Bosozoku is the latest pearl in a string of cool Japanese restaurants devised by chef Tomoya Kawasaki. Home to Secret Sake warming stations, karaoke & nintendo rooms, pool tables, motorcycle chandeliers, outdoor fire pits, Hitachi train seats and a figurative Onsen at the base of Mt Fuji (a dry ice spa that you can kick back in whilst sipping on a cocktail), this 200 seater is definitely one to check out asap.
Let’s start with a little bit about you and then we’ll talk about Bosozoku. How long have you been a chef?
I’ve been here for 15 years from Tokyo.
As a chef the whole time?
I haven’t been working as a proper chef for the last three years because I’ve been more on the organisational side of the shop but I used to work as a chef and in Japan I was a chef.
So you trained in Japan?
I trained in Japan and then moved here and opened Wabi Sabi about 15 years ago. After about seven years ago I started building another shop and it was more consulting than cheffing.
Always in the Japanese style?
Yes, always Japanese, but a bit twisted.
And now you’ve moved into Japanese burgers. Tell me about how that works.
Japanese burgers are quite popular in Japan. It’s a completely different concept, though. We don’t really use beef patties, but put other things in the bun. No one is doing it in Australia. I thought it was good timing to introduce something new.
Ok, so you’re introducing a completely new idea and a new venue, where did you start with that?
Normally my friends always find me and they are looking for a different Japanese style and I give them ideas. For example, we opened the ramen store called Yoku Ono just around the corner and this time they were looking for something new again and I said, ‘what about Japanese burgers?’ And they said that sounded lovely and maybe we’ll go for it.
The theme is the Bosozoku Japanese gang. Are they quite notorious?
I gave them a list of maybe 40 Japanese names and they picked Bosozoku, but for us, for Japanese, Bosozoku is like a gangster and we wouldn’t use it as a name in Japan. They are a violent kids’ bikie gang. It doesn’t matter in Australia, it’s just a fun name and idea and allows us to a create a different scene.
Can you get all the ingredients that you need here for your food?
Yes. We try to do some traditional burgers. We make all the sauces from scratch. It’s not a traditional style beef burger.
Give me an example of what you might have here.
I really recommend a burger that is very unusual; Nagoya misokatsu burger which has a sauce from Nagoya in Japan. They use red miso, as compared to normal white miso. We make the sauce for this called katsu, dip in the sauce and then put in the bun.
Is it the same kind of bun?
We use three types of bun; green tea bun, beetroot bun and charcoal bun.
You probably go back to Japan regularly, but given you rere living there 15 years ago, I imagine things have changed in terms of food.
It has completely changed.
Did you go have to go back to research these burgers?
I always go back three or four times and check out what is going on and see the new scene in Tokyo and bring back some new ideas.
Will you be working in the kitchen here?
Yes I will be.
Are your chefs mainly Japanese chefs?
They are actually only Japanese chefs. They know what to do. It’s easier to control for me. They are hard workers. [laughs]
What has kept you in the food industry all this time?
I’m really interested in the next scene. I want to create a completely new style of Japanese food in Melbourne. For example, the burger this time. I have been on the Melbourne food scene for 15 years and so I know what Melbourne people like. Even if they like Japanese food, they might not always like traditional food. They like a little more fusion mixed with French or Italian perhaps or a little bit westernised. I always design my menus to be half traditional and half fusion and mix it up.
So you are always giving yourself a new challenge.
Yes. We also opened a Japanese vegan restaurant in Fitzroy, which is a completely new idea.
Is that Neko Neko on Gertrude Street?
Yes. I just love to create new things. No one is doing vegan Japanese in Australia like this. We are using the Japanese techniques with vegan food.
You sound very busy. How many venues do you have?
I manage four.
You wouldn’t have much time to relax.
The last few years I have been working non-stop. I need a holiday. Another new place is opening in January and I will also help in the kitchen there. That will be in Richmond. It’ll be yakitori.
Well I should probably let you get back to the kitchen. Thank you, Tomoya.
34 Bray Street, South Yarra
Open 7 days 5pm – 12am