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Team Apollo opens Tokyo’s first modern Greek eatery

Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie

Jonathan Barthelmess and Sam Christie

First they took Macleay Street. Now it's Tokyo's turn. In what may turn out to be the opening of the first modern Greek restaurant in the Japanese capital, Sam Christie and Jonathan Barthelmess are putting the finishing touches on a sister to The Apollo, their Sydney smash-hit - in Ginza.

"Do a quick internet search and you'll find that even in Tokyo, a city of some 88,000 restaurants, the total number of Greek eateries doesn't reach 10," wrote The Japan Times recently. For Barthelmess it seems like a no-brainer. "The hardest thing has been finding producers," he says. Things the chef takes for granted in Australia, such as Greek cheeses, or even a steady supply of lamb, are proving more challenging. "We want it to taste the same as Sydney."

So much so, in fact, that the opening menu is almost the Sydney menu verbatim, right down to the onion and vine-leaf pork parcels, the wild weed pie, the sardines with chilli, lemon and parsley, and the feed-me banquet menu. One notable addition is more beef - cuts from Japan and Australia, grilled over charcoal.

The freshness of the seafood in Tokyo and the quality of the pork has been as much a win for the kitchen, Barthelmess says, as the pricing and availability of excellent wines has been for Christie and the front-of-house team. "And it's just much easier to find artisans to work with here."

The restaurant, which opens at Easter, is on the top floor of the new "luxury retail hub" Tokyu Plaza Ginza, and Sydney designer George Livissianis, who first made his name in the restaurant world with the original Apollo fit-out, is responsible for the look.

Barthelmess, who will relocate to Japan while the Sydney-trained kitchen team finds its feet, is thrilled with the whole project. "I'm really, really happy about it. It's going to be a lot of fun."

The Apollo Ginza, 11F, Tokyu Plaza Ginza, 5-2-1, Ginza, Chuo-ku Tokyo, theapollo.jp

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