Japanese pasta really came to my attention at Eiju Fusion Japanese Dining in Pyrmont. There, the talented chef Hideki Okazaki puts out a tart lemon foam and shiso-topped mentaiko spaghetti that saw me racing back to the restaurant to eat it again. Mentaiko is a salted spicy cod roe product that comes from Fukuoka City in Japan. It has recently become popular in Japan on pasta dishes where it is combined with butter and topped with nori strips. This is how you’ll eat it at Pasta Wafu in The Exchange.
The very name of this salaryman-style eatery, Pasta Wafu, means pasta Japanese-style. In other words, they’re making a low-rent version of Italian pasta classics reinterpreted through a Japanese palate.
Jointly owned by Kerby Craig (ex-Koi and Ume) and Hamish Ingham and Rebecca Lines (Bar H and Banksii) the casual, food court-style outlet would probably work better for lunch than dinner.
Their Mentaiko Spaghetti ($14) comes with a nori topper, though we added Parmesan ($2) as well to achieve a tasty (cardboard) bowl of pasta that punched umami with no additional seasoning required.
Across both the mentaiko spaghetti and the more mildly flavoured Kinoko Spaghetti ($14), the delicate, noodle-like strands of pasta were a silky highlight. The latter dish uses shio koji sauce, made from salt, water and rice koji (the same live mould culture that gives us miso, soy sauce and sake) to enhance richness and help you digest starches against sparse mushrooms and shoyu butter.
We added on the suggested Onsen Egg ($4) as well as Parmesan ($2), which took it to a twenty-buck dish. To my eye, this felt poor value for the amount of protein it contained and the cardboard container serving style.
It was elevated slightly by being able to consume it against a sake cup of Kunizakari Saika Daiginjo Sake ($16). However when you consider that you can eat Eiju’s version of this dish on quality crockery just a kilometre up the road for an additional four bucks, I don’t see myself returning to Pasta Wafu except maybe for a fast workday lunch.
Maker's Dozen, The Exchange
Shop 9/1 Little Pier Street, Haymarket
Ph: (0481) 463 223