Kura Robata and Sake brings yakitori precision to Brunswick East

Kura Robata and Sake serves up to 15 different skewers.
Kura Robata and Sake serves up to 15 different skewers. Photo: Yue Yamanaka-Mead

Tucked beneath an apartment complex on a busy Brunswick intersection, Kura Robata and Sake is easy to miss. But it might be the most daring of Melbourne's recent raft of Japanese restaurant openings.

Kura, which means "cellar" in Japanese, took over the narrow space and fire-focused kitchen of Faye in December.

It's the first venue for Kelvin Low, who is also behind Fitzroy's Elysian Whisky Bar, and chef Ken Ibuki (previously at Kisume's chef's table and Nobu).

Southern Ranges flank steak with wasabi salsa and red wine jus, one of the sharing dishes at Kura.
Southern Ranges flank steak with wasabi salsa and red wine jus, one of the sharing dishes at Kura. Photo: Yue Yamanaka-Mead

Ibuki's father, Tsukasa, was one of Australia's principal Japanese chefs, opening Melbourne's first Japanese restaurant in 1967, Club Ibuki.

"Initially, we wanted to do a neighbourhood highball bar, but then we found this venue and Faye already had the wood-fire grill, so we decided to do more food," says Low.

They kept the highballs (mostly whisky-based and flavoured with seasonal fruit) and have complemented them with an array of yakitori and kushiyaki (meat and vegetable skewers).

Faye, in Brunswick East, has given way to Kura.
Faye, in Brunswick East, has given way to Kura. Photo: Scott McNaughton

Unlike some new skewer specialists in Melbourne, Kura doubles down on traditional yakitori. Chicken skin, hearts, giblet and liver are among the menu's 12 to 15 skewers, alongside tender beef intercostal, the muscles between ribs.

But the most exciting items are off-menu. Regulars already know to ask for Ibuki's take on yakitori chochin, a chicken thigh skewer (traditionally chicken fallopian tube) crowned with a perfectly spherical yolk.

Seating 40 inside and 20 out, the best spots are at the bar for views of sashimi being meticulously sliced and flames licking the sides of Murray River pork loin, one of the larger main courses.

Cocktails and an ever-changing sake list of 20-plus bottles, mostly available by the glass, round out the drinks.

Open Tue-Sun 5pm-11pm.

Shop 1, 22-30 Lygon Street, Brunswick East, 03 9972 1629, kuramelbourne.com.au