Categories
Japanese

Spanish Sakaba – Willoughby NSW Restaurant Review

The suburbs North of the bridge are full of Japanese-flavoured adventures, however they are can be difficult to access to us mere mortals. My South Eastern Sydney colleagues had previously had dinner at Spanish Sakaba, but missed out on their famous wagyu ramen. We therefore made a special decision to cross the bridge for a second time as a group to give it a go.

The Yuzu slushy ($8.80) was quite good, but very expensive and small.

The deep fried wagyu gyoza (4 for $10) were pretty good. The filling was more complex than the usual cabbage pork stuff that you get at most Japanese restaurants in Sydney. My brave senior colleague had the great idea to ask for an extra gyoza for an extra fee, so that we could each have one.

We each ordered a Trio Wagyu Ramen ($29.29), which was served in a large, hat-like dish (see above). This was a mixture of oxtail, sliced beef, and tri-tip in a thick chicken and beef soup. I liked this, however thought that the fatty meats made the soup too thick and rich. Apparently the wagyu oxtail ramen without the other two meats comes with a lighter soup.

The chef served the five of us a complimentary wagyu salad with horseradish dressing. In my opinion this was actually the best dish of the meal, and we were so surprised that we were offered it for free. It was really delicious, and it had plenty of just-charred meat. The horseradish dressing added a great flavour to the dish. I would honestly pay for this if I could, but I don’t think it’s even on the menu.

The Angus Beef Katsu with Chips ($27.80) was not what I expected. First off, $28 is a super expensive for a burger and chips. My colleague who had been here before said that it was a classic Japanese burger – I thought this would be some epic level hamburg. What it actually was was a katsu crumbed beef steak with cabbage and tonkatsu sauce. I thought it was good, but not great, and definitely not $28 great. The chips were fine. Normal shoestring chips.

The Chips with Osaka sauce ($7.50) were just fine. Neither strong nor weak.

My overall verdict is: good, expensive. Avoid beef burger. Get beef salad (try to order off the menu)

Spanish Sakaba
537 Willoughby Rd, Willoughby NSW 2068
(02) 9967 0575

Spanish Sakaba Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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