Stepping into Tokyo Kitchen Sakae in Brighton is like entering a traditional Izakaya, or tavern, in Japan.
Wooden walls from deconstructed ships compliment the dimmed lighting to create a warm, welcoming atmosphere.
The restaurant offers a combination of modern and traditional Japanese cuisine.
There is a great selection of sashimi, plus plenty of sushi, ranging from salmon avocado and prawn tempura rolls, to spider rolls featuring deep fried soft shell crab, avocado, rolled inside out with sweet teriyaki sauce and tobiko, or fish roe.
Other specialties include Yakiniku beef or chicken with vegetables, Japanese Yakiniku sauce and rice.
A new menu is on the cards for the near future, with more kinds of fish on offer and interesting drink concoctions such as wasabi and soy sauce cocktails.
The venue is also being renovated, with more greenery and lighting to be added to the cosy outdoor seating area.
Owner Michael Mi set up shop in Brighton two years ago, having sold his Port Melbourne restaurant, Mushi Mushi.
It was a long journey for Mr Mi to become a qualified sushi chef – in Japan he trained for four years, starting out in the most basic job then fine-tuning his skills. Initially, he worked as a dishwasher, then for three years he washed and cooked sushi rice.
“Different kinds of rice, different temperatures and different cooking pots can change the result, so you need to get used to balancing everything,” he said.
Finally, Mr Mi was allowed to work with fish, and for a year he learned how to scale, clean and gut the fish before eventually learning the knack of slicing sashimi.
When Mr Mi moved to Australia, he spent six more years training, working for half a dozen different Melbourne restaurants.
In 2009, he opened Mushi Mushi, then eventually set up Toyko Kitchen Sakae in Brighton.
“When I have a new dish with beautiful presentation and a good taste, it’s the best feeling,” Mr Mi said.
“I also love the pressure in the kitchen, especially during busy times.”
Mr Mi said sashimi was excellent for the health, in moderation, and encouraged first-timers to experience it at Tokyo Kitchen Sakae, where the fish is cut fresh every day.
Tokyo Kitchen Sakae is open for lunch from 12pm to 3pm, Tuesday to Saturday, and for dinner from 5.45pm to 9.30pm, Tuesday to Sunday.
All images courtesy tokyokitchensakae.com.au
Visit Tokyo Kitchen Sakae in Brighton
Tokyo Kitchen Sakae is at 66 Church Street, Brighton