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Japanese

Kazuki Japanese Kitchen – Hurstville NSW Restaurant Review

We are frequent flyers to Kazuki Japanese Restaurant in Hurstville, and I find that it is a reputable and reliable source of Japanese food for delivery to Kogarah.

The Eel box ($24.50) is a full featured bento with eel, prawn, tempura vegetables, agedashi tofu, edamame, potato mash, and salmon sashimi. It is a good set with plenty of different flavours and textures to amuse the mouth.

The chirashi sushi don ($19.50) is my favourite thing to order from Kazuki. It is a bowl of mixed sashimi on rice, including really fresh and sweet scallops, salmon belly, tuna (akami), cooked prawns, raw octopus, tamago, and a small serving of cucumber and carrot. It feels super healthy and fresh, and you can’t go wrong with it.

The soft shell crab roll ($11.50) is a bit expensive for the quantity that you get, but not bad overall.

VERDICT

Judging from the four times we’ve ordered from Kazuki over the course of two months, I can definitely recommend them to a friend or colleague.

5 octopi

Kazuki Japanese Restaurant
176 Forest Rd, Hurstville NSW 2220
(02) 9579 1053

Categories
Japanese

Hukuya Sushi Bar – Eastwood NSW Restaurant Review

There was a time, before I paid my own bills, when I would look down on Japanese cuisine cooked by non-Japanese people. What I’ve found, as I’ve become progressively poorer and progressively more well-eaten, is that our Korean colleagues can essentially do most Japanese food just as well, often for a cheaper price. Hukuya, a small Eastwood sushi bar with a wide catchment of clientele, is no exception to this.

Hukuya’s eponymous Hukuya Set ($36) was originally recommended to me by my esteemed intensive care colleague YK back in June 2020. It took nine months and a move of house back into Western Sydney for me to finally go, and let me tell you – the anticipation was worth it. The Hukuya set is a set of Hukuya’s most top-end delights – salmon belly, eel, sea urchin, salmon roe, and scampi. As both my girlfriend and myself are genetically inferior and mildly allergic to raw scampi we asked for the scampi (probably one of the higher cost pieces of the meal) to be substituted – a request that the chef readily granted. The salmon belly pieces were absolutely huge. Though most sushi is normally served in thin slices, the thickness of these salmon belly pieces were special in and of themselves. Each piece had to be eaten in several bites, and the thickness of the cuts necessitated a bit of chewing – normally this would be problematic, but this actually increased mouth transit time, allowing time for the fats to fully melt and be appreciated. The unagi nigiri was similarly excellent. The pieces of eel were again very thick and juicy, cooked just right so that all the oils and fats were on display. This is simply some of the best eel I’ve had ever – either here in Australia or in Japan.

We supplemented our Hukuya Set with the regular sushi and sashimi combination ($24). A strong plate in and of itself, this combination set offers seafood classics with the addition of a small piece of chicken katsu roll. In a stunning turn of events each piece of nigiri had a little dot of wasabi in between the fish and the rice – a rare and pleasant find in Sydney.

The school prawn chips ($8) I thought were only OK. They felt a bit dry, and in my opinion would’ve been better with a bit of dipping sauce.

The tempura set ($21) was wholly adequate, consisting of several pieces of prawn as well as a variety of vegetables. We enjoyed this more than our other recent tempura experience in the area at Hiroba, as the variety of fried things meant that it wasn’t just root vegetable after root vegetable after root vegetable. (Though root vegetable still played a prominent part).

VERDICT
Hukuya is some of the best sushi in all of Sydney, at a very reasonable and affordable price. The value on the Hukuya Set is absolutely extraodinary, and I would recommend even Eastern Suburbs dwellers to make the Journey to the West. (Do not get the drink cans, they are $5 each).

