The sheer variety of quirky Japanese wallpaper at Erskineville Road’s sweet little eatery, Kuki Tanuki, is beyond awesome. There are at least five different crazy patterns, and combined with the restaurant’s collection of different-sized circular pendant lamps in countless designs, the whole scheme has the potential to be overwhelming. The thing is, the super-kawaii interior of Kuki Tanuki really works.
They're open for brunch on the weekends, serving up bento boxes filled with veggie tempura, corn fritters and fruit- and juice-based non-alcoholic cocktails. It’s an unusual change from your standard breakfast. If you’re coming in for a casual drink in the evening, take a seat at the low tables out the front and surf through the list of imported Japanese beers like Sapporo Bullets, Kirin Ichiban or a rich and malty Yona Yona Ale. Further toward the back are long communal tables, great for larger groups.
How’s your sake knowledge? A little rusty? Luckily, the five main things you should know about rice wine are neatly explained for you inside the drinks menu, which makes choosing your drop a little less complicated – phew. If you’re not so into sake, go for a semi-sweet Choya plum wine, drunk in a short glass over ice. It’s incredibly smooth without any booze burn, despite its 15 per cent alcohol content. The cocktail list is fun, too. We go for the Japanese Summer, a zingy, citrusy blend of yuzu juice (kind of like a sour Japanese mandarin), vodka and yuzu jam served in a little jam jar.
After all these drinks, it’s probably best to eat something. A good place to start is the kushiyaki menu, where small portions of juicy scallops, chicken or vegetables are skewered and grilled until wonderfully smoky. One of the standouts on the sashimi menu is the clean and delicate paper-thin kingfish carpaccio with a yuzu dressing and a little pile of watercress for crunch. But if you need something a little more substantial, the pork buta ribs in a teriyaki sauce fall off the bone.