Eriko Pannam didn’t expect to cook Japanese food.

After ditching an `empty’ life of advertising in Osaka, she fell in love with Australia and enrolled in cookery at William Angliss.

Fast forward a few years, and Eriko fortuitously landed at Kumo in East Brunswick. A Japanese kitchen calling for traditional skills.

To prepare, she travelled back to the family village in Yamaguchi to learn from her grandfather and great uncle, scouring markets and preparing fish.

The western-influenced Japanese style that emerged felt like a natural fit.

When she met Gareth Rowlands working at Baringo in New Gisborne, the hospitality kindred spirits hatched plans for a fun Izakaya in Woodend, where they could warmly welcome people.

Kuzu – named after a Japanese root starch – opened in April.

Down a slate stone path, this informal place is filling up as word spreads of gyoza, sashimi and share dishes washed down with local wines and Japanese beers.