What: A dedicated Australian restaurant in Bridge 8 that’s taken over the former Backyard Café, expanded and Australia-ized it.
Look: The design is divided by the continent’s regions. One section with a fish tank and pale blue walls is the “lagoon,” another with ochre seating and an airy, glass roof is the “desert,” and a third with a view of a small garden is the “rainforest.” Aboriginal art hangs on the walls. But it’s done subtly, and the overall feel of the restaurant is stylish.
Food: Western standards done with native Australian ingredients. Wattleseed, a coffee-like spice, pops up in pancakes, a creme brulee, and mixed with milk and sugar in a “Wattlecino.” Wild rosella, bush tomatoes, lemon myrtle, and riberry are scattered across a menu of pizzas, sandwiches, salads, and plenty of game meats – emu, crocodile, and boar.
People: Australians, of course, and others who want a twist on the city’s western options.
Bill: Democratic. Sandwiches, as a barometer, are ¥38, roast chicken is ¥65, an Australian lamb rack is ¥113, and appetizers hover around ¥65.
Browsing the Australian restaurant Kakadu’s menu is like reading an inventory from Noah’s Ark. Emu, crocodile, kangaroo, and barramundi are all there, ensuring “oohs” from diners and at least one topic of conversation if your date is proving a struggle. Of course people in Australia don’t eat crocodile, in the same way people from China don’t eat pandas, but the Australian theme dictates you put silly things on the menu – it gives the cuisine an identity. (Incidentally, crocodile is reminiscent of bland pork. So why take on a fierce predator when you can rear a fairly docile pig with three times the flavor?) Here the crocodile appears as a scallopini – well cooked, but it’s the accompanying sweet riberry dressing and a basil and rosella salad that add the flavor.
Many of the touches (“native spices!”, game meats) smack of novelty, of course. Beyond that, however, there are promising signs from the kitchen. Barramundi, in a dish that combines the fish with celeriac mousseline and curry oil, is cooked perfectly. The addition of ever-present riberry is a cloying flavor too far, and falls into identity-crisis distraction, but it’s not all Australian. A pizza topped with lamb, roasted pumpkin, goat cheese, and caramelized onion has a thin crust and generous toppings, and you can order that with a salad or soup and coffee for ¥75 at lunch (¥55 if you swap the pizza for a sandwich). Novelty or not, crocodile or pork, the city needs more able kitchens like this.