
Sake might be the star here, but the two beers on tap are pretty special too. They're a collaboration between Fumi Tamura and Brunswick's Temple Brewing.
The Okinawa Sour has been brewed with shikuwasa from Okinawa and the Tamura Rice XPA has been made with rice.
"Rice koji is one of the essential ingredients to make sake so since we’re a sake bar, my concept is to try to use rice koji as much as we can. It's in the ramen, in the beer," Fumi Tamura says.
The surname Tamura meaning "rice village" in Japanese - it seems like the couple have found their calling heading up this bustling sake bar.
43 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy