Categories
Japanese

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.

DECOR
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.

COMMENTS
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

Categories
Japanese

Yakitori Jin – Haberfield NSW Restaurant Review

There aren’t that many places to get yakitori in Sydney, especially if you’re looking anywhere even moderately west. Yakitori Jin, a tiny restaurant tucked away in Haberfield, stands on its own as an accessible, high-quality inner-West izakaya.

The assorted today’s sashimi ($26) was quite good. It featured thick cuts of salmon, kingfish, somewhat-fatty tuna, and scallop, and worked out to be quite good value for money, especially in view of the tuna.

The pickled white fish was nice.

Hiding on the special’s board was o-toro sashimi, which was on offer for 4 pieces for $28, or 6 pieces for $42. $7 a piece is honestly quite cheap for this kind of fish. Chu-toro is also on offer for the slightly more price conscious.

I wasn’t a big fan of this salmon tataki thing. I thought that the marinade was too strong, and the flavours too intense, drowning out the flavour of the salmon.

The ebi chilli mayo ($18) was so good that my ebi-hating partner even had more than one piece. The tempura batter was light and crunchy, and the sauce complementary rather than overpowering.

The chicken karaage ($13) was economical, though I thought the texture and cooked-ness were a bit overdone. The rest of the table liked it though.

The home made yaki gyoza were good, though the prize for the best gyoza I’ve had in Sydney still goes to Nakano Darling.

The scallop with miso butter (2 for $12) were good, though expensive. The scallops were tender and cooked well, and the miso flavours complimentary to the seafood.

And now to the yakitori and kushiyaki.

The wagyu tri-tip ($10 each) was juicy and tender. Much larger in size than ones you may get at competing restaurants.

The negima (chicken thigh and leek) ($6 each) has always been my go-to, and Yakitori Jin’s did not disappoint, offering up juicy pieces of thigh and chunky umami leek glazed with tare.

The enoki mushroom with pork kushiyaki ($5 each) was a bit difficult to eat in view of the long fibrous strands of enoki, but ultimately very juicy and tasty.

The chicken wings ($5 each) were slightly crispy on the skin and extremely juicy inside. A bit of a mess to eat with colleagues, but absolutely delicious and my partner’s favourite.

Of all of the things we ordered, this was one of the only things we didn’t really like. The mune mentai mayo yakitori ($6 each) was a bit drier than the chicken thigh and wing based yakitori, owing to the use of chicken breast. The spicy mentai mayo added a degree of wetness texture-wise which was welcome, however flavour-wise was not.

These dry-aged salmon tail skewers ($8) were also a bit fishy and not excellent.

INTERIM THOUGHTS
I can actually highly recommend giving Yakitori Jin a visit. It’s not a cheap meal – we spent $75 per person including a 300mL bottle of sake and 0.75 beers each – but quite good.


PS It’s worth making a call if there are no open bookings online.

SUBSEQUENT VISIT – MAY 2022

My partner and I enjoyed our first visit to Yakitori Jin so much that we went back, about a year later. We rarely make second visits to restaurants, given the variety and quality of food on offer in Sydney.

We were treated to this sesame-seasoned cabbage just for sitting down.

The bluefin tuna tasting plate ($28) consisting of 2 pieces each of toro, chu-toro, and akami was appropriately priced and served with some good quality wasabi.

It is physically impossible to keep my fiancé from a good croquette, and only a fool would try. These crab flavoured cream croquettes ($12) were in fact quite creamy and potato-y, crab flavoured but lacking for some more crab, in my opinion. She loved them.

The Miso-marinated black cod lettuce wraps (2 for $12) were good, with nice oiliness of the cod really coming through. Satisfied my toothfish cravings, or at least kicked them down the road for a couple of months.

My partner wanted none of the gizzard (tare) ($4). It was fine. Gizzardy.

