Sydney's home of the very, very fancy Japanese knife, Chef's Armoury, has sharpened itself up with a move from Rosebery to a larger store in Stanmore, opening up more space for workshops and a knife-sharpening room.
For owner Leigh Hudson, the move is a simple case of supply and demand. Since opening the store in 2009, Japanese knives have shifted from novelty to necessities in Australia's kitchens. Chefs saw yanagiba knives slice through sashimi without tearing the skin of delicate fish, and got a feel for filleting with indented deba blades.
"When we first started, the conversations we were having were 'why are Japanese knives better?'" says Hudson. "But now we get people asking more intelligent questions, like 'what type of Japanese steel should I buy?' and 'what knife should I use for this task?'"
The new store is modelled after the workshops Hudson trained in for years to become a Japanese-certified knife sharpener, polisher and repairer. The clean dark-grey concrete walls and floors, the oak-plank shelves and the sharpening room (replete with cedar workstation sinks) have a solemnity consistent with the idea of passing down ancient traditions, but Hudson and his team's service balances respect for craft with warmth.
The Armoury also stocks Japanese cookware, seasonings and portable konro barbecues - small charcoal-fired numbers that add a smokiness surprising for their size.
"We want to get people - not just chefs - interested in Japanese food and knives and to encourage people to have a crack at home," Hudson says.
Over the next few months, he'll break in the sharpening room's waterstones with free knife-sharpening workshops, and will hold Japanese cooking classes demonstrating the essentials of Japanese ingredients. Heading towards summer, there's even a health-conscious class on Japanese salad dressings in November, if you're looking to trim the fat.
Chef's Armoury, 105-107 Percival Rd, Stanmore, NSW, (02) 9560 0811, chefsarmoury.com; Mon-Sat 10.30am-4.30pm