Café Japanese

Tento – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

I’m a highly price-conscious consumer of food and other small luxuries, and while I will happily shell out for something truly special, sometimes I do need to be convinced that a meal is “worth it”.

I didn’t have any of this soy cappuccino ($4.50) as I was pre-nights but I really enjoyed the look and feel of this cup. They sell their mugs for around $50 on their Etsy store, and it looks like woman has bought 13 of their 16 items ever sold. I’m not currently in a suitable financial position to spend $50 on a small mug that I will never use (my mugs are in the litre-range, excellent for loading up on the disgusting but healthful material that is psyllium husk), but many of their creations are quite beautiful.

My partner isn’t usually an oyster eater, but these Magaki Pacific Oysters ($5 each) had enough random toppings on top to make her venture out of her comfort zone. These particular oysters were topped with salmon roe and flowers, which did add a nice fruitiness to the oceanic flavour mix. Again, love the bowl.

These Gobo Chips ($13.50) with wasabi mayo were a bit too fibrous and slimy for me. Any supposed health benefits, for example from burdock root’s relatively high fibre content were probably well balanced by the battering and deep frying.

We quite enjoyed the Snapper Ramen ($24), with its nice in house tonkotsu base, baby bok choy, and lightly seared fish. The yuzu kosho was described by our waitress as something we could use to add flavour, as was the vegan capsicum butter, which I felt was a bit redundant as that is the general purpose of any flavouring or topping. The flavours of the soup were nice overall, and perhaps the two above mentioned additions hindered rather than helped it. I enjoyed the fish but would’ve liked more.

The Area 51 ($36), a seared toothfish ochazuke was unfortunately quite similar in taste to the snapper ramen. It was probably our own fault for choosing both of these dishes rather than something different. My main complaint carries over from the snapper ramen, there being only a small amount of toothfish at this relatively large price, though my secondary complaint is the less than ideal broth to rice ratio. It tasted nice, but it just tasted like more of the same.


We spent $88 between the two of us, with one drink. While we did eat quite a bit of food, I still have difficulty reconciling the substantial price point for what was ultimately good but not super-special.

Cool crockery though

3/8 Hill St, Surry Hills NSW 2010


Sushi Train – Maroubra NSW Restaurant Review

I had such a bad meal at Sushi Train in Maroubra that I just needed to come home and tell you all about it straight away. This is posted some time after the meal, but the content was written contemporaneously.

First, praise needs to be given to the best parts of the meal – the attentive service and the filtered, iced, table water.

The ambience and decor was also nice.

Next, we must move onto the food.

This aburi salmon “volcano” nigiri was our first and in my view probably one of the only pieces that was not awful, owing to the fact that it was drenched in mayonnaise and able to drown out the heavily disappointing rice.

This chicken katsu and cream cheese inside out roll with spicy seasoning on top was also very bad. The chicken felt old, cold, and dry. It did not appeal to me at all.

This is a layered sushi with avocado and aburi salmon, coated in a heavy layer of sauce. My partner found this acceptable, and ordered two of these dishes in favour of others, however I thought it was still quite bad.

The salmon roe (ikura) gunkan wrapped in salmon seemed like it was off to a good start, however with the entire morsel in my mouth it became clear that it was far too salty – probably from the ikura marinade/preservation fluids.

I had high hopes for the uni gunkan (sea urchin), but it just didn’t taste good. It was bitter rather than sweet, and had a strange and unpleasant taste that seems to be the difference between the good quality stuff and the cheap stuff.

The maguro tuna nigri was more bitter than sweet, a problem that I had with a lot of the a la carte nigiri at Sushi Train Maroubra. The serving size of tuna was large and generous, however the quality wasn’t good. Having straight fish on rice really accentuated the low quality of the rice – and the huge quantity. The rice was dry, almost stale tasting, and ruined every subsequent plate.

This is the tako (octopus) nigri. The slices of octopus were extremely difficult to chew, and it did not seem like much consideration was taken in the preparation of the octopus to provide a morsel that was actually edible. After chewing on my octopus for at least 90 seconds straight I gave up. This nigiri also fell victim to the awful rice.

The engawa nigiri was fatty and good, however again let down by the rice.

Ultimately we had a very bad meal at Sushi Train Maroubra – so bad in fact that it helped us to limit our ordering. We would normally spend more as a couple at a place like Sushi Rio or Sushi Hotaru, as the food in these places is much better. A special call out needs to be made for the awful quality rice which left its stain on every morsel it touched, especially in the volume in which it was used.

Sushi Train Maroubra
Shop 2/944 Anzac Parade, Maroubra NSW 2035
(02) 8347 0788


Roppongi Japanese Restaurant – Wollongong NSW Restaurant Review

Wollongong instituion for over thirty years and recommended by some guy on Reddit as the best Japanese food in Wollongong, Roppongi was the first restaurant we ever dined in at in Wollongong following the October 2021 COVID-19 repoening. It didn’t live up to the hype.

While Roppongi looks quite casual from the outside, its interior is well designed, with plenty of wood panelling and features that lend a more traditional Japanese vibe to the place. There are two separate dining rooms, and after our vaccination records were checked we were lead to a timber floored room where we were instructed to remove our shoes before entering the dining room where we had the option of sitting on the floor, or for the less flexible of us, dangling our legs under the table.

The combination sashimi ($18) was the most impressive dish of the night, with fresh tasting fish and what I think was likely freshly ground wasabi. The real deal.

