Archive for the ‘Japanese’ Category

Toriciya, Cammeray

July 19, 2010

18 Cammeray Road, Cammeray

From one neighbourhood restaurant to another and this one felt like stepping into another country. A brilliantly quirky place which can only lead to a memorable evening. The fact that it’s located off the beaten track in residential Cammeray, just makes it even more incongruous.

There are only about 5 tables and we’re lucky to bag one. It’s clearly a family operation with a husband & wife team. The husband oversees the grill & the wife the front of house. We are handed a menu & hand written page of specials which just look like fun and pick a selection…

We (I…) start with a tiny dish of crab brains. It’s not often you see this on a menu, so you have to take advantage of the opportunity to order it – cold, creamy, rich with a slight offal note. It’s pretty nice. Not sure I’d order it everyday (Vanessa will be relieved)…..

We order the special of tuna sashimi. It’s as expected, fresh and meaty. It doesn’t disappoint.

Another special is a fried tofu which gets served with a dashi. It’s clearly good tofu, but is a little bland. Clearly we need to have paired it with something else….

We get a few yakitori (a speciality) – chicken thighs, pork loin and a single giblet skewer for me. They’re great – good marinade and a nice dipping sauce.

At the moment I can’t really go past an eggplant dish without ordering it and so I was able to get my fix grilled with bonito flakes & ginger. It was sweat and smokey and was a hit.

We close out a meal with a kind of beef croquette which seemed really popular in the restaurant. Can’t say I remember too much about this, but it tasted pretty fine.

So a broad disparate selection of dishes and it was a fun and engaging meal. It’s clearly a bit of an institution and we’ve loved the cultural differences and evident enthusiasm of our hosts as they poured our drinks and told us how to eat. We will be back.



April 5, 2010

529 Kent Street, Sydney

My second visit to Tetsuya’s. I’d been about 17 months ago,  before I started this blog and had an enjoyable, memorable meal which had included some exquisite but also some ghastly dishes. I was keen to go back again and get a more considered opinion. My wife was out of town for a couple of days and clearly that gives me the opportunity to go crazy….. So lunch at Tetsuya it was.

It was relatively easy to get a table. Most restaurants have last minute cancellations and it never harms to make an enquiry a couple of days before you want to eat. Tets was no exception. I arrived for a pleasant Saturday lunch, which created for a different dining atmosphere.

The gated entry does add a certain sense of occasion and all part of the theatre of eating here. You can’t beat of bit of exclusiveness if you’re going to be parting with a few hundred dollars.

There are two rooms with views of a beautiful & calming oriental garden. It’s very picturesque. I’m sat in one of the far corners. As a lone diner, you can’t really complain. Yet my attention is pretty much drawn to the butter – mascarpone, parmesan & black truffle mixed with butter. It’s very good and is paired with some decent bread – warm sourdough rolls:

Of course there’s no menu and you get the opportunity to advise any dietary requirements before the meal begins. I quickly check that the two dishes I was not a fan of previously are not on the menu.

I’m heartened to find out that apart from the signature dish, it’s a completely different menu from what I had before. I had the perception that it’s a menu that didn’t change frequently, so I’m pleasantly surprised.

The meal kicks off with a cold butternut squash veloute with mirin cream.

It’s smooth and actually quite refreshing. Not particularly inspiring, but it’s reassuring in a good way, easing you into the meal, though i expected a bit more wow.

The (up-sell) oysters were next and worth the additional $10. They were beauties – plump and creamy in taste, without too much iodine. The dressing was ginger & lime and really brought out the flavour. I should have ordered more.

Sashimi of kingfish was next with a red bean and soy dressing. Good clean taste. Again, well done but nothing to get excited about.

The cooking started properly with slow roasted scampi tails with witlof. The scampi was exceptionally well cooked – soft and yielding. Lovely consistency. It was married with citrus oil and the bitter witlof. It was a fine dish, but it did represent 3 dishes on the trot with noticeable acidity.

Tetsuya’s signature dish followed – confit of ocean trout with diced zucchini and a dressed salad. It really is a lovely dish and worth the attention. It’s really smooth & has lovely depth of flavour. The fact it comes with a salad just makes it a little civilized. A dish to linger on.

Taking a turn, a semolina pasta dish arrives, a tomato broth with braised winter melon & sliced scallop. It’s again quite a comforting dish with nice muted & harmonious flavours. The winter melon is a novel ingredient for me and is there to provide some needed texture. It works.

One of my favourites dishes of the meal is octopus ravioli with oregano & tomato (with more citrus oil). It’s a riff on the much seen lobster ravioli. Whereas lobster is all about sweetness, the octopus is just great toothy goodness… not sure I can describe the taste, but you know.. & oregano just brings out the flavour more.

