Welcome to Kisume, the latest, biggest, triple-level Japanese project for the Lucas Group, taking on Sake and Supernormal in fizzing Flinders Lane.
For those familiar with the loud, brash Lucas leviathans Chin Chin, Kong, Baby and Hawker Hall, all famously casual beasts, there's a notable shift in tone. Every bit is bookable. The look and feel is more New York heavy-hitter than Tokyo bolthole. The neon is negligible. Instead, Wood Marsh architects and designer Fabio Ongarato have created a stunning, opulent den centring around a long glowing sushi station on the ground floor, with custom-built, all-embracing velvet chairs.
Placemat menus aside, Kisume is a bastion of the niche, from the art (Polly Borland's portrait of Nick Cave disguised as a blue-haired girl; controversial bondage pics from Japan's Bill Henson, Nobuyoshi Araki) to a concept chablis bar, conceived by Lucas Group's GM of wine, Philip Rich, upstairs at Kuro Kisume.
This premium level, built for corporate card swingers, is where private, curtained-off rooms for 16 can be booked out (from next month), and a 12-seat kaiseki bar will serve 12 to 15 courses at $175 a pop, and likely serve as host venue for visiting chefs.
Head chef K.S. Moon's claim to fame was launching a sushi-ya for Armani's Dubai hotel. He's backed by dual sushi masters, brothers Yosuke and Shimpei Hatanaka. Their sushi swings from traditional nigiri relying on feathery knifework to Alaskan crab rolls frilled with roe in soy paper, and green rolls – all vegan, and all the rage stateside. All fish is Australian or New Zealand, with some flown live to holding tanks at the Lucas Group's Moorabin factory.
Hot dishes, from a separate menu, veer contemporary and flashy, but sharp: foie gras and beef tenderloin, king crab gyoza. Along with the hyper-specific chablis bar, a broader drinks list is available throughout, while a premium wine wall of Grange and rare sakes, harks back to Lucas' Botanical days.
Completing the powerful team is sommelier Jonathan Ross of Eleven Madison Park and venue manager Markus Tschuschnig from Masa, New York.
As the step towards claiming the top end market before Sepia hits town, it's a strong play.
Opening Monday, May 15 dinner only (daily 6pm-late), full service from May 22 (daily 11am-late).
175 Flinders Lane, Melbourne, 03 9671 4888, kisume.com.au