Hukuya Sushi Bar
1/25 Railway Parade, Eastwood NSW 2122
(02) 9804 8200

Categories
Fine Dining Japanese

Hachioji – Willoughby NSW Omakase Restaurant Review

Nearing the end of its first year in business, Willoughby’s Hachioji, run by Taiwanese sushi master Benson Pang, is making a move upmarket. With some luck our friends and I were able to secure a booking of the entire 8-seat counter at the original $79pp rather than the more luxurious $130pp offering that has since replaced it.

Our 14-course lunch omakase started with this cod liver entree, a lightly flavoured but densely textured dish.

The four day aged salmon sashimi was served as a fat chunk and with the first appearance of Hachioji’s top-tier wasabi.

This is where the magic happens. Chef Benson Pang advised us that none of the 10 nigiri pieces were to be eaten with soy sauce.

The 4 days aged Hiramasa Kingfish with yuzu koshu was a strong piece, the slight spiciness and tartness of the yuzu koshu adding an additional dimension of flavour to the kingfish.

The John Dory with umeshu jelly was interesting , the umeshu jelly imparting a sweet but not too sweet plummy flavour which matched well with the light tasting fish. The Ora King Salmon nigiri with caviar was delightfully fatty, with just a little bit of glaze for flavour. I might have to pick up some Ora King salmon to have for myself at home.

Both the snapper with pepper and the bluefin akami were good. The akami was sweet and was free of metallic taste, and it was a pleasure to watch Chef Pang make his invisible flavour cuts.

Hachioji’s bargain basement $79pp price comes into play with the use of chu-toro, a slightly less fatty and cheaper cut than o-toro. That said, the chu-toro nigiri with citrus peel was a good as chu-toro can be, still fatty and flavoured gently with citrus peel (not otherwise specified – my internal medicine friend asked). I liked that the Blue Mackerel added a slightly stronger tasting fish to the mix of flavours.

The aburi scallop temaki was good but apart from its superior rice and seaweed the seafood itself was no better than any other scallop I’ve had. The Anago (sea eel) was a large piece, mildly glazed and oily and juicy inside.

I opted for the addition of a chu-toro, uni, ikura hand roll ($25 supplement). This was an expensive and luxurious roll, with a thick and large piece of uni, well flavoured salmon roe, and generous slabs of chu-toro. While one of the best morsels I had at Hachioji, it would be remiss of me to evaluate this without comparing it to Kuon’s very similar hand roll. While sashimi chu-toro has superior texture to the minced o-toro that Kuon uses, I think that ultimately the sheer fattiness of the o-toro in Kuon’s roll wins over the reduced fattiness of Hachioji’s. That said, both are very good, and I would recommend paying for this $25 addition to your meal.

Our sashimi and sushi courses were followed by dobin mushi, a seafood broth made of prawn, pork, chicken, and mushroom. This was a light broth with a strong umami flavour imparted to it by the addition of fragrant mushrooms and seafood, served in an individual teapot for each diner and a small cup with a tiny lemon wedge. This soup was really nice, wholesome, and warming.

I love myself a hojicha ice cream (my favourite being the one from Mapo in Newtown), though this was not as elaborate as some other desserts that are often served at omakase restaurants.

The Hachioji team comped us this delicious mango cake for our colleague’s birthday. Unfortunately the guest of honour couldn’t make it (there were quite a few last minute cancellations and swaps – it was a whole game of musical chairs trying to wrangle 8 cats for our whole-of-restaurant booking), but this meant that we got to pass the cake around and each have some. It was good – try and bring a birthday friend if you can.

OTHER THINGS

Service was pleasant and friendly, and not at all invasive. Unlimited green tea was included in the price of the meal, which is refreshing after being charged $15 a person for bottomless green tea at Kuon.

2 hour street parking is available around the corner on Tullon St. For the more intrepid, there is one hour parking available on Frenchs Road, which is not enough for the meal, though our keen eyed hostess was helpful in keeping an eye out for parking inspectors.

VERDICT

Our experience at Hachioji went to show that you don’t have to be Japanese to provide a top-tier sushi experience. While some of the elements were reflective of our meal’s top value price, I think that Hachioji does hit the sweet spot at $79 per head. Eating at Hachioji a mere fortnight after Kuon I don’t think that while expensive omakase restaurants like Kuon may have more luxurious elements like lobster and o-toro, I’d rather have six meals at a place like Hachioji than two at Kuon.

