An all-star team from Catalina have taken on the southern suburbs with the opening of a playful yet refined Japanese restaurant in Ramsgate by the name of Ren Ishii.
In the heart of Ramsgate lies a culinary gem that has swiftly become the talk of the town. Ren Ishii, a Japanese fusion restaurant, has captured the essence of playful yet refined dining, filling a niche the area didn’t know it needed until now.
Since its inception just a year ago, Ren Ishii has operated like a well-oiled machine and even earned a Hat in the 2023 Good Food Guide Awards. This is a testament to the expertise and passion of its owners, Head Chef Luke Phillips and his wife Stephanie Phillips. Their journey together began at Sydney’s esteemed Catalina, where they honed their culinary and hospitality skills before venturing into the southern suburbs. They opened Cooked and Co in San Souci, garnering a loyal following during their 8-year stint before taking it up a notch with Ren Ishii.
Master Sushi Chef Yoshinori Fuchigami, who spent an impressive 18 years with the Catalina crew, is in the kitchen executing the raw elements. The seamless fusion of expertise across the restaurant ensures a professional yet inviting dining experience, complemented by inventive Japanese cuisine.
Chef Fuchigami’s culinary mastery shines in the intricate presentation of nigiri and maki rolls, almost resembling edible art as they appear from the kitchen. Raw dishes such as the Hiramasa Kingfish Carpaccio showcase similar refinement, featuring delicate ponzu notes and a punchy Japanese salsa verde.
The ocean-inspired section of the menu nods to Chef Phillips’ playful side. The A-Grade Yellow Fin Tuna Pizza features crispy cornbread, garlic crisps, toasted sesame, flying fish roe, jalapeno salsa, and wasabi mayo, offering an explosion of flavours and textures that redefine the traditional pizza. The Tacos also reinvent the classic, filled with fresh raw fish, avocado, seaweed, crispy garlic, and tomato yuzu white soy, served on fresh sesame leaves.
Watching the neighbouring table devour the Borrowdale Free Range Pork Ribs, dressed in bonito chilli caramel, sesame, and coriander, evoked a twinge of envy as they left no meat untouched on the bone. What we did try however in that same irresistible nature were the twice-cooked cubed Potatoes, with a crisp exterior and tender interior, drizzled in a creamy kimchi mayo.
The ambience enhances the sensory journey with an open-style kitchen, allowing guests to witness the chefs’ culinary artistry alongside a neon purple-adorned bar. Here, bartenders craft cocktails such as the Momo Martini, blending haku vodka, momoshu, peach liquor, and lemon, and the Apple & Yuzu Sour featuring toki whisky, pressed apple, yuzu, egg whites, and shiso. These drinks echo the Japanese-inspired essence found in the food menu.
Their beverage selection extends to Japanese beers and an Australian-forward wine list, ensuring a perfect complement to every palate and dish.
A visit to this family-operated treasure is a must if you’re travelling south. Its playful, inviting atmosphere will undoubtedly beckon you to return, time and time again. Find out more here.