You'd usually associate chef Chase Kojima with Sydney's Sokyo, the Japanese fine-dining restaurant in The Star casino complex where the tasting menu, featuring a cavalcade of sashimi, sushi and wagyu, will set you back $135 per person.
But Kojima can play it casual too, with the upcoming opening of Simulation Senpai at the ground floor of the Kengo Kuma-designed Exchange Building in Haymarket's Darling Square precinct. There, a takeaway box of high-quality sashimi or chirashizushi will sit in the $35 to $65 price range.
Like so many chefs, he's seeing a light to the darkness of 2020. Simulation Senpai was Kojima's lockdown side-hustle, where a brigade of stood-down chefs from Sokyo turned out boxes of precisely cut fish and seafood at the Tramsheds precinct. Simulation Senpai paused its operations in December, but now it's back and here to stay.
"I love that I can serve the highest quality seafood in a quick-access environment," says Kojima, who also oversees the kitchen at Chuuka with Victor Liong, and the Gold Coast's Kiyomi. (At Simulation Senpai, head chef Teppei Yura will take care of the day-to-day operations.)
"[It's good] for busy people like myself who sometimes don't have the luxury to sit at an omakase for three hours, but can still get great food on the go."
If last year's offerings are anything to go by, expect boxes heaving with the holy trinity of blue-fin tuna cuts: akami, chu-toro and otoro; or the hoseki bako, a seafood treasure trove that could contain tuna, trevally, bonito, salmon belly, hotate (scallops), uni (sea urchin) and ikura (salmon roe); and a surf-and-turf option of seared wagyu, tuna and daikon tartare, sea urchin on sushi rice.
Should Kojima get his hands on kamatoro – blue-fin tuna collar – it'll make it onto the menu as a special. "It's a more fibrous tuna part that's trickier to cut into. [But] it's super flavourful, and the rarest part of the toro," says Kojima.
When truffle season returns, so too will Simulation Senpai's popular black truffle chu-toro don: a tartare of medium fatty chu-toro (blue-fin tuna from the back and belly) marinated in a "secret sauce" served with masshigura rice, mountain yam purée, pickled daikon and the fragrant black truffles, shaved fresh into the box. "I don't know how I created it, but it's damn good," Kojima says.
He's aiming for an opening sometime in May. Autumn and winter, after all, yields better fish. "When it's colder the fish get fattier," says Kojima. "It's perfect for sushi sashimi."
Simulation Senpai is set to open in May. For updates, follow @simulation_senpai on Instagram.