Sushi Room, Hellenika and SK Steak & Oyster Crew’s most ambitious restaurant to date

Sushi Room is not a Japanese restaurant. Simon Glftis will give you a moment to let that sink in.

“I specifically didn’t open a Japanese restaurant,” he says. “It’s not Japanese. It’s 90% sushi and sashimi.

It’s a very Simon Glftis distinction to make. In these provenance-obsessed times, Glftis is more doctrinaire than almost anyone about getting the freshest food possible on your plate. Seasoned Hellenika aficionados turn to the Fresh Fish Market menu to experience the true essence of this restaurant. Downstairs, SK Steak & Oyster pays similar attention to its beef.

Sushi Room is therefore the purest expression of fresh produce from an operator that prides itself on having close ties with suppliers, farmers and fishermen. There will be no karaage and kewpie mayonnaise here. Instead, it’s trevally, grouper and alfonsino nigiri and sashimi; vinegar-mackerel and bug-tempura sushi rolls; lobster tempura; Wagyu toothfish and yakimono; and Sturia oscietra caviar.

It’s Gloftis the restorer. Gloftis the restaurant’s relationship with sushi began further afield, as a teenager – first in Japan at a Narita airport counter, then in Australia at a walk-in spot on the Gold Coast.

“There was this place in Surfers Paradise that I can’t remember the name of, this total hole in the wall that I started going to,” says Glftis. “The owner, Tommo, was straight from Osaka and didn’t speak English well, and you’d sit at one of those four seats, buy yourself a beer and him a beer, and he’d just make you sushi until ’till you were full. I remember he had family dramas and he had to go back to Japan, but I really miss it. It was very unpopular, there was never anyone there. He loved drinking beer and making sushi.

Sushi Room, as you may have already understood from marketing, has nothing to do with your neighborhood izakaya. If the food is Gloftis and its business partners Kelvin Andrews and Theo Kampolis (who together form STK Group) come to town for a love of product-driven sushi, the design is by architects Richards & Spence who draw inspiration of the neo-futurism of the 1960s. On the ground floor, the 60 seats are equipped with stone tables, gray upholstered booths and vertical blinds. Featured is a 9.3 meter solid hinoki wood countertop imported from Japan, while a textured domed ceiling offers a glimpse of an upstairs private dining area, painted bright red. Located on the ground floor of the Calile Hotel on James Street, the restaurant is behind a nondescript single door between the hotel lobby and a stairwell leading to the car park.

Throughout, from the physical design to its branding, the restaurant celebrates its minimalism. One of the few extravaganzas is chef Shimpei Raikuni’s Kurieto tableware collection, which includes 60 different pieces, with each dish matched to a certain plate.

“I wanted something like you would see in Tokyo, which is really clean and really beautiful,” says Glftis. “Even with social media, I didn’t want any comment on it. It’s the 1960s Japanese office building that comes together Mad Men meets Christian Bale’s apartment in American psycho. Jared [Webb] of Richards & Spence took the lead and they just did.

The drink list is helpful rather than extravagant, with 20 sakes, a handful of shochus and umeshus, and 25 whiskeys. An international roaming wine list tops out at a handy rather than mind-boggling 160 bottles, but you can also go far from neighboring Hellenika and SK Steak & Oyster winery lists, if you wish.

Glftis says Sushi Room is not designed to break your wallet. Yes, there are plenty of omakase and enkai (banquet) menus, but you can also just go there and keep it reasonable a la carte. Wines range up to $7,500 of jeroboam (three-liter bottle) of Roederer Cristal vintage 2002, but you can also order $80 bottles of Ministry of Clouds riesling or Garagiste le Stagiaire pinot noir.

“I want people to be able to have an adult experience where you can go get treatment, have a night out, and have a little fun,” says Glftis. “It’s something you can use for a special occasion, but also something you can use three times a week.

“People build memories around food, conversations and restaurants. And that’s why it’s important to me that people understand that, yes, it’s a special environment, but it’s not a one-time environment. It’s something you can eat whenever you want.

sushi room
The Calile Hotel, 48 James Street, Fortitude Valley
(07) 3741 5976

Mon & Tue 5.30pm–late
Wednesday to Sunday from 12 p.m. to 3 p.m., from 5:30 p.m. to late