Hachioji
2/56-58 Frenchs Rd, Willoughby NSW 2068
0422 421 203

Categories
Fine Dining Japanese

Kuon Omakase – Sydney NSW Restaurant Review

It takes good planning, a childhood spent spamming clicks into party quests in MapleStory, and a generous helping of luck to secure a spot at Kuon Omakase, one of Sydney’s newest and at $200, most expensive omakase restaurants. With only two seatings of eight per night, it is an experience so exclusive that multiple senior medical colleagues expressed their dismay at not being to secure a visit for themselves in the weeks leading up to our visit. One of these colleagues even offered to pay a 40% premium to buy one of our seats. Essentially it is Japanese Dorsia.

Executive Chef Hideaki Fukada started the night by introducing us to his lobster friend, who would soon be taken into the back room and slaughtered to produce our first dish of the night: Ise Ebi Sashimi (live lobster) with toro and caviar. Premedicated with loratadine and with adrenaline in pocket, I dug into the sweet, fresh flesh of the lobster, the delicious fatty umami of the tuna belly, and the actually pretty-soft saltiness of the osetra caviar. This was, overall, a good dish to start – even if I was extremely nervous about having an allergic reaction with the first bite of a $240 meal.

Second on the menu were Aomori Hotate, sauteed scallops with butter garlic soy sauce from the Aomori region, on the northernmost part of Honshu. These were lightly flavoured, slightly tougher than I expected, and really didn’t do anything special for me. In fact, they got me a bit worried about the meal to come.

The Traditional Chawanmushi, an egg custard with fish cake, chicken, scallop, prawn, and gingko nut was next – a warm bowl of subtly flavoured goodness. The egg custard was soft and silky, and I felt like I could eat bowls and bowls of it on its own. As for the embedded proteins, the prawn was large and sweet, but unfortunately there is nothing much more to say about the chicken, scallop, or fish cake.

The kusakari tsubodai tatsuta age, fried armorhead served with a slice of okra and a slice of lemon, was really also just fine – though it doesn’t look like armorhead is a commonly eaten fish. The subtle layer of batter helped to seal in the fish’s moisture and sweetness, though at the end of the day this dish didn’t feel much more elevated than any other battered and deep fried fish that I’ve had in my life.

The uni tempura wrapped in shisho leaf was a $20 supplement and one of the best morsels of the night. The Hokkaido sea urchin was plump and creamy, with not even a hint of bitterness. The warmth added to the sea urchin through the tempura process helped make an already melty snack creamier than I could have even imagined. A must get add-on.

This giant abalone was flashed before our eyes five minutes before our next course. This is apparently the amount of time it takes to slice, dice, steam, sauce, and plate abalone.

The steamed abalone in Saikyo miso sauce was generally poorly receieved among our party. Though we appreciated the theatre of seeing the entire abalone, the complex, slightly bitter sauce was certainly very divisive. While I didn’t hate the sauce, I also didn’t really feel like this was anything above and beyond what you’d get in a standard Chinese seafood restaurant.

The Wagyu dish, a full blood MB9+ wagyu strip loin with optional foie gras ($20 supplement), was divine. The juicy meltiness of the beef paired perfectly with the rich umami of the foie gras and the semi-sweet berry sauce. Each bite of this was treasured, though I think it would’ve been just as good without the foie gras.

A fresh yuzu sorbet was offered as our meal transitioned into the nigiri zone.

Executive Chef and Owner Hideaki Fukada, caught in a non-photogenic moment, displaying his box of treasures.

The ten-piece nigiri omakase was overall an excellent journey through the Sydney Fish Markets’ best buys of the day. While it makes for a very poor food blog reading and writing experience for me to not know what exactly each piece was, our friendly chefs also did not make a huge effort to tell us. One tiny bone I have to pick is that the chef made a point to tell us that particular bites cost him $200/kg from the supply side. As a group each paying $240 for much less than a kilogram of fish, it felt like these pricings almost cheapend the experience.

