The first thing that strikes you is the decor, to me it was instantly preferable to the old decor, but hearing our conversation about it, General Manager Kiehyon Yoo remarks: “It’s not so much what we’ve done; it’s what we’ve undone.” They have stripped the place back a bit.
The net effect is earthy, natural tones which are the perfect foil to the funky, upbeat atmosphere. You won’t even mind not being able to book for dinner - Kiehyon is an expert at juggling! While you wait, chat to Bar Manager Paul Birtwistle (ex Zuma), who’s also the sake sommelier. Let him show you his favourite - Sato No Homare Kurogin Junmai Ginjo ($112/bottle, $55/bamboo, $11/glass) - you'll smell tropical fruits, and it has a nice, clean flavour.
Rest assured, the food is amazing! We started with a bowl of Spicy Edamame ($6.30) which were so nice, I ate them compulsively through the sake tasting we had with Paul Birtwistle!
The kitchen is huge, and divided into sections that produce different styles of dish. We started at the sushi bar with Hiramasa No Usuzukuri ($15.20), or thinly sliced kingfish with sesame dressing.
The San Tem ($19.50) (or chef’s selection of sashimi) came with salmon and two types of tuna, and was a textural sensation! It was nice to eat two contrasting tunas at the same time - I preferred the fattier cut (lighter in colour) which practically melted in my mouth!
I cooed over the great soft-shell crab in the Watari-gani Kara-age ($15.90) which, according to Kiehyon, is one of their best selling dishes. It was the best example of soft-shell crab that I have tried to date, particularly the quality of the crab itself, which was more fleshy than most.
Perhaps the most memorable moment for me was the Dengaku Nasu ($9.20) (or eggplant with sweet miso) which had me exclaiming: “At last, rewarding, challenging, complex vegetarian food!” I loved the simplistic presentation of this dish, and I ate every delicious bite of it with relish. If you are vegetarian, you simply must try this dish.
I marveled at the perfectly cooked huge king prawns in the Kuruma Ebi Yuzu Fumi ($18.20). These prawns inspired me to go to the Fish Markets where I found similar huge king prawns, and we cooked them in a similar way at home - split on the shells. The result was sublime at home too!
From their Robata Grill, the Kamo Nashi Namasu ($28.20) (or duck breast with Sansho pepper and pickled nashi pear) was simply perfect. I loved the collection of herbs in the pile of spice, and the crisp flavour of the nashi pear, they made a perfect contrast to the fattiness of the duck.
As this was a lunch (and I am not used to eating as much at lunch time) I was absolutely stuffed by the time our final dish came - the Ami Yaki Hireniku ($26.50) which is a piece of beef fillet served with a sweet sesame soy sauce. The presentation was also beautiful, and the dish was great - I felt bad not being able to do it justice!
Desserts are apparently great, so don't take me not trying one as any reflection on their quality - I was just too full! Overall, it’s a big menu, there’s plenty to enjoy; and it’s now open until midnight on Fridays and Saturdays! I enjoyed my experience so much that I am keen to go back to try the rolled sushi!
490 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9357 6100