That signals the end of the seafood courses and the meat dishes follow, which I have to say are just a little underwhelming:

First up is slow roasted duck with kipfler potatoes and cabbage. I love a bit of duck and again it’s very well cooked – rare softness. The skin is actually a little salty, but it pairs well with the potato & cabbage. Of course it does. This is something we could all cook at home. Not really 3 hat food…

Deboned rack of lamb with garlic & green beans followed. Again, it’s extremely tasty, but it’s not a dish to get excited about. It’s just a perfect execution of a well known and quite pedestrian dish.

The two meat courses bring us to the end of the savoury dishes and we head towards the sweets:

A palate cleanser of sorts is a cream cheese ice cream with figs & walnuts. It’s pleasant & light with a nice combination of sweetness & nuttiness.

My last meal at Tets produced a left-field pudding of comte & lentil, which was unique in its weirdness and not particularly palatable. The corresponding dish for this meal was a sweetened cannelini beans with creme anglaise & soy caramel. It was a much welcome improvement on before, but fell a little bit into the category of the previous dish – creamy & sweet.

The tasting menu finished with salted sable with creme pattiserie and Tasmanian leatherwood honey. I was hoping for a bit of chocolate, but this was a welcome departure, with a lovely simplicity, using good natural ingredients. The honey especially was pretty fine.

And so with a good coffee and the obligatory petit-fours, my tasting menu finished.

In summary this is a very good food experience and one that people should have if they enjoy gastronomy. I don’t think you will find more competent cooking in Sydney. The menu was enjoyable, but featured a few similar riffs too many. Restaurants like these should provide more than tasty food, I believe they should provide food experiences which includes if lucky one or two revelationary dishes. And for that it disappoints just a little bit.

If money is not a great concern it would be great to eat here on a frequent basis. The service is excellent and you can have a truly memorable meal, but if you’re after a one-off thought-provoking food experience, there are other places you might consider prior.

Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi

November 2, 2009

246 Military Road, Neutral Bay

A midweek evening and we fancied a night out. Fellow bloggers had recommended this place and so we decided to give it ago. The fact that it wasn’t a Japanese place that laboured on sushi made it easier to sell into my wife. Plus as a restaurant(s) with a split personality a noodle place & a teppanyaki, it seemed fun.

It was easy to get a table early, but it filled up fast. The menu divided into different parts looked initially bewildering, but you can just go through and pick from a plethora of options.

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Clearly it proved difficult to pass the sake list without ordering.  I always go for warm sake, which is probably not really the sophisticated thing. But it always does the trick. Very pretty cups though.

We decide to share a broad selection of dishes to get a good feel and start with the aubergine.

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It’s sticky with miso and almost peanut butter like in texture and feel. I’m going through an aubergine phase at the moment and loved it, even though it’s not the easiest thing to eat with chopsticks. But I’m not complaining.

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We follow with what is probably the highlight of the meal – handmade soba noodles, served cold with duck broth. It sums up what is great about Japanese food – something simple & pure with great depth of flavour. The noodles with nice roughness are dunked into the broth and slurpingly inhaled. It all leads up to the drinking of the broth (diluted with a little water). It’s soothing & comforting; what every ‘stock’ should aspire to be.

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Next up is Tonkatsu, which is served with classic ‘bbq sauce’ and a bit of english mustard  – always pleasant to see…. It’s quality piece of pork – succulent & sweet. No complaints.

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We finish with the traditional pancake – Okonomiyaki. This is one filled with cabbage and some wagyu beef. It’s a good dish, spoiled by the addition of deep fried garlic slices, which are bitter & rank.  Yet they are easily removed and the rest of pancake can be enjoyed. I love cabbage and it’s slight dishwashing liquid taste. I struggled to finish it. So it was clear our meal had come to a halt…..

Service itself was engaging & attentive. The waitress at the end of the meal complemented us on our ordering. It doesn’t really take much to leave a good impression!

We thought this a really enjoyable restaurant – not too expensive, with authenticity and a good vibe. I’d go back again just for the noodles.

There is though far more to explore and duty will call.


August 9, 2009

316 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest

My hunt for good reasonably-priced Japanese food led me to Ju-rin in Crows Nest after a few mentions at Chowhound (, including excellent fish sourcing. This certainly looked a bit of a find, but what followed was one of those irritating restaurant experiences, that you get once in a while, which clouds otherwise an alright meal.

 The start of the meal was good. It’s hard to think of a better sight.

