Japan is a hot destination for Aussies right now, but for those of us yearning for a Japan-fix at home, why not hit up Sydney’s newest Japanese venue, Genzo, located in North Sydney. 

The heart of Genzo is its open kitchen featuring a robata grill, which faces a sleek 28-seat cocktail and sake bar. It also features a temperature-controlled sake room, indoor seating for 90 guests, and an all-weather outdoor terrace. Tokyo artist Masanori Ushiki’s vibrant illustrations and colourful LED ceiling lights give off ‘Shinjuku’ vibes.

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The kitchen is headed up by executive chef Rhys Connell (whose portfolio includes stints at The Gantry and Sepia) alongside head chef Tuan Colombo, formerly of Sokyo and London’s Nobu. Connell’s deep appreciation for Japanese cuisine – kindled under the mentorship of Martin Benn at Sepia and reignited during a recent trip to Japan – shines through in Genzo’s menu.

The menu features inventive one-bite dishes such as the avocado and Vegemite on a crispy rice cake. Standout sashimi and snacks include yellowfin tuna with stracciatella and umeboshi onigiri, and scallop sashimi topped with whipped roe and wasabi. The robatayaki grill features prominently, offering a variety of skewers and sticks, including grilled chicken thigh with Tokyo onion, chicken skin with pink pepper, and tsukune (chicken meatballs) with black truffle, celeriac, and soft yolk. 

Seafood options include panko-crumbed octopus with chilli and cream cheese, and Japanese curry scampi. Meat lovers may want to try the grilled Blackmore wagyu karubi glazed with yuzu-kosho and wrapped in a Tasmanian wasabi leaf. 

Larger plates include roasted duck with house-made soba noodle tsukemen, a deconstructed ramen dish where noodles are dipped in hot broth. The Ramen all’Assassina combines spicy assassina sauce with wafu spaghetti for an umami-rich experience. The Hiroshima-style okonomiyaki layers curried yakisoba noodles, grilled cabbage, nori, and bonito flakes, while the Murray cod, wrapped in cabbage leaf and roasted with kombu butter, delivers a tender and flavorful dish.

Dessert, crafted by head of pastry Rhiann Mead (formerly of The Charles Brasserie & Bar, Sol, and Soluna), include the decadent Kitto Katto. This chocolate lover’s dream features layers of chocolate sponge, sesame feuilletine crunch, chocolate ganache, sesame praline, and black sesame mousse, all encased in tempered dark chocolate. Other sweet treats include house-made yuzu jam and cream cheesecake, and melon-flavoured Kohakutou candy.

Sake plays a starring role on the drinks menu. The temperature-controlled sake room ensures a variety of options, from entry-level to complex, available by the glass, tokkuri, or bottle. The extensive wine list spans Japan, France, Italy, and Australia, with a strong selection of Burgundy and Champagne.

As for cocktails, Japanese ingredients like miso, green tea, yuzu, umeshu, sesame oil, and Japanese plum feature in the mix. Signature drinks include the Genzo Panchi, a punch with vodka, house-made cucumber syrup, vanilla and ginger liqueur, and sesame oil, and the Iiji Opun, a refreshing twist on a Japanese highball with cocoa-infused gin, umeshu, peach syrup, fresh yuzu juice, and soda.

Genzo offers a swift express lunch menu from Tuesday to Friday for $35 per person, which includes a noodle dish, a robatayaki skewer, and a Japanese soda. For groups of eight or more, there’s a six-course share-style menu for $95 per person, showcasing the best of Genzo. 

As they say in Japan, Kanpai!