Categories
Japanese

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

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
Fine Dining Japanese Latin American

Nikkei – Surry Hills NSW Restaurant Review

After a couple of aborted attempts at eating at Nikkei over the past year, my partner and I finally made it over there to try their $88 pp Japanese-Peruvian tasting menu, inspired by the apparently quite significant Japanese diaspora in Peru. This is a restaurant from the group that runs Osaka Trading Co (which I did not love), but is much better.

The first thing I noticed and enjoyed was this sweet wooden communal dining table. It looked expensive, perhaps carved out of a single tree, and potentially a lot of money. I’d love to have one of these tables in my home one day, to entertain no one. The second thing was this nice drinks menu, bound in a very Midori Traveler’s Notebook esque leather covering, complete with a little bit of patina which I hope continues to develop as the restaurant continues to exist.

Our first little nibble were the empanada bites, two of which were allocated to each diner. These small deep fried bites were crispy and crunch, mostly unidentifiable generalised fried stuff (perhaps it is the edamame but reconstituted?) filled with a small amount of surprisingly large-grain choclo (Peruvian) corn and topped with parmesan cheese. The smoked mayonnaise topping and bottoming, which held the bites to their paper base, was well liked by my colleagues around the table.

These Hokkaido scallops were quite special, presented in a huacatay (Peruvian black mint) butter, tangy acevichado (ceviche-like) salsa, and tiny balls of arare cracker. The scallops were sweet with a nice torch-born sear to them. The sauce that they were bathed in was both creamy and citrusy, while the lightly puffed arare cracker added additional textural interest, like tiny rice puffs. I would recommend eating this with a spoon to not miss out on all of those beautiful flavours in the sauce.

While not all colleagues around the table were impressed by the ceviche de pulpo, I actually thought it was quite good. This was a classic-ish ceviche with a nice tender octopus instead of fish, bathed in a marinade of lime juice and spices, and served with cancha corn, or toated corn kernals. My partner, lover of citrus but hater of certain seafoods, enjoyed this dish, as did I. I thought the flavours were quite bright and fresh, and again enjoyed the variety of textures and flavours offered by the crunchy toasted corn.

The causa sushi is in my opinion an attempt to innovate just a little too much. On offer was a piece of scampi nigiri topped with ikura, and a piece of yellowfin tuna gunkan each. The twist here is that Nikkei has used a mashed-potato base as opposed to rice, an ingredient we were told is common in Peruvian cuisine. While I had a bit of hesitation to eat raw scampi (thinking back to this allergic reaction I had at Moxhe) I told my two anaesthetic colleagues that I was for full resus and went to town on the first scampi I’ve had in a very long time. I think I might have become desensitised.

The seafood was fine, the scampi was sweet and the cubed tuna a little spicy and actually quite tasty. Unfortunately I wish they had just stuck with rice though, as the texture of the causa just didn’t do it for me. Poor rice in sushi can mean the difference between good sushi and bad sushi, and not-rice sushi just makes it all that much worse.

The wagyu maki that followed renewed my sadness that the causa sushi was not just regular sushi. The rice in this was actually quite good. The lightly seared thinly sliced MBS8+ rib eye was well liked by one of my learned colleagues, though to be honest I was less of a fan of the meat itself, but still a fan of the overall package. I enjoyed the mixture of yakinku sauce and anticucho sauce, a sauce we were told was commonly used in Peru for grilled chicken, as well as the crunchiness of the vegetables rolled inside the warm sushi rice.

The chuleta de cerdo was again another dish that was well liked by all the friends around the table except me. I personally thought that the Tokachi-style kurobota pork rib eye was a bit too fatty for me – certainly there was enough lean meat to go around, but perhaps my first piece was just 40% fat and it just set a bad tone for the rest of the dish. I can’t criticise the meat’s tenderness or sweet-savoury flavour, but it is just unfortunate that the texture of the first bite was offputting. What I did enjoy thoroughly in this dish was the delicious sweet potato chips, which were thin, tasty, and went well with just a bit of the meat’s sauce. This dish was served with some charred lemon to squeeze onto the meat, but I didn’t find that it improved my experience. Again – the three other diners on the table universally loved this pork but I just need to tell you how I feel.

I wasn’t crazy about the ensalada de verano. I thought that while they did innovate a little with some spicy yuzu kosho, the leaves were a bit bitter. Whatever. It’s vegetable.

This matcha alfajor dulce de leche ice cream sandwich was actually quite good. A bit difficult to crack without smushing the ice-cream out from under the biscuit, but really quite pleasant tasting. Not too sweet.

THOUGHTS
I quite enjoyed the opportunity to eat all of these Peruvian ingredients (particularly interesting corns and sauces) that I’ve never had the chance to eat before. Some of it was quite different, but still tempered in the familiarity of all the Japanese food that my partner and I tend to eat. I quite enjoyed the raw seafood based dishes at the start, moreso than the cooked dishes towards the end, but I do think that overall Nikkei gets a recommendation from me. Many blessings to this crew. (I also enjoyed the unobtrusive but good and knowledgeable service.)

Featured colleagues: AG, LMMH

Nikkei Bar & Restaurant
216 Commonwealth St, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8880 9942

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