I didn’t think I would enjoy the sasami ume mayo ($6 each), and I was correct. Every time I’ve had yakitori tenderloin I’ve been disappointed by the dryness, and I truly believe that thigh is the best kind of flesh for grilling by yakitori. Though the plum and mayonnaise helped moisten these skewers, it would’ve just been better as thigh.

The Wagyu Tri-Tip Skewer with Mustard Miso ($12) was seriously good. Thick cut, tender, juicy. A bit on the pricier side but definitely worth trying.

The Fremantle Octopus Skewer ($9) was tender and creamy, but I probably wouldn’t pay $9 for it again.

We enjoyed the kamameshi ($22) which is essentially a bowl of rice topped with flying fish roe, pickles, seaweed, and shallot. Fragrant and flavourful, full of umami goodness and the textural fun of popping-candy like flying fish roe.

The Meat ball with mild boiled egg ($7). Who would’ve thought such a thing would be so good? Loved the silky texture of the egg over the meat. Can definitely recommend it.

The chicken skin (tare) ($5) was not better than negima. I would be happy for a 60% negima meal.

The wing (tare) ($5) I feel should’ve been priced at greater than $5 beacvuse it was huge, juicy, meaty and delicious. At the same price as a skewer of skin.

VERDICT
A year on, it’s still good. One of my favourite places in Sydney, and thankfully not on the wrong side of the bridge for us mere mortals.

Yakitori Jin
101 Ramsay St, Haberfield NSW 2045
(02) 8057 2780

Categories
Japanese

Gold Class Daruma – Sydney NSW Omakase Restaurant Review

After an aborted attempt at omakase at Gold Class Daruma during the COVID-19 delta outbreak in 2021, my partner and I were finally able to make our way there to experience Chef Yuta Nakamura’s lunch omakase in early 2022.

We started with some kind of beverage. I don’t really know what to tell you. I only had a small sip. I’ve kind of stopped drinking.

Our appetizer was a small, four shaped star plate with tiger prawn, octopus, and spicy cod roe. The cod roe sack was served slightly torched, and though found it to have too strong and salty a flavour for my liking, much preferring such sea eggs mixed with land eggs in a sort of mentai mayo execution. The octopus and prawn were much milder and more enjoyable, with a nice nuttiness exhibited by the prawn and a kind of olive-oil flavour from the tender octopus.

Our next dish was a sashimi dish featuring kingfish, salmon, mildly seared tuna, and seaweed, smoked in front of us on the bench. The smoked flavour was present though ultimately missable if the whole affair didn’t occur before our eyes. The seaweed had an unexpected but appealing apple-like flavour.

Next up was grilled alfonsino collar, though its identity remained a mystery to both us and the diners next to us for some time. It was only when we asked Chef Yuta to repeat himself that he brought out his labelled diagram of the fish and the guy next to me stopped pretending to know what it was. This part of the alfonsino, also known as imperador, was quite oily and mildly fishy. My partner and I were not the biggest fans of this for the fish itself, but we did appreciate the seasoning as well as the yummy pickles that accompanied it.

I’ve never been disappointed by chawanmushi, and this iteration with abalone was no exception, with its silky warming texture and strongly umami flavours.

This is a box of sea creatures about to be placed on rice, divided between four patrons. The fact that Chef Yuta, arguably the most popular chef at Gold Class Daruma, only had the four of us for his lunch seating is quite interesting, as it means that it is difficult for them to achieve the economies of scale that omakase chefs with booked out seatings of six or even eight diners can achieve.

On offer nigiri-wise was a selection of alfonsino, bonito, see eel, paradise prawn, oyster, scallop, kingfish, travelly, cuttlefish, and o-toro. All pieces of nigiri were of a top standard, with fresh fish and perfect warm rice. The cuttlefish did not tickle my partner’s fancy, and she had quite a visceral reaction to its slimy texture, though I personally enjoyed how creamy it was. The bonito was an extremely soft mouthful, and kingfish belly was aburied to further accentuate its oiliness more.