Our selection was essentially an assortment of cuttlefish, o-toro, chu-toro, cuttlefish, calamari, prawn, marinated akami, imperator, tamago, and this most fabulous piece of rich and umami fatty tuna neck that I’ve chosen as the highlight photo. Each bite was a delight, but this piece really took the cake as something special to remember.

Back to our regular programming, this lobster miso soup was delicious and warming. Unfortunately no tools were supplied with which to eat the our lobster friend’s meat, and while I can infer from this that it wasn’t meant to be eaten, this didn’t stop us from trying.

The star of the night and Chef Fukada’s specialty is this amazing temaki of uni, toro, and ikura. Essentially my three favourite sea products into one, each bite of this hand roll was bursting with oceanic umami flavours. Absoutely amazing.

A hot cup of matcha green tea signified the end of our main course, and the beginning of dessert.

Our dessert was a matcha white chocolate mousse, topped with boba with a side of sliced strawberry. Small and delicate, like the rest of our meal.

VERDICT
Kuon, by virtue of its exclusivity and unparalleled price-tier, is difficult to consider objectively. Most of the food, especially the bits that involved sea urchin or tuna belly, was certainly very good, however there were still some misses, not just for me, but also for the rest of our group. Comparing it to other Sydney fine dining establishments in this top-tier price range, I’d definitely consider Kuon ($240) to shoot above Quay ($290), and probably also Tetsuya’s ($250). Comparing it to other omakase experiences I’ve had in Sydney, however, I’m not sure that I can definitely say that our meal was worth three times that of our also-excellent omakase experience at Yachiyo ($80). That said, it’s probably the uni-toro-ikura hand roll, and the fact that my partner missed out (dutifully doing a locum in Victoria), that means I’ll probably be back at Kuon in due time.

Kuon Omakase
Shop 20/2-58 Little Hay St, Sydney NSW 2000
0488 688 252

Categories
Japanese Korean

Kumiho – Parramatta NSW Restaurant Review

PROLOGUE
Picture this. It’s my 26th birthday, just about to cap off two years of living and working in Western Sydney. One of the shining highlights of the Deep West has been Kumiho, a small and casual Korean-Japanese restaurant that I had only eaten at once but at which I had savoured each bite. It might not be my girlfriend’s favourite Japanese restaurant in the area (that prize would go to Touka), but it is mien. I ask my girlfriend if we can go. She says no. We order some pizza instead.

It was twelve months later, after a year in the Eastern Suburbs tasting everything that the Inner West and CBD had to offer, that we found ourselves back in Parramatta, looking at apartments and planning our move back to the West. My partner, after some incessant nagging, finally agreed to let me go back to Kumiho and let me tell you – even after all of the Japanese food I’ve had this year, Kumiho is still among the best I’ve ever had.

GENERAL COMMENTS
Kumiho is a mixed Korean and Japanese restaurant, providing authentic East Asian cuisine in a relaxed bar and restaurant setting. While it is part of the same group of restaurants as Sushi Hotaru, Wagaya, and Lantern, each venue offers a distinct dining experience – Kumiho being my favourite. Ordering is via tablet located at each table, a signature trait of these restaurants and helpful for those times when you just don’t want to interact with anyone. Service is fast, though it seems that the restaurant only has two jugs of water to share between all of its patrons, and as such you may be waiting for a long time for your water to be refilled. (No doubt at least in part to encourage you to buy drinks).

DISH BY DISH DIVE

The Tuna Tataki ($15) is brilliant. The outside edges are perfectly seared, with the inside retaining its sashimi quality. The tuna is fresh, high quality maguro, and the sauces complimented the flavour of the fish without overpowering it. Much better than the mess of failures in the seared tuna at COOH in Alexandria – a meal I’m still salty about.