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The extremely reasonable lunch set menu was certainly inviting, with complete bento boxes about $18 dollars. Although we decided to go for the individual dishes from the daily specials board on the wall, we got served a set lunch anyway. We got given a beef teriyaki set with nice firm sushi and lightly battered tempura. We were expecting pork teriyaki and salad, which subsequently arrived. The set was good so we couldn’t really begrudge paying for it, though it was expected of us by staff. To add insult to injury the ordered gyoza never materialized…

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Also I spied some O-toro on the specials board for $12 and ordered it. If it’s on the menu, I never fail to order it. I was served up 4 pieces and charged $48. I don’t mind the cost, but I could have been advised that it was ‘per piece’ especially when other sushi/sashimi items were not being displayed as such. It was good though – soft, meaty, steak like. So was the Uni (however I’m led to believe from Mr. Yoshii that neither are actually in season and that both these seafood are probably farmed 😦

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My wife had to order Shabu-shabu – thin pieces of wagyu beef quickly boiled in broth and served with sesame sauce. It was insipid and in my mind a tragic way to treat meat. If a dish could look ‘unhappy’, this is it. I don’t plan to go out of my way to order it again, anytime soon.

This was a meal that disappointed, but mostly because of the service and charging of the unwary diner, especially when the restaurant was meant to represent excellent value for money. The food mostly was pretty good and it deserves a second chance. I will return for a dinner course menu and leave the ordering to the staff. You know sometimes the diner is their own worst enemy.


Kushiyaki Azuma

July 22, 2009

501 George Street

My wife & I were taken here last friday evening and had one of those meals full of tasty morsels, perfect for sharing and justifying that second bottle of wine (+ weirdy cocktails)

The restaurant itself is in a non-descript shopping/office mall.It makes the entrance a little anti-climatic. The room is quite spartan & canteen-like. Not a great start. But the food made up for it.

I think we were talking too much, so pretty much forgot to take any photos. But this one sums the meal up – garlic clove skewers..of course:

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The restaurant specialises in skewers and small tapas style plates. It’s a cheap way of trying the more unusual specialities such as chicken giblet, chicken skin, sea perch etc. All are moreish and it’s easy to get into a quandry about sticking to the ones you like or testing other flavours & textures. It all depends how adventurous your fellow dining companions are.

On to the ‘small dishes’ – the obligatory Black Cod followed by some lovely braises – Wagyu beef simmered in miso (Wagyu Karamiso), Pork Belly (Kakuni) and my favourite of the evening: Ox Tongue in soy & miso (Gyutan Miso). Terrific flavours, succulent soft meat in a sweetish stock with a hefty dollop of hot mustard. It was lovely and satisfying on a cold(ish) evening. A lot of people are sqeamish towards Ox Tongue. This dish will change your mind at only $9 it’s not much a risk.

So, all in all a good meal for sharing. reasonably priced (you can buy by the skewer) and lots of interesting dishes, even though the atmosphere is quite muted and the place was empty by 10pm. Ignore the souless location and give it a go if you want more than just sushi.


Yoshii – Japanese Dining Heaven

July 12, 2009

115 Harrington Street, Sydney

I visited Yoshii last November, coming briefly back to Sydney after my honeymoon. I was craving sushi and had a few hours to kill before an appointment to agree the all important wedding photos. I’d read the Yoshii was the place to go and had an unexpected, but memorable meal.

I turned up at 12pm on the dot for lunch and was sat at the counter. I was disappointed to be handed a fixed lunch menu – bento boxes etc, when I wanted to see what the restaurant had to offer. In my experience at Japanese places it’s always good to get the chef to determine what you eat since the ingredients change on a daily basis. It also makes the dining experience more interesting.

After telling the waitresses that I wanted to try what the restaurant had to offer I was moved stalls & sat in front of Mr. Yoshii who introduced himself and told me he’d create a menu for me. Not being too busy in the restaurant I guess he had the time. So followed a succession of beautiful dishes described with charm & enthusiasm by the great man himself.

A few of the dishes:

king crab mousse in edamme soup

king crab mousse in edamme soup

Sashimi selection

Sashimi selection

salt baked abalone

salt baked abalone

Black Cod with singed cedar wood

Black Cod with singed cedar wood

The sensational dishes were all served with a subtle twist of some kind. The cedar wood with the black cod certainly delivered a greater sensory experience.

It was a truly memorable meal with Mr. Yoshii proving a great companion, talking about the seasonality & sourcing of various ingredients. He even offered to provide introductions to those hard to find restaurants in Japan.

This meal was great because of the generosity and service displayed and as a result it’s always on my list to return. It’s not cheap, but represents good value for money. I just need an excuse to return.