It’d be easy to dismiss this stained glass and grey façade on Marrickville’s Addison Road, best known for the namesake Sunday markets and the 428 bus. Only a pair of well-crafted timber benches out front offers a hint of the considered approach being taken behind the door. Step into Kurumac, and you’ll discover a relaxed and refined space of built-in ply seats, matte black tables and a few choice artworks that soothes instantly, forming a neat zen backdrop to Japanese café fare. And the locals have taken notice if a queue on a stinking hot day waiting for a steaming bowl of ox tongue ramen in a beef bone broth is anything to go by.
Owner Eugene Leung has brought his East-meets-West hits enjoyed by Kirribilli locals at Cool Mac for the past decade to a suburb with a penchant for craft beer, pet-nats and pho. Staples are covered with experienced ease here: co-owner Dika Prianata pumps out Campos coffee behind a white La Marzocco, alongside pastries from the Bread and Butter Project. The drink of choice, though, is a milkshake made with Mapo’s hojicha gelato, which delivers sweet childhood delight backed by a robust roasted tea flavour.
Where Kurumac comes into its own is when things turn fully to the Land of the Rising Sun. Chef Jun Okamatsu’s primarily all-day menu remixes home-cooked Japanese dishes with quiet sophistication that’s still approachable. A breakfast toastie takes the form of spicy cod roe on melted cheese atop a thick slice of shokupan, a traditional subtly sweet milk bread, while poachies get replaced with delicate 63-degree eggs. Tempura eel with rice, presented on a bevelled bamboo tray with condiments – sesame seeds, nori and spring onion, as well as pickled cabbage – looks particularly striking in handcrafted earthenware. The batter could do with a tad more crispness, but the teriyaki sauce is pleasingly heavy in sticky-soy umami flavour. An accompanying green tea broth poured from a floral-patterned teapot could play as a made-for-Insta novelty, but actually brings a clean tannic tone to the meal.
All tastes are accounted for here – sweet, salty, sour, bitter and umami – and brought together in perfect harmony. Ox tongue curry showcases this balance, the pull-apart tender meat smothered in a sweet, fragrant curry sauce accompanied by pickled ginger and a yuzu kosho-dressed salad that allows comfort food to reach new heights. Elsewhere, a contrasting duo of more yuzu kosho and creamy mayo brightens a seared salmon and avocado salad, while $24 scores you a chirashi bowl with a mind-boggling variety of thick-cut salmon and tuna sashimi, scallops and salmon roe, garnished with flakes of bonito and crunchy tempura.
The series of hanging Snoopy comic artworks with rap and hip-hop lyrics in the speech bubbles by artist and China Heights gallery co-founder Mark Drew sums up what Kurumac does best: putting a novel, inspired spin on something wholesome, much-loved and a little nostalgic. Importing a successful formula from one vastly different neighbourhood to another is no mean feat, but in this case, nothing’s been lost in transit – or translation.