After seven years, Daylesford's Euro-Japanese fine diner, Kazuki's, has closed to make way for the more casual Sakana. "We've felt lately that demand was waning for the kind of fine dining we were doing," says Saori Tsuya, co-owner and wife of chef Kazuki Tsuya. "People want something a little more accessible."
For locals and regulars, the change won't be immediately obvious. "We haven't done a major renovation," she says. "There was a stage where we thought we'd get rid of all the art on the wall and do something new, but then we realised that it actually suits Sakana more than Kazuki."
All of Kazuki's staff remain at Sakana, including front-of-house manager Primo Clutterbok.
In keeping with the casual vibe, the food at Sakana is designed to share. On the menu are dishes such as seafood dumplings with XO sauce and shallots; duck bao with spicy miso and negi; and masterstock-braised pork belly freshened with a mint salad. There's an omakase-style banquet option for $85, too.
As Sakana is named for a Japanese term referring to food that's eaten alongside alcohol, naturally the drinks list is strong.
For cocktails, there's the negroni-like Japanese Martinez made with gin, sweet vermouth and choya umeshu; or a version of Chuhai made with a black sugar shochu, house-made elderflower cordial and soda.
There's also a sharp list of wines with a particular focus on those from the surrounding Macedon Ranges, such as Bindi, Curly Flat and Cobaw Ridge.
Fans of Kazuki's will be pleased to know it's not over for Kazuki and Saori's original restaurant. Come October, Kazuki's will reopen in Carlton.
"We've always wanted to do something in Melbourne; it was always part of the plan," says Saori. "This opportunity came up to do something in Carlton and we took it."
Interior architects Design Office (responsible for Higher Ground) will be behind the fit-out of the Carlton Kazuki's, with branding by Studio Round (responsible for Marion and Brae).
But for the Tsuyas, it doesn't matter whether it's casual or fine dining. "We're the same people, and we just want to make our customers happy," says Saori.
Open Lunch Sat-Sun from noon; dinner Thu-Mon from 5.30pm.
1 Camp Street, Daylesford, 03 5348 1218, sakanarestaurant.com.au