Victor Liong and Chase Kojima Bring An Ancient Cuisine To Sydney
“Ramen is not Japanese, neither is gyoza,” explains Victor Liong.
“These are two mainstream dishes heavily influenced by Chinese, although most people think of it as Japanese cuisine.”
Victor Liong, restaurateur and head chef at Lee Ho Fook, together with friend and business partner Chase Kojima of Sokyo, are looking to enlighten diners about the ancient old cuisine, Chuka Ryori, with their restaurant Chuuka.
Kojima approached Liong to start a restaurant with the Chuka Ryori concept in mind, which he was excited about.
“The thing that piqued my interest was the location. Chuuka is in an iconic, heritage-listed building in Sydney, right on the water, and it’s beautiful. The space is in a warehouse, so you have that industrial feel, but also we put our own character into it too,” says Liong.
Chuuka combines Liong’s famous Chinese cooking, with Kojima’s well-known Japanese techniques praised at Sokyo. Together, they’ve invented a menu that marries their skills and flavours to produce a well-executed menu of Chinese flavours with Japanese precision and plating.
What does that entail? Think tempura yuzu chicken with a sweet and sour yuzu sauce from Chase, but also salmon sashimi, dressed in citrus and topped with ribbons of cucumber. There is also wagyu flank, a Tenshidon style fried rice with blue swimmer crab and scallops, and steamed toothfish with silken tofu.
To share, you can order a Peking duck whole or half, served with six different sauces and steamed pancakes to make your own duck pancakes at the table.
“The Peking duck is always a favourite,” says Kojima.
“We had an opportunity to put a seafood tank in the restaurant so we can serve it fresh to our diners. One of the dishes we do is stir-fried lobster with Japanese style udon noodles and a sauce made with spicy miso, and chilli,” says Kojima.
The handsome and energetic food dishes mend well with the dark atmosphere, moonlit by the reflections on the water, and tattoo mural, which adds a touch of colour and cool to the space.
Dishes on the menu change often as Kojima and Liong are always tinkering in the kitchen.
“The process is always ongoing. There’s always tweaks and seasonal adjustments to make,” says Liong.
“Chase does a great job orchestrating everything, especially when I’m in Melbourne and was unable to get to Sydney during lockdown last year.”
As for the bar menu, expect cocktails inspired by the five Chinese elements: wood, fire, earth, metal and water. The Yamazaki old fashioned has a brandied cherry and there is a cocktail called Pikachu Sgroppino, which has Roku gin and bergamot.
“We wanted to bring this style of cuisine to Sydney because in a way Chuka Ryori liberates mainstream Japanese cuisine, and we wanted other people to know that. By dining at Chuuka, they can see the short trade between Japanese and Chinese culture,” says Liong.
“All we’re trying to do is have a restaurant that looks rad and serves good food.”