The Unagi (Eel) Tempura ($9.20) was freshly fried, light and crispy. Each bite was filled with delicious umami flavours, and though it was smothered mayonnaise and tempura sauce I didn’t find it to be too overflavoured.

The Wagyu Bulgogi Hot Pot ($17) was quite good, and well priced for the size. My one complaint is that while I’m sure it was wagyu as advertised, I don’t think the fact that it was wagyu really added anything to the dish – the meat was not marbled at all.

The white fish with Korean miso handroll ($3.20) was a handroll of mystery fish and sesame leaf. The size was good for the price, but I don’t think either of us really enjoyed the unnamed white fish. Despite this, the rice and seaweed were of good quality. It’s a shame, though, and I think I’d still like to try some of their other handrolls.

The salmon belly nigiri ($2.50 per piece) was only slightly more expensive than the vanilla salmon nigiri, and well worth the upgrade. The salmon belly, complete with invisible flavour cuts, had a great texture and rich flavour. The kingfish belly nigiri ($3 per piece) was good, but unfortunately overshadowed by the salmon belly which provided a more special mouthfeel at a cheaper price (though it’s always good to have variety).

The Chicken Paitan Cloudy Ramen ($16.80) is an unfortunately weak temporary addition to Kumiho’s menu. Offered as part of a trial promotion, the ramen didn’t have much flavour other than salt and pepper. The pieces of chicken, whilst immersed in fluid, were paradoxically dry, and I hope this doesn’t become a permanent fixture on Kumiho’s otherwise good menu.

The Seafood Bowl with Miso Soup ($17) is an excellent chirashi don style deal with an assortment of sashimi (salmon, kingfish, and tuna) atop a bed of sushi rice and topped with some soy and chopped shallots. The pieces of fish were very generous in size and the ratio of fish to rice was on point. The miso soup was a warming and wholesome bonus to an already great bowl. A strong recommendation from me.

Both the Wagyu Skewer ($6) and Pork Belly Skewers ($4) were quite good and much better priced than most other restaurants. The beef was thick cut, not tiny peasant pieces at exorbitant rates as seen at places like Fugetsu and, oddly enough, Kumiho’s sister restaurant Lantern. The pork was thick and juicy, and the supplied white miso dipping sauce added a nice touch of umami. Both were good buys, though the pork was a bit better.

I quite liked the vegetable tempura ($11). Unlike most tempura dishes I’ve had in recent times, Kumiho’s tempura doesn’t take the easy way out by frying a bunch of root vegetables. Instead, Kumiho’s vegetable tempura features 2 pieces each of red capsicum, green capsicum, shittake mushroom, and carrot – a refreshing change, and a great selection of less-starchy vegetables.

The truffle kingfish sashimi ($15) is an experimental dish similar in vein to the tuna tartare, with diced sashimi kingfish, diced avocado, fried garnish, crispy seaweed, and truffled sauce in a large bowl. Whilst my partner liked the truffle flavours and thought that this was the rare dish in which truffle wasn’t just for added for show, I didn’t really like this as much as I did the tuna tartare reviewed above. It just felt a bit plain.

The aburi salmon nigiri (5 pieces for $11) features large, slightly thicker pieces of salmon with minimal sauce. They were great, especially considering that many restaurants make the mistake of drowning their aburi salmon in mayonnaise and tare.

The Korean pork bossam ($15) is a well priced and portioned plate, featuring pieces of fatty and lean pork, kimchi, cabbage, and shiso leaf for wrapping. The salad elements were fresh, and the meat generally well cooked, with the exception of some of the smaller morsels of pork which were a bit dry and overcooked. It is, however, overall a passing dish.

EPILOGUE
Kumiho provides great tasting Japanese and Korean food at a great price, with quality comparable to or exceeding its competitors in the Parramatta region. Keep your eyes peeled on this page as it gets updated throughout the year. I’m going to be living 3 kilometres away for the next twelve months. I’ll be sure to go back again and again.

5 tails / 1 fox

Kumiho
140 Marsden St, Parramatta NSW 2150
(02) 8872 5070