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Hi, My Name Is: Aaron Schembri

Born in Daylesford, Aaron Schembri has spent the past 15 years honing his craft in the culinary scene. Splitting his last 10 years between Japan and Australia, Schembri has worked in some of Japan’s finest restaurants (most notably Hajime, a three-starred restaurant in Osaka) and honed his craft with elders in the sushi and tofu trade. Now, with Kadota, he has come home to showcase everything he has learned.

You might remember me from such establishments as Saxe, The Press Club and The Argus.

I’ve been cooking for 15 years, seven of them in Victoria.

My brief for my new gig is to curate, a delicate, flavourful, seasonal and exciting dining experience utilizing local and imported ingredients.

And I’m passionate about learning and adopting new and old cooking techniques and ingredients. Right now, for our next menu, I’m working with strawberry gum (the native Australian gum tree), tosaka (a red seaweed), with dry-aging whole fish (for our sashimi; the amino acids break down, boosting the umami in the fish, as well as changing the texture and mouthfeel), and with a variety of Japanese pickling methods, including, shio-zuke (salt pickle), miso-zuke (miso pickle), shiokoji-zuke (koji culture and salt) and nuka-zuke (fermented with rice bran).

Which means I’ll be serving things like sashimi of Hokkaido scallop, dried and shaved scallop bottarga, rose ponzu and kinome. I’m cooking salmon in Kyneton olive oil and serving it with an array of seaweeds and wakame, dashi, sea grapes and chives, and I’m serving richly marbled full-blood Sher wagyu from Ballan with Mt Franklin Organics zucchini, miso and eggplant purée and locally grown shiitakes.

I’d like you to come in and see us so you can experience omotenashi. In a direct translation, this is Japanese hospitality, usually referring to a traditional Japanese tea ceremony. We put all of our focus in to our guests’ experience from the scent of the restaurant to the ingredients used, prepared and served in order of lightness of flavour.

And if there’s one thing I don’t want you to leave without trying, it’s Okayama Gin, hailing from the Okayama, the hometown of our manager, Risa Kadota, it has to be one of the most unusual gins being sold right now. It’s made by a century-old sake distillery with rarely used botanicals, creating a flavour similar to peach. Or, for our less alcohol-inclined guest, I’d suggest our tea menu – a high quality teas sourced from Japan and locally foraged, sourced and mixed teas that I blend myself.


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