In the building that once hailed Surry Hills’ iconic (and much loved!) brunch spot, Cuckoo Callay – the neighbourhood welcomes Japanese cuisine at its finest with Itō.
Itō hails from the ESCA Group, who also have founded familiar favourites like Surry Hills’ Nour and Henrietta and Parramatta’s Lilymu. The new open and thoughtfully curated space allows up to 85 diners inside, with 25 seats alfresco style. Open glass window panels allow guests to feel as if they are dining in the vast open space opposite, with hues of green and sunshine flowing through.
Hailing from Milan Head Chef, Erik Ortolani brings a reimagined menu of Japanese flavours melted with Italian love. With dishes like Waygu Mafaldine and bonito bread (think: doughy deliciousness with the perfect additions of salty meets sweet). Just don’t use the F word – and by this we mean fusion.
Erik was always passionate about Japanese food however, he didn’t fully appreciate it until he came to Australia that he started exploring and experimenting with flavours. Prior to becoming head chef at Itō, he ran other well-known joints such as Cho Cho San and Nobu – so the move to Itō felt natural.
I was fortunate enough to attend the media opening and the flavours that we were able to try and revel in almost the seamless transition between Japanese and Italian. Bold ingredients meet salty, miso infused Japanese dishes so beautifully. It’s as if they were always meant to be paired. I even tried a Charcoal Sake produced in our very own, Melbourne – the first of its kind.
A few favourite dishes (although hard to pick!) were the charred fioretto, barley miso, furikake – perfectly paired with the savoury dishes and the agebitashi eggplant with tomato kaeshi and sesame – can only be described as crunchy, deliciousness. To top it off we enjoyed the chocolate purin, pear, mirin which was just delightful and not too sweet.
The restaurant is designed so you can pop in for an after work tipple and a few snacks like edamame and hiramasa kingfish, or come hungry and choose between two banquet style meals which feature standout menu highlights and dessert ($89 classic banquet, or $129 for the signature).
Such informal bars are peppered across Japan and provide a cosy haven for those who are social and hungry. Itō wants to bring a taste of this to Sydney, providing patrons with a place to snack, drink or enjoy a full course meal whilst dining in a timeless venue on Sydney’s iconic Crown Street.
When she’s not globetrotting Caitlin Martin loves to scope out Sydney’s hidden gems, with a camera and coffee in hand. Follow her adventures @caitlineliseeee
Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Candid PR.
Image credit: Jiwon Kim.