Lantern by Wagaya – Sydney CBD Japanese Restaurant Review

The third convening of the Intensive Care Japanese Cuisine Research Society occurred on the 25th of October 2020 at Lantern by Wagaya in the Sydney CBD. The location, a mixed-purpose karaoke bar and Japanese restaurant run by Chinese people was chosen as it was one of the few venues that could accommodate us late in the evening. Our original plan was to choose a place that would be suitable to host our colleagues finishing work at 8:30PM, and while the kitchen at Lantern closes at 9PM, the venue itself is open until 2AM.

Ordering was via a touchscreen tablet system. There was an extensive alcohol menu which we did not really partake in. This same company runs Sushi Hotaru in the Galeries, which is as far more sushi focused venture.

The wagyu beef skewers (2 for $13) were miniature and expensive. One of my colleagues said that he enjoyed the tender texture of the meat, but I couldn’t really tell that it was wagyu. Nothing to write home about.

The agedashi soft shell crab with tofu ($11.30) was a good size for the price and venue, however I felt like the flavour was lacking. The crab did not feel fresh to me, and I wouldn’t recommend getting this one.

The salt garlic fried chicken (karaage) ($10.50) was also a good size, however I did not enjoy it either. My colleague who enjoyed the wagyu skewers was quite keen on this and wanted to order more, but personally I did not think it had a fresh taste to it either. I would go so far as to say that it didn’t taste or feel like it was freshly fried, but I wonder what shenanigans would have to be going on behind the scenes for that to be the case.

I feel like a broken record but I don’t think the takoyaki ($7.90) was special either.

I actually thought the homemade dumplings (5 for $8.80) were quite good. Probably a reflection of the staff’s Chinese background.

Chicken yakitori was, similar to the wagyu skewers, small and expensive. I did enjoy their taste however, and thought that the chicken was tender and cooked well. I guess it is something that’s hard to do too badly.

The Salmon Chazuke ($8.50) was one of the stars of the meal. It consisted of a bowl of rice, topped with salmon, soaked in hot tea, and came strongly recommended from my senior colleague who had seen something similar in the TV show “Tokyo Midnight Diner”. I really enjoyed the warmth and wholesome feeling that this bowl gave me. It is great value, and a must try at Lantern.

The aburi salmon nigiri ($11.50) was good and priced reasonably. The portions were large, and the flavour was not muddled by excess sauce, which is a problem many restaurants face. A recommendation.

I could’ve lived without the dragon roll ($14), which was eel sushi topped with lotus root. It was my first ever fried lotus root and not that memorable.

I enjoyed the seared kingfish handroll ($4.50). One of my colleagues ordered a chilli cod roe and tuna hand roll ($4.50) – reportedly middling, and the other the soft shell crab hand roll ($4.80) – unreported.

Our first big ticket item was the assorted daily sashimi ($40.80). Unfortunately it only came with 3 pieces of the fish and egg, so I can only do a partial review from personal experience. I enjoyed the salmon – I thought the quality was quite good. The octopus had a nice sweetness to it, as did the scallop. The oyster was served natural, however both myself and my intrepid colleague added in our own lemon sauce vinaigrette. The tamago was soft and passable not not a specialty. My partner did not enjoy the tuna sashimi however I cannot say on personal experience. I do not know about the scampi and was too afraid to even ask about it as I did not want to get a sympathetic allergic reaction.

The large beef sukiyaki with extra beef ($34.50) was an unexpected hit with the boys. We were treated to a large bowl of tofu, mushrooms and vegetables, and 12 slices of beef in total which we cooked ourselves. The taste was good, however I would recommend asking for some rice to go with it. I would also recommend loading up on extra beef, especially if you’re not going to get a mountain of other dishes that we got. Every $5 gets you 4 slices of beef.

Overall we spent $225 between the four of us on the food listed above, as well as an additional ume chazuke ($8) and a yuzu sparkling jelly sake 180mL ($9.80). I thought that most of the entree-style food was a bit middling, but the sukiyaki, sashimi, and chazuke were good. I was initially keen to get a booth for more privacy, however they were offered at $6/person/hour, which was too much for us, especially as we had no intention of doing karaoke. The restaurant was pretty empty though, and it didn’t really make a difference in the end.

While I had a good time with my friends and colleagues, the good time did not stem from the food itself, but rather the company. I would think twice before bringing colleagues back to Lantern by Wagaya.

2.5/5 carrots.

Lantern by Wagaya
591 George St, Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9283 8828

Asian Fusion Café

Henry Lee’s – Redfern NSW Cafe Review

My partner will freely volunteer that I don’t usually pay much attention to my surroundings, both whilst eating, and also in general. Henry Lee’s was a bit of an exception – I thought it was a cool use of an old factory space – very Melbourne-esque – , with a nice sunny internal courtyard that we ate in.

