Japonaise – ‘kushi’ time with Katsu

Japonaise-Seared-Salmon-AvoStory & photos Matthew Michaelis

For years Japanese cuisine has been a favourite of mine. Not because it’s superior to other cuisines; no, I love food and most kinds at that.

It’s more about my philosophy concerning the creation of dishes, simply put: the energy put into a dish will reward the consumer in kind.

Japanese cuisine has always been a refined and carefully constructed food for its consumers. We are fortunate in this country region to have so much choice in Japanese eateries. And these choices don’t appear to be slowing either with the relatively recent opening of Japonaise, another fine Japanese eatery in Byron Bay.

Katsunori and Kim Kuwahara have setup this specialty Japanese kitchen. The name Japonaise came from a suggestion from their two young sons, Motoki, eleven years old, and Gin, ten years old.

Katsu worked as a chef and as head chef for four years at Kinoko Sushi.

Like most Japanese restaurants in this area, they started working in other people’s eateries, then moved onto their own places.


Baba, Katsunori and son Motoki.

Familiar dishes and ‘kushi’ trends

Here they serve familiar dishes you’d see anywhere in a Japanese food outlet such as sushi, tempura, nori rolls and gyoza.

However, there’s a very different speciality also being served and that’s kushikatsu.

This is a tapas-sized item with a small price tag that’s as popular as you can get in Osaka Japan, but not known commonly in Australia.

Kushikatsu is a Japanese dish of seasoned, skewered and grilled meat.

In Japanese, kushi refers to the skewers used in assembling the snack, and katsu means a deep-fried cutlet of meat. It’s made with chicken, pork, seafood, and seasonal vegetables.

These are skewered on bamboo kushi; dipped in egg, flour, and panko; then deep-fried. They’re served straight or with tonkatsu sauce (a rich, thick, sweet and salty sauce).

Japonaise-Katsu-2-(2)Izakaya tapas snack style

I tasted the $15 deal, which included a choice of five kushikatsu. I tried the prawn, chicken, pork belly, salmon, and asparagus and pork. All were nicely prepared, perfectly cooked and elegantly served examples of this new Japanese trend.

The selection also covers a good assortment of vegetarian kushikatsu too.

This is an Izakaya style of eatery menu (a bar that serves light snack foods similar to a tapas menu) and these petite skewered snacks go brilliantly with a drink – beer is the go usually.

‘I have applied for a licence to serve alcohol to go with the kushikatsu items and menu, and while this will take some weeks, we welcome diners to bring their own alcohol and we won’t charge corkage until we have our own alcoholic beverages,’ Katsu told me.

Katsu is also a talented furniture maker and has fitted out this chic little eatery himself. Colourful, comfy, casual and a bit of hipster retro to boot – all in all a perfect mix for the Byron Bay come-as-you-are feel. Japonaise should be a must-try on your next Byron Bay visit.

Address: 2/25–27 Lawson Street / up Fletcher Street, Byron Bay.

Phone: 6685 5124

email: [email protected]

hours: 10/11am–9pm, 7 days a week.

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