This members-only Japanese restaurant is one of the most ethically-charged dining experiences you’ll ever have. The Milk Moustache’s Alexia Attwood shares her thoughts on this ‘guilt-free’ restaurant in Surry Hills.

Chef Yukako Ichikawa runs Wafu, a ‘guilt-free Japanese’ restaurant, and it may be the most exclusive establishment in Sydney. This is not because of astronomical prices, famous regulars, or insurmountable wait lists. It is because a sign on the door of Wafu screams: “Do not come in!!! Wafu club members only!”

Yukako tires of dealing with the ignorant general public, and would rather no one enquire after membership. Profit increase is not a motivating factor. But why does this restaurant defy the normal laws of commerce? Well, you could see this exclusivity as pretentious and oh-so Surry Hills, or you could reserve your judgment and consider the complex ethos that makes up this quirky gastronomical experience. From what I can gather, Yukako sees Wafu as an extension of herself, her philosophies, and her home. Disobedient strangers are unwelcome.

Wafu diners are encouraged to share all meals in a family style. If a non-member is brought along, this suggestion becomes an instruction. This is because, at Wafu, you are not allowed to leave any food on your plate. Lemon slices, gary, and wasabi are the only exceptions. If you fail to empty your plate, you will not be invited to return, you may lose your membership, and you will not receive the 30 per cent discount. You are permitted to take leftovers in your own tupperware. However, if it is obvious that the container was bought only for the purpose of this visit, it will be rejected. In order to minimise the chance of waste, Yukako will ask you how hungry you are, and cater portions accordingly.

My table asked Yukako to bring us vegetarian and non-vegetarian dishes of her choosing. She served us succulent teriyaki chicken, misozuke salmon grilled with miso sauce, and sashimi sushi, all accompanied by a colourful array of organic vegetables and brown rice. Each dish was wholesome in a home-cooked style, yet decadent and beautifully presented.

In Japanese, Wafu means ‘peaceful breeze’ – although many diners do not find this title fitting. Some consider the rules and regulations, not to mention Yukako’s lectures before, during and after the meal, rather overbearing and offensive. I found her talks confusing and poorly communicated, but I could sense the genuineness and passion beneath her inflexible policies.

In fact, Wafu may be a microcosm for the confronting measures that must be taken to change society’s food waste habits.

Essentially, a ‘guilt free Japanese’ meal at Wafu can be a delicious and socially awakening experience, although depending on your response to Yukako’s manner, you may leave feeling plenty full and plenty guilty.


460 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills 2010

How do I become a member?

Visit Wafu with a member several times and wait for your invitation, or visit www.wafu.com.au to find out other processes you can follow to become a member. WARNING:  It’s not easy.


Our table of six ordered medium-sized portions, and each person paid $28, which included the 30 per cent discount for leaving no food on the plate.



  1. Heminee Dave November 6, 2011 at 11:05 pm #

    Yukako sounda a bit crazy… doesn’t sound like a dining experience I want! But was the waiting time long for you food, and was it good? And how did you get on the members list?

  2. Siobhan Coombs November 7, 2011 at 12:48 am #

    That sounds crazy! I think it would be a really cool experience though. How the heck do you become a member?

  3. Charlotte November 7, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    This actually sounds kind of weirdly incredible – my favourite part is her determining the hunger levels of customers. But is the food worth it? I think I would only go to that much trouble if it was genuinely delicious, but with that degree to passion surely it is!

  4. Charlotte November 7, 2011 at 9:23 am #

    *of passion

  5. Beth November 7, 2011 at 11:18 am #

    How DO you become a member? Great review!

  6. Elbows Tullock November 11, 2011 at 2:14 am #

    I don’t think you’ve illustrated JUST HOW AMAZEBALLS THE FOOD WAS!

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