Purple Fields + Soft Shell Crab

My partner picked The Purple Fields ($18) (braised broccoli, sweet corn, garlic & parsley puree, scrambled eggs, prosciutto dust, crispy fried kale, marinated feta served on sourdough) with an additional soft shelled crab ($5). I was nervous about the choice as it was one of the least appealing items on the menu for me, but I did not speak out. I did not enjoy this dish outside of the scrambled eggs and soft shelled crab. I did not enjoy the taste of the braised broccoli, and I could not identify the prosciutto dust (from a marketing perspective, why not just omit this unidentifiable meat component and just mark it as vegetarian?). The sourdough also got quite soggy with the scrambled eggs sitting on it. The only saving grace was that we spent an additional $5 on a soft shelled crab, which was fried nicely but I felt had a bit of a bitter taste (my partner did not share this concern.) Overall a $23 that I would rather not have spent.

The Benny Munro

The Benny Munro ($21) (Five spice braised pork belly, purple slaw,
turmeric pickled zucchini and crispy prosciutto with poached eggs & chipotle hollandaise, served on sweet corn & cauliflower croquettes) I enjoyed significantly more. The chipotle hollandaise, poached eggs, and slaw were a good combination. I did enjoy the single pickled zucchini that was allocated to me. One of the things I will mention is that when you order a dish with pork belly as the first ingredient listed you would assume that it would be a main component of the show. Instead what we got was two very small, somewhat dry pieces of pork belly, one under each egg. Having had a really good pork belly at The Cupping Room in Canberra in 2017, a dish that uses pork belly to its full potential, I expected much different and much better.

Hot beverages are one of the places where Henry Lee’s shines. I had the Tea Latte (left -$5), which was a lavender infused earl grey latte. It was my first tea latte (excluding the million chais), and I really enjoyed it. I enjoyed both the taste as well as the flower petal presentation. My partner had the Aztec Chili Hot Chocolate (right – $7) and it even came with a real chili! I was not sold on it but she enjoyed it a lot.

I went to Henry Lee’s today in search of Asian fusion brunch food, but ended up leaving disappointed. In retrospect I should’ve delved further rather than take the name at face value – it’s a reference to a Nick Cave song – and realised that while the menu had some Asian fusion elements these were more of an afterthought.


Henry Lee’s
16 Eveleigh St, Redfern NSW 2016

Henry Lee's Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Kuki Tanuki – Erskineville NSW Japanese Restaurant Review

Intrigued by the promise of aburi scallop and steam sake fish, we drove to and parked in Erskineville to eat at Kuki Tanuki. Unfortunately when we arrived we encountered a menu significantly different to what was posted online on Zomato (no doubt we had seen an old one). This is our story.

Wagyu Beef Bowl ($25) – The wagyu beef bowl was the most expensive dish that we tried. It was a large bowl of rice topped with seared beef and a low temperature egg. I personally found the beef to be very raw, and did not think it was seared enough. Chewing on the raw beef I could really imagine the life that Daisy had led in the fields and under the sun. The beef was so raw that I could still taste some of her emotions. My partner did not find the beef so raw as it was difficult to see in the lighting just how raw it was. I did however really enjoy the egg and how it mixed into the rice. I wonder if these guys could take some inspiration from bowlsoc, and their illustrious leader the Meat Master.

Chicken Yakitori with tare (3 for $9). I really enjoyed the yakitori. My partner often confuses yakitori and yakiniku and doesn’t let me eat it very often. One of the negative aspects of the yakitori and I guess the meal was that all of the dishes were served concurrently. The yakitori therefore had time to rest on the counter while waiting for the cow to be slaughtered and put directly onto the rice. In doing so, the yakitori cooled down and ended up a bit lukewarm by time of eating.

The sashimi nachos ($13) were a lot more deconstructed than I had anticipated. In my short lifetime all nachos I have had have had the tortilla chips mixed into the salsa/dip. In this case we were served discrete tortilla chips and a bowl of sashimi and salsa mix and given no instruction. Using my keen sense of innovatoin and drawing on my past experience I was able to scoop some of the nacho mix onto these chips. They were ok. The chips were crunchy. The filling was fine. I wish they had just come as tacos.

Tasmania Roll ($17). My partner is a big aburi salmon fan, and even though she was outside making an important call and I had to choose all of the dishes by myself I knew that she would like this. The Tasmania roll basically had some aburi salmon on top and avocado and cucumber in the middle. My partner quite liked it but in my humble opinion I did not like that the middle was only green. It was a field of wasted opportunity.

The Soft shell crab mini burgers (2 for $13) were good though a bit oversauced.

The Yuzu sake ($10) was expensive but very good. My partner is a big fan of sour things, and liked it so much that she asked them if she could buy some for home. The answer was no.

Overall we ended up spending $81 for a dinner for two but weren’t able to have the two things I really wanted. This makes me quite sad. We will try and come back if the scallops reappear.

Kuki Tanuki
 63 Erskineville Rd, Erskineville NSW 2043
(02) 8084 7438