Koku Culture Cafe
Kenji Okuda and Donna Chau never planned to open a cafe. They left their day jobs (well, more night jobs) at Lotus Group – Okuda was head chef at Lotus Barangaroo and they were both at Billy Kwong before that – to make miso and soy sauce, with the aim of selling it to chefs. But they needed a place to produce and store it.
On the hunt for the right place, they came across a spot just off Ashfield’s main drag. The front of the premises was an ideal space to turn into a cafe. So they left their jobs and decided to give it a try. The result is Koku Culture.
Highlights on the menu include the matcha pancake topped with the custard and the crunch of a crème brûlée. Another dish is wok-fried eggs, which are crunchy and come with bacon, cabbage and a field of bonito flakes. Picture okonomiyaki (Japanese pancake) – it’s like that. We’ve also ordered a piece of Alpine salmon that’s served with miso and a soba salad. These aren’t regular cafe dishes.
The simple space has Japanese influences, with light-coloured timber furniture and wall fittings and not much else. Despite this and the menu Chau and Okuda maintain it’s not a Japanese cafe, but an Australian one with a few twists here and there.
For example miso dressing on the smashed avocado toast, (secret) miso in the granola, and banana bread served with a yuzu sour cream instead of butter.
Although you can try the organic and locally sourced miso and soy sauce on Koku’s dishes, you can’t buy the products at the café yet (you’ll see empty jars lining the wall). But they’re available at their market stall at Erskineville Farmers' Market, which runs on Saturday mornings. Keep on top of their social pages for updates on when they’ll be in stock at the cafe or online.