I’m long thought that I might be mildly allergic to raw crustaceans, but steeled myself for my encounter with this raw paradise prawn, which proved to be sweet and non-deadly. The aburi scallop was served with yuzu kosho on top.

The nigiri course was interrupted by a small ikura hand roll.

The nigiri course was capped off with o-otoro topped with caviar, and a great grilled sea eel nigiri that was surprisingly meaty with a non-oily, flaky texture.

The sea urchin and mashed tuna hand roll, with tuna mashed before our eyes was quite good and of an equal standard to other rolls served at other restaurants. I will note that unlike competitors Kuon and Hachijoi Chef Yuta chose to separate the ikura from the uni and toro, serving them as two rolls rather than combined into one.

The miso soup, nearing the end of our meal had a sweet, tare-like flavour.

I didn’t really go to Gold Class Daruma expecting an amazing dessert, and my expectations were therefore fulfilled when we received this mixed plate of yuzu sorbet (good but I feel like it was probably from a tub – happy to be corrected), red bean (which my partner, red-bean hater, liked), matcha cake (quite good actually), and yuzu jelly (which tasted like nothing).

THOUGHTS
For $110 pp I feel that Chef Yuta’s omakase at Gold Class Daruma is pretty reasonable. I must admit though that I didn’t love the smoked dish, the mentaiko, or the dessert, and it is highly possible that Gold Class Daruma’s reasonably priced a la carte offerings (ie. $50 for 10 piece nigiri from Chef Yuta) may be even better.

I’d still go again, either for a la carte or for omakase by one of the other chefs.

Gold Class Daruma
The Grace Sydney, Level 1/77 York St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9262 1190

Categories
Japanese

Mikazuki – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

Mikazuki, located at the base of the UWS building in Parramatta, has long suffered from a difficult walk from the train station and a lack of easily accessible nearby parking, both in the context of ongoing construction in the area. The recent completion of the Parramatta Square extension to the Parramatta train station has created a new thoroughfare, leading directly from Westfield (free parking), to the train station, and further on to Mikazuki. In short, it’s much, much easier to access now than it once was.

The small assorted sashimi ($19) was as expected – salmon, akami, kingfish, and I think probably snapper served on a bed of ice. The fish was fresh, however there was nothing particularly special in the cuts or arrangement. One thing that puzzled me was the addition of scallop shells as decoration in the absence of any actual scallop. Why?

The seaweed garlic butter wagyu beef don ($17.50) included a good mix of sweet, tangy, salty, and umami flavours in the one bowl. I was particularly a fan of the onsen egg as well as the bright tasting pickles that added a degree of tang to each bite.

The spicy sashimi tacos (2 for $9) were the reason I actually went to Mikazuki in the first place.. The shells were quite nice and crispy, and the fillings had a pleasant sourness to them. I think they could’ve done without the spicy mayo so as to allow the flavours of the kingfish and salmon to distinguish themselves more.

I thought the prawn and vegetable tempura ($19.50) was as good as any I’ve had in Sydney. I particularly liked the variety of vegetables on offer – although I realise I keep mentioning this about multiple different restaurants. Maybe Hiroba was just abnormally bad.

These Crispy Brussel Sprouts ($14) trick you into thinking that you’re eating something good for you, and it’s only when you bring them home in a takeaway container and look at them again the next day that you realise how drowned in oil they are.

COMMENTS
Though I’ve been to Mikazuki six times now (twice in 2018, three times in 2019, and once in 2021) I think that’s more due to the general paucity of good Japanese food in the Parramatta area. It’s strengths are its broad and wide menu, but its weaknesses include its high prices, especially for things like sushi (not pictured) which are better had from nearby Kumiho.

4/5

Mikazuki Parramatta
Shop5/169 Macquarie St, Parramatta NSW 2150
(02) 9633 2593

Categories
Japanese Korean

By Sang – Rosebery NSW Restaurant Review

We had a weekday dinner at By Sang, a relatively new Japanese restaurant with some Korean influence sitting on the old Sanpo site in Rosebery, opting for the $70 per person 6 course degustation and the addition of the futomaki. Though not everything lived up to expectations, certain elements of our meal were actually quite good.

