Gourmet Traveller

SET THE BAR

When Chaco Bar first opened as a hole-in-the-wall yakitori spot in Sydney’s Darlinghurst in 2014, owner Keita Abe couldn’t have imagined its success and evolution. Fast-forward to 2020, and the original Darlinghurst site is now Chaco Ramen, where the Japanese noodle soup takes centrestage. Then there is the new Chaco Bar, reimagined in a moody, elongated site in the neighbouring suburb of Potts Point, where diners can take a seat at the long communal timber tables, or head up the back to be close to the fiery yakitori action. “We want the feel of an authentic Japanese restaurant, but we always want to push the boundaries,” says general manager Kei Tokiwa. “One foot in the traditional world, one foot pushing further.”

Both restaurants take inspiration from yatai, a traditional, informal laneway izakaya or food cart, originating in Abe’s hometown of Fukuoka, located a two-hour flight south-west of Tokyo. These small, street stall-style restaurants specialise in casual yet refined ramen and yakitori, and their influence is evident in Chaco’s intimate and friendly spirit.

There’s also a high level of respect for ingredients. “We use everything, from head to toe,” says Abe. Take the chickens, for example. There are 16-week-old mature chickens, which head chef Dingqi Xin sources from his local butcher in Wolli Creek. The birds are deboned by hand, the thigh meat is used for yakitori, breast meat for jerky, the remaining carcass for stock, from which the fat is skimmed for the

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