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Café Japanese

Kurumac – Marrickville NSW Cafe Review

Kurumac’s hanging basketball

Kurumac is one of the first Asian cafes I ever visited, and one of the ones that got me hooked on the concept. An inner-west spin off of Kirribilli’s cool mac, Kurumac delivers some of the best and only Japanese-focused breakfast and brunch in the city, with the added benefit of not having to rub shoulders with the sleazy political types that haunt its North Shore sister. While most Asian cafes do their best to fuse both Asian and Western flavours, Kurumac proudly serves a focused Japanese meal.

Assorted sashimi seafood, sushi rice, miso soup

The Assorted sashimi seafood, sushi rice, miso soup ($19 when eaten in June 2020, now sadly $25 in December 2020) is a revelation. It was the first and still one of the best sashimi bowls I’ve ever had. The top layer of salmon sashimi is lightly grilled and slightly sauced to perfection. The salmon roe is delicious and it is clear that they took effort to source some high quality produce. The scallops are sweet and fresh, as are the cooked prawns. The miso soup was the perfect accompaniment to the remaining rice at the end of the dish. While not mini in size, I would consider this a mini-version of Simulation Senpai’s Hoseki Bako, very high quality but missing some of the luxury elements.

Grilled samlon congee, salmon skin

The grilled salmon congee with crispy salmon skin ($17) was so good that we had it twice. The congee is warm and wholesome, with a nice serving of grilled salmon and a topping of delicious salmon roe and shallots. The grilled salmon provides a umami flavour that permeates the entire congee, while the crispy salmon skin on the side adds a delightful crunch with an additional burst of salt. The preserved vegetables on the side are more sweet than salty and thus help to add balance to the dish.

The Pickled mustard, Cod Roe Omlette, Rice, Tonjiru Pork and Veg Soup ($19) is the weakest of all of the dishes I’ve had at Kurumac. The top half of the egg was nice, but it wasn’t immediately obvious that the cod roe would be in discrete parcels of saltiness and spiciness rather than mixed in with the egg – this led to lost opportunities as it was quite a while into the dish that I found them. The soup of strong onion and radish taste was a bit too salty and tasted a bit too agricultural for me. I wouldn’t recommend this dish.

Spicy cod roe melt

The spicy cod roe melt ($12) is an expensive but delicious piece of toast with a huge amount of heavy, rich spicy mentai mayo on top. This was one of the dishes that rekindled my interest in cod roe, and I actually tried to recreate it at home to much less success. Not Kurumac’s healthiest dish, but well worth a try.

Japanese Style White Toast, Seaweed Butter

While the spicy cod roe melt is a heavy and decadent piece of bread, the Japanese Style White Toast with Seaweed Butter ($6) is much lighter. This is a simple dish of a very thick piece of toast (in my opinion it is too thick) and a small bowl of seaweed butter. The seaweed butter provides a nice umami flavour, but in my opinion is a bit too mild to enjoy with such a large quantity of bread, even when fully spread over the toast. This would suit individuals with a more delicate palate.

The seasonal milkshake ($9.50) changes with the season. Mine was a large kiwifruit milkshake made with gelato from Newtown’s Mapo (one of my favourite gelato stores). It is huge and expensive, served within the metal milkshake tumbler. I would recommend the Hojicha Milkshake, available for the same price, if available.

The Latte ($4) is just normal coffee.

The Matcha Latte ($4.50) is quite good, served in a nice little stone cup. It is not sweetened.

CONCLUSION

You may be able to tell that I really like Kurumac. It’s one of my favourite cafes in Sydney, and I expect that as time passes and their menu changes you will also see new items added to this review.

5/5 basukettobōru.

Kurumac
107 Addison Rd, Marrickville NSW 2204
(02) 8593 9449

Kurumac Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Categories
Japanese

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

Categories
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