We started with the WA Scallop Tataki with salmon roe, and finger lime. The scallops used in this dish were plump and sweet, and matched well with the tangy flavours of the yuzu dressing and finger lime. I wasn’t sure if the greenery was meant to be eaten, and ultimately it remained untouched as we consumed the seafood. I thought this entree was definitely not bad, though my partner wasn’t a huge fan. I think this dish usually comes with some creme fraiche, but ours did not.

The sashimi dish consisted of slices of atlantic salmon, Ora king salmon, red emperor, cuttlefish, kingfish, and tuna (akami). The choice of using both regular salmon and king salmon (also known as chinook salmon) was an interesting one that I would not have made, though I guess perhaps it was a way to introduce novice salmon eaters to the higher quality of king salmon by way of direct comparison. The sashimi course was as fine as most sashimi generally is, though I did feel that the kingfish tasted a bit unusual.

The futomaki (?$35 supplement) of akami, toro, tamago, takuan, scallop, uni, and ikura was an unfortunate weak point. Though enticed by the inclusion of premium elements like uni and toro in this roll, we found that the mish mash of multiple seafoods and flavours per bite-sized piece made it exceedingly difficult to appreciate any individual element. While the overall flavour was good and certainly not bad, we just found ourselves disappointed that this is where we were steered towards when we asked our very enthusiastic waiter about the toro nigiri special. We probably should’ve ordered that instead.

The NSW wagyu tartare with ssamjang, garlic ponzu, wasabi aioli, parsley, and potato crisps was up next. This menu item should’ve been a slam dunk given our recent fondness for steak tartare and my partner’s general love of all things potato, but was again unfortunately a bit of a let down. My main criticisms here would be that the meat itself had a bit of an unfortunate chewiness to the texture, whilst the flavouring was too heavy of sesame oil and salt to my liking. op/;.This really was a Korean fusion take on the classic French dish, and whilst I love my Asian fusion cuisine in general, not all attempts at innovating on a classic are going to be successful. In comparison, the Korean fusion beef tartare at Soul Dining in Surry Hills is a master-stroke, and should be considered first port of call before the one at By Sang.

The NSW sand whiting tempura with papaya salad and white ponzu was a turning point in the meal. While I couldn’t identify any papaya, the moistness of the fish deep fried in a light tempura batter as well as the grated salad and citrus dressing were all very pleasant.

The second consecutive cooked fish dish of the night, the NT Humpty Doo barramundi with grilled wombok and Japanese butter curry was also very good. The fish was grilled to perfection, with a nice crispy skin and moist flesh. The butter curry sauce was particularly good, with a light flavour that tasted a level or two more complex than your average grocery store Japanese curry.

Our first choice of dessert was the Hitachino beer ice-cream, which came impaled by a bit of crispy biscuit and resting on a bed of crumbs. The ice cream was really special, with a pleasant sweetness intermingled with a distinct but unoffensive beer taste. Though our waiter told us that they don’t make their ice cream in house, I can’t actually find anywhere else online to buy this – and believe me I tried.

Our second choice of dessert was the Peanut Brittle Miso Caramel Sando, which while looking like a giant macaron was more of an ice cream sandwich. Also quite good.

THOUGHTS
There were a few hits and a few misses at our first visit to By Sang, though our experience got markedly better once the cooked food and desserts started rolling out. If I could do it all again I would skip the tasting menu, skip the futomaki and tartare, and go straight to the a la carte menu. I also expect that as the restaurant matures some of their kinks will be worked out and menu optimised. I do hope they keep on their current staff though, who were very attentive but not to the point of being overbearing. Whatever they do, I really hope they keep the beer ice cream on the menu.

By Sang
304/1-9 Rothschild Ave, Rosebery NSW 2018
(02) 7251 9251