In Japan there are few dining pleasures as soul-affirming as breakfast.
Venture beyond cities like Tokyo and Kyoto, home to exquisite kaiseki temples and omakase restaurants and you'll find unfussy family-style eateries where you can start the day with one soup (ichiju-sansai) or grilled salmon (tamagoyaki), a Japanese rolled omelette soaked in soy and mirin that dates back to the second half of the 19th century.
This principle of Japanese home cooking is an exercise in comfort, balance and simplicity. It's also an inspiration for Eugene Leung, the founder of new Marrickville café Kurumac.
Leung, who established the café with his business partner Dika Prianata in late September, says: "I prefer food that is quite simple, it doesn't need to be fancy – when I travel to Japan I love visiting the countryside and stopping at family-run restaurants and eating the food there.
"It is very simple and I just want to offer that [style of food] to everyone else. There are so many different cultures in Sydney, especially here in the inner west – it is so multicultural.
"Every community has its own comfort food. But we also [discovered] that there was no Japanese food in the area so we thought it would set us apart."
Unsurprisingly, the menu at Kurumac is heavily influenced by Leung's long-time chef Jun Okamatsu who hails from Kyushu – a region famous for dishes like mentaiko, a type of spicy, salted fish roe.
At Kurumac, you can linger over a cod-roe melt, a thick layer of roe grilled with cheese, served open-faced on pillowy Japanese milk bread. You can also order dishes like salmon congee, ox tongue curry and the onigiri rice -all set, which comes with the requisite miso soup and tamagoyaki.
Onigiri rice balls, the kind of no-fuss snack you would buy for breakfast at a Japanese convenience store, is a firm favourite with customers along with more playful dishes such as prawn tempura and curry scrambled eggs.
"The menu is a joint effort between myself, Jun and my business partner but it really seems to work," says Leung, also the founder of Cool Mac, a much-loved Japanese-style café in Kirribilli.
"Customers really love the curry scrambled eggs – that is one of the few dishes on the menu that isn't strictly Japanese, it is really a fusion thing that we started serving at Kirribilli. Onigiri rice balls are such a simple thing but not many places do them in Sydney.
"It's like Japan’s own version of vegemite toast."
"Onigiri rice balls are such a simple thing but not many places do them in Sydney. It’s like Japan’s own version of vegemite toast."
Leung says he hopes to collaborate with eateries such as Rising Sun Workshop and Ramen Shimizu – part of the wave of Sydney eateries putting a new-school spin on classic Japanese food.
"We're thinking of asking some of our friends in the industry such as Newtown's Rising Sun Workshop and Ramen Shimizu in Crow's Nest to do some collaborations," he says.
"We have a lot of friends who are artists, so we want to do some live painting [in the café]. There are so many things that we want to do."
107 Addison Rd, Marrickville
Tue-Sun: 7am-3.30 pm
Bright and light, these Japanese sandwiches make for the perfect healthy lunch or entertaining treat.
This bread is Japan's own bakery creation, believed to originate in Yokohama in the early 1800s to cater to the British troops. It's soft, fluffy and creamy.
Kunzea is a native Tasmanian herb and is best, in our experience used dried. It’s got a powerful aroma reminiscent of citrus and thyme, overlaid with the scent of the Tassie bush. Here I’ve used it in a light miso-dressed dish of sweet turnips and radish.
This slightly sweet Japanese fruit sandwich is a perfect middle-ground between healthy and indulgent. For best results use bread that has been slightly sweetened and fruit at its peak ripeness.