Chef, teacher, consultant, ambassador: Japanese masterchef Ikuei Arakane, also known as Kinsan, is a man of many talents. Since arriving in Melbourne from Japan in 1987, Kinsan has become one of the nation’s top Japanese chefs. He has worked at Koko at Crown and Taxi at Federation Square, which was named The Age Good Food Guide Best Restaurant in 2006 while Kinsan was at the helm. Kinsan currently lends his expertise to the menus at The Glass House in Hobart, hosts masterclasses and charity events, and is the Australian ambassador for Kochi yuzu.
In September last year, this multitasking master opened Wasshoi, a Japanese grill in the heart of Melbourne’s Prahran Market. With just six dishes on the menu, all centred on the chargrill and one exquisite sauce, you may think Wasshoi is a simple concept. But much like the man himself, scratch the surface and you’ll discover layers of expertise and authenticity.
“There’s a lot of good food available, but taste is most important,” says Kinsan. Rather than opening a restaurant with an extensive range of dishes, Kinsan focused on perfecting one style of dish. “People are here to shop, so they don’t want to have to wait a long time for their food,” says Kinsan. “I decided to keep things simple, creating something that could be made quickly and eaten easily.”
On the menu you’ll find rolls filled with thrice-cooked pork belly or twice-cooked chicken, an intriguing beef burger that incorporates tofu into the patty for a meltingly soft texture, plus donburi (rice bowls) topped with flame-grilled pork, chicken or beef.
It’s a deceptively simple line-up, but once tasted, however, you’ll realise there is nothing simple about Wasshoi’s pork roll. Juicy, tender pork belly is layered in a crusty ‘tiger’ roll with yuzu-pepper mayonnaise, lettuce, freshly made kimchi, and Kinsan’s special secret sauce. Once you hear what’s involved in producing it, you’ll love it even more!
Image courtesy: Zomato
“First, I marinate the pork belly in a mixture of gochujang (Korean chilli paste), pear, apple, ginger and garlic, which I Cryovac (seal in plastic) for 12 hours. I then cook the pork in a Combi steamer for 12 hours, then press the pork belly, cool it, and seal it in plastic again. I cook it gently in a water bath, and then it is chargrilled just before serving.”
There are no shortcuts when it comes to the other fillings, either. “I make kimchi each day by tossing wombok cabbage in freshly made kimchi paste,” Kinsan reveals. “And for the special sauce, I boil it for at least four hours.”
To drink, it has to be a glass of yuzu juice, or the yuzu and beer shandy, sure to put a pep in your step while you finish your grocery shopping!
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