To celebrate Good Food Month we’re getting to know the talented chefs behind Southgate’s restaurants. Meet Miyako head chef Kazu Nomura.
Tell us a bit about yourself and how you became a chef.
I was born in Japan and when I was six years old I knew I wanted to cook. When I was young I wanted to be a sushi chef, then at ten years old I wanted to be an itamae, like a Japanese chef. Then coming to 12 years old, I decided I wanted to be a French chef. In school holidays I worked in the kitchen. Then at 18, I finished high school and start working in Japan in a French restaurant.
When I was 24, I wanted to go overseas, because I’d been only in Japan. I wanted to go to Normandy, France. But France was very difficult to get a Visa to come over and work. I needed to contact restaurants in France that I was looking for a job. So I kept working in Japan. My colleague moved to Australia and I said, ‘Oh, me, me, I want, I want to go to Australia. Please, call to me.” Then in 1984 I came here, quite a long time ago, nearly 30 years.
And what made you want to stay in Melbourne?
Very different to Japan here. Very fresh, very like oh how to say, more relaxed. A good lifestyle here in Melbourne.
What have you brought from your French and Italian cooking background into your Japanese cooking? What have you learnt from those experiences?
Japanese food is more simple, very simple and fresh. But Italian and French is more in technique of how to cook. For example steak cooked to rare, medium rare, slow cooking chicken.
Is there anything especially unique to the season on the menu?
Now we are giving, complimentary to lunch and dinnertime, Chawanmushi – a custard with seafood, chicken, little pieces of everything inside an egg custard. Good for starting the mouth, to clean the palate, make smooth. That’s coming with drinks, with entree foods, sashimi, it’s good for everything.
If you were sitting down in the restaurant, rather than working, what would you order off the menu?
If I’m a customer? Now for me, maybe a teriyaki chicken. Very simple no? But we use the spatchcock, like a baby chicken, and this is chargrilled – before of course marinated, marinating the baby chicken with olive oil and lots of garlic like Italian, French technique. The day after we chargrill, then put teriyaki sauce and blend. The presentation of this dish is more like French and Italian presentation, not Japanese.
If you like spatchcock you can eat a leg and the breast. So only one small chicken, many different textures. Some like a leg it’s very juicy. The breast is something different, more smooth eating.
Is the tepanyaki popular here?
Yes, we can be quite busy in the early times, with family and kids coming together, family people. And again with the later customers, the party people.
You now have Tatami rooms. Tell us about that.
Tatami is just feeling more like Japan. When they get closed inside there it feels more like Japan. But some customers, some Japanese customer say “oh… Japanese restaurant but something a bit different – texture, presentation a bit different, oh quite good, happy”.
Is there a special way food is served in the Tatami room?
Well yes it’s a Japanese waitress changed into a kimono; Japanese clothes. And we serve it a bit different.
Do you have Australian fish in the sushi bar?
Normally mainly tuna, everything. Now Australia is very difficult to get fish. So, kingfish, some come from South Australia. But now special kingfish, comes from Japan, fresh ones in a vacuum. This is special Kingfish, with special feed. We call it herbal kingfish. We are feeding it food, but we put in there: ginger, cinnamon or herbs inside the feed. Then kingfish eating, meat becomes tender, the smell and flavour tastes like a herb flavour. Because you know Japanese wagyu? Feed it beer, make tender.
So it’s like kingfish wagyu?
Yes, it’s quite expensive. Very good this one, on the sashimi menu, yes please try.
Some people don’t like eating raw fish. What would you recommend they try, to start them eating sashimi?
Eat what we call Aburi. Which is sashimi, touched a little bit to the burner. Then just cook rare or medium rare. Yes its a good way because some people at first, may be a bit scared to eat raw fish. When I came to Melbourne 30 years ago, the first customer says “Oh, raw fish. Yuk! Why eat raw fish?” But here too, many French people like steak tartare – beef, chop, same.
DINE AND WIN!
Order the signature dish during a weekday lunch Monday-Friday during Good Food Month and go in the draw to win a Southgate Dinner voucher for you and three friends!
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