Two bites into the delicately seared signature Scallop Carpaccio ($21), with the exotic accompaniments of soy brown butter, finger lime, young sorrel and dulse, and I’m kicking myself for not heading to Ume sooner.
The understated white-tiled room (once a butcher’s shop, then home to Bistrode) quietly oozes confidence.
And it should – I first ate the sophisticated, modern Japanese dishes of Head Chef Kerby Craig when he was at Koi in Woolwich, and it seems he’s only got better.
Sipping delicate Dassai 50 Junmai Daiginjo Sake ($39/180ml) I peruse the beverage list – wine, Japanese whisky and imported beer – they’ve got it all, with a range that belies the restaurant’s size.
Having taken the edge off my work day, I explore Japanese beers with Tako ($20), plump tentacles of sustainable Fremantle ‘giant’ octopus with shio koji potato, baby sun rose, pickled lime juice and soy. The mellow and slightly sweet Echigo Koshihikari ($17/500ml) rice beer proves my favourite.
Yebisu, Kirin and Asahi beers carry me through a gently updated Nasu Dengaku ($18) and soy-braised pork belly, Butaniku no Kahuni ($22) with cracking and fermented Chinese cabbage.
It’s enough to revive the most jaded of palates (and rule out interesting desserts) so the smart sommelier plied me with Japanese whisky instead…
Ume Japanese Restaurant
478 Bourke Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9380 7333