The team behind the much-loved Sushi Bar Genki and Genki Roll are eager to unveil their latest culinary venture to the public — Ramen & Izakaya Himeji.
Named after owner Shozo Ikeda’s hometown in Japan, the Grote Street venue is the second incarnation of the restaurant after the O’Connell Street site closed down several years ago due to a renting issue. Manager Jason Shih tells The Adelaide Review that the team at Himeji is hoping to convey a casual fine dining atmosphere in the new establishment. “We don’t want customer[s] to come here having to be dressed formally — they can just come here [to] relax and enjoy.” According to Shih, the concept of casual fine dining is popular in larger cities including Sydney, Melbourne, New York, and London, which Ikeda was enthusiastic to recreate in Adelaide. The restaurant features a low-lit dining area adorned with dark wood paneling and minimalistic black-and-white prints amid a comfortable lounge set-up, encouraging a laid-back atmosphere in the evening after the day’s lunch rush. The name of the establishment is demonstrative of Ikeda’s passion for both food and drink. An izakaya is essentially a Japanese tavern that offers light meals to have alongside alcohol, promoting a relaxed setting that allows guests to unwind in contrast with the fast-paced nature of many Japanese bars and restaurants that aim to achieve maximum customer turnover. The main focus of Himeji, of course, is the selection of ramen, accompanied by a contemporary twist on a selection of traditional Japanese dishes. “We [like to do] creative things, like new-style sashimi. [Himeji’s sashimi] is not like the traditional [version] with wasabi and soy sauce – when the dish is presented to you, [it has] already been marinated,” Shih tells The Adelaide Review. At the moment, Himeji offers eight varieties of ramen. Shih recommends Kokuryu, a noodle broth comprising Miso paste, garlic oil and black sesame paste that gives the dish a unique black colour and strong flavour; Kiwami, a chicken and seafood broth seasoned with salt extracted from cooking snapper, mussels, clams and scallops together and topped with bitter citron pepper called Yuzukosho; and Mazesobo, a popular dry ramen that consists of pork mince, egg, noodles and an optional serving of rice that is mixed in with the other ingredients. Another menu highlight is the Wagyu No Tataki, featuring beef sourced from Mayura Station in Mount Gambier. Shih recommends the Omakase tasting platter for first-time visitors to Himeji, consisting of three entrée-sized selections from the dinner menu. Himeji stocks an impressive range of spirits imported from Japan, including a variety of sake, shochu, and Japanese whisky. They also offer umeshu, a traditional Japanese plum liquor that is similar to the taste and texture of a dessert wine. It can be mixed with soda and made into a cocktail, and served either hot or cold. Himeji also makes chuhai, a low-alcohol percentage cocktail made of shochu, syrup and soda water, and like a traditional izakaya, gives customers the option of purchasing a bottle of shochu that can be kept behind the bar and accessed each time the customer visits. If the prospect of choosing a beverage from Himeji’s extensive drinks menu seems too overwhelming, the restaurant offers a sake tasting set, enabling customers to establish which variety of the spirit they prefer best. Sake, made with rice, is an aromatic and fruity spirit that has a higher alcohol percentage than most wines. Classified by how finely the rice is milled before brewing, sake comes in a variety of grades from mid-grade to premium. Depending on the grade, some sakes can be served warm. However, Shih poses a lighthearted warning to customers: “with premium sake, you can’t feel the alcohol go down, especially when it’s warm – don’t [have] too much otherwise it’ll be too late!” Himeji stocks both mid-grade and premium sake, including the popular Senchu Hassaku and Kome No Sasayaki. Any queries customers may have about the drinks menu will gladly be answered by the sta ff , who are extremely knowledgeable about the character, flavour and nuance of each beverage on o ffer. Himeji is still in the process of establishing themselves as Adelaide’s newest Japanese eatery – while they are currently open for business, they are primarily focusing on lunch service as they acclimatise to the new setting and wait for the outdoor dining area permit to be approved by the council. They are also deciding on a final menu. “The chef’s personality [means that] he want[s] to bring good things to customers – we need to take time to gure out what is really suitable,” says Shih. Future additions to the menu may include Wagyu beef steaks, premium quality fish cutlets and yakitori.