The vegetable tempura ($14.80) was unexpected. Most of the time when we order vegetable tempura we are given discrete slices of vegetables that have been coated in tempura batter and deep fried. Roppongi’s version was served as clumps of shredded vegetables mashed together, giving it a quality reminiscent of those vague deep fried vegetable patties. Also strange to this dish was that roughly thirty minutes later we were served a bowl of udon soup to go with it, only to have the waiter return after a few more minutes, ask us if we’d touched it, and take it down to the next table. Keep in mind this was only a day after the state started lifting out of its COVID-19 restrictions.

The Vinegared Combination ($12) of vinegar-marinated cucumber and seafoods was quite nice, though I feel they could’ve cleaned the mussels more as I definitely had to spit some beard out of my mouth. On top of this, I felt that the choice to add seafood extender to an otherwise quite nice dish of sea animals was a strange one that kind of cheapened the vibe of the entire dish.

The featured component of the Teppanyaki Beef Rolls ($16.80) was quite nice, with tender juicy beef wrapped around garlic and spring onions. The side component, the stir fried vegetables, were pretty disappointing and reminiscent of something you’d get from a cheap Chinese takeaway, with plenty of low-cost bulk added through onion.

The Chicken Skewers ($8) with onion and capsicum were, as you an see here, a little burnt. The flavour of the soy saue on the chicken was good, but the burntness of the vegetables as well as the reappearance of onion in this dish let it down.

Ultimately I was disappointed. While the sashimi was truly good, the rest of our meal was quite off-kilter, and if this is the best Japanese food that Wollongong has to offer then Sydney is only 70km down the road.

Roppongi Japanese Restaurant
1/102 Market St, Wollongong NSW 2500
(02) 4226 3243

Asian Fusion Café Japanese

St Kai – Mortdale NSW Restaurant Review

We had a really great meal at St Kai, a Japanese-inspired cafe with great food, but not that many Japanese people on its staff.

The tantanmen ramen with miso pork ($22) was a really good bowl of ramen. The broth was incredibly thick and rich, heavy on the umami and heavy on the creaminess, with the perfect amount of spice from Mama Liu’s chilli oil (thinking about this now, I might actually pick up a jar for home). The noodles were very jīndao 筋道 (a term which I think is being slowly eroded by the increasingly popular “Q” of Taiwanese origin) in texture, with great chewability and springiness. I enjoyed the included greenery (seaweed and bok choy), and there was plenty of meat in the bowl for neither of our two adult humans to not feel like we missed out. An additional thoughtful touch to our experience included the provision of a pre-warmed share bowl, which I have a photo of but will only post on request because that’s not why you’re here. Overall a great bowl, quite elaborate for a breakfast, but actually somewhat breakfasty in its flavour.

Next, the first of two breads. The folded dashi eggs on soft milk toast ($21), allegedly with flying salmon roe as per the menu but thankfully with non-flying salmon roe in reality was a treat. The eggs were perfectly cooked, just a little bit runny but still with some of its own structure. The dashi and bonito powder added a high degree of umami to the meal, whilst the generous serving of ikura, juicy and salty, was perfect to flavour the dish. I don’t know if the shokupan is made in house or if it’s from elsewhere, but found it to be nice and sweet with a good toasting around the outside but still soft on the inside. Very good.

Next, a sweet dish. The french toast with black sesame butter & miso caramel ($18) was at its base essentially the same as the dashi eggs on toast, with what is probably bread cut from the same loaf. Where it differs is in its taste and execution, a real testament to how versatile bread as a vessel is. This was a sweet dish, highly buttery and decadent from the mass of butter served. The black sesame itself wasn’t particularly sweet, if at all, and indeed they also add some of it to the tantanmen for extra sesame-ness. Most of the sweetness of this dish came from the miso caramel, which all added up was just the right amount of sweetness (ie. not too sweet) for my mood that day. My partner actually got bored of all the bread, but I did not. Very good. Love bread.

The Ichigo Tokyo Milk ($4.50) tastes like steamed Big M and I have regrets.

STRAY THOUGHTS I don’t know who Peggy Gou is or why she features so prominently on St Kai’s promotional material. Do they have a commercial arrangement in place, or are they just fans? Another stray observation I will make is that during our one our stay at the restaurant, all tables inckluding our own were inhabited by Asians, but none of the locals who were just dropping by for a quick coffee were. Does this say something about Asian-Australian yuppies (another dead word) as a social group? Who knows.

ACTUAL THOUGHTS We enjoyed our meal and recommended St Kai to our friend and colleague BJCHC. Who would’ve thought such a place would exist in a small side street of Mortdale?

St. Kai
38 Balmoral Rd, Mortdale NSW 2223

Bakery Japanese Korean

Bakemono Bakers – Melbourne VIC Restaurant Review

It was a true crime that I was only allowed to try two things at Bakemono, because both things were good and there was therefore a high likelihood that any third thing would’ve been good as well.

This blueberry & custard danish ($7) was just delicious, with a large heaping of juicy blueberries and just the right amount of sweetness in the custard and pastry to put it into the prime zone. The soft custard, crispy exterior pastry and cloud-like interior pastry all conspired to make a great little treat.

The honey, sesame, and sea salt scroll ($4.50) was also good, though not as perfect as the above mentioned danish. I enjoyed the sweet and sticky honey coating, which had a distinctly Korean feel to it, especially together with the sesame seeds. Though honeyed, the good combination of sweetness and saltiness makes this a scroll not merely for dessert fans, but all bread fans in general.

OVERALL With only a little bench outside for seating, Bakemono serves up delicious little pastries with a Korean and Japanese inspiration without the long wait of a certain Fitzroy-based bakery. Though their selection is limited, I would definitely suggest this place as worth a little swing-by for bready breakfast, maybe to be eaten on the State Library lawn.

Bakemono Bakers
273 Little Lonsdale St, Melbourne VIC 3000