It’s closing time for one of Adelaide’s best-loved restaurants as Kenji Modern Japanese will shut its doors in January.
Kenji’s chef and owner Kenji Ito says he is closing his Japanese fusion restaurant early next year as the lease finishes in January and he is looking to move to Melbourne in the middle of next year. Ito’s restaurant, which he runs with his wife Noriko, has been a Hutt Street institution for more than a decade, winning many awards and loyal diners across the city with its unpretentious Japanese fusion menu and infamous lime green interior. Kenji’s last day of trading is Saturday, January 28.
Ito tells The Adelaide Review he is moving to Victoria for “family reasons” but he wants to open a restaurant in Melbourne.
“I’m now 45 years old and if I think about the next 10 years, I want to try [to open a restaurant] in a big city,” Ito says. “We want a big challenge and Melbourne is the major league.”
The chef, who cultivates most of the vegetables for his restaurant from his backyard, says he will continue to grow his Japanese fruit and vegetables when he moves but isn’t sure where he’ll open his Melbourne restaurant.
“We have to find out where it will be after we move there,” he says. “A lot of things are happening when we finish [the restaurant] at the end of January. Maybe I stay here for February, March, April and May? Maybe I work in another restaurant in Adelaide, then move to Melbourne, get more skill and more knowledge, and then open my restaurant again. I want to study before I open another restaurant.”
Ito says he will look to return to Adelaide in a decade’s time adding that he learnt a lot from his regular Adelaide customers who, he says, made him a better chef and improved the restaurant.
“We survived for more than 10 years thanks to regular customers, suppliers and producers. We couldn’t go to Melbourne without that support [from Adelaide].”
Kenji Modern Japanese opened in March 2006 and will close two months short of 11 years in January 2017, with its last service on Saturday, January 28.
Kenji Modern Japanese
Shop 5, 242 Hutt Street
Photos: Andy Nowell