Rebecca Varidel
10th Oct 2023

All new Japanese Izakaya, Itō is the very definition of modern Sydney eating, a very welcome new fresh and light Crown Street Surry Hills restaurant from ESCA Group.

With dining space for 85 guests, and alfresco seating in the heart of Surry Hills, this cutting-edge Izakaya is breathing new life into the space that was the much-loved Cuckoo Callay.

Itō Head Chef, Erik Ortolani reimagines a Japanese Izakaya with unique dishes such as yellowfin tuna, served on bonito bread with shaved bottarga or Wagyu mafaldine paired with white shimeji and miso. Sharing a meal at Itō should spark conversation and laughter and the desire to come back for more.

“I’ve always been passionate about Japanese food, it wasn’t until I moved to Australia that I started to explore the art of Japanese flavours and techniques (prior to ESCA Group, he ran the kitchen at Cho Cho San as a head chef for 5 years and Nobu). Whilst my heritage is Italian, my passion is Japanese cooking. It feels natural to me to use a combination of the two as a vehicle for creating a really unique menu that is still very signature Japanese, and that’s exactly what we’ve done with Itō. Fresh seasonal produce, smart cooking, bright flavours.” Head Chef at Itō, Erik Ortolani.

In Kanji, izakaya directly translates to ‘stay-drink-place’ and that is the vibe emanating from Itō. Peppered across Japan, these informal after-work bars provide a haven for the social and the hungry. Itō aims to emulate this tradition, as a place to sip sake and snack on delicious kingfish while overlooking Sydney’s Crown Street. Equal parts comfortable and classy, Itō is an experience, rather than a restaurant.

As for the venue itself, a key driver behind the architectural facelift was ensuring flexibility and engagement between inside and out, and the two internal levels themselves. Brought to life by distinguished Australian architect, Matt Darwon, the Itō personality is expressed via a combination of clean lines, bespoke Tasmanian blackwood furniture, leather furnishings, Japan-black stained floorboards, and pops of bold colour, to modernise the overall aesthetic.

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Photos by Jiwon Kim