Fronted by a little takeaway bar, with quite a surprising view, Sushi & Grill @ York Street is actually a moody little underground restaurant.
The restaurant downstairs makes all the nori rolls you see at the counter upstairs, so even if you grab lunch on the run, you can be assured that your sushi hasn’t sat there all day. Pulling up on their al fresco padded banquettes to eat my choice of Three Rolls ($8), I was struck by how nice the view is, taking in the green domed cupolas of the late-nineteenth-century Queen Victoria Building, backed by the tower formerly known as Centrepoint.
Each of my selected rolls – salmon and avocado, a California roll, and tofu and vegetable – ate like it had been freshly made, with flexible nori, crisp cucumber, and creamy avocado that hadn’t past its prime.
Downstairs the space is dark and cave-like, warmed up with standard Japanese décor elements, including shoji screens that hive off private dining areas.
While there’s no natural light, I imagine in winter it would feel cosy and welcoming.
Staff are friendly, eager to please, and quick to apologise when your Sushi and Sashimi Lunch Set ($14.50) goes wrong, with only the 8-piece salmon, tuna and kingfish component arriving.
The error is quickly rectified with miso soup, salad and tempura vegetables arriving fairly quickly afterwards. My low alcohol (4-7%) Lemon Sake ($8) cocktail has a faint limoncello edge without being sharp. It’s a nice, day-time drink against the sashimi, which, once on a busy lunch-hour, edged towards thick and crude, though when I dined later, seemed to right itself.
Wasabi here is plentiful and strong, presented in the same proportions whether you order cheap items like Avocado Baby Rolls ($4/6 pieces) or larger ones.
On a subsequent visit I checked out the Mixed Grilled Nigiri ($19.50), let down in arrival by staff not explaining what you will be eating.
Taking up most of the width of the table, the long, 9-piece nigiri sushi platter included three pieces of aburi salmon lashed with duelling sauces and studded with chives and orange roe.
Each piece is gently kissed with the blow torch, then topped with a unique topping, ranging from a ring of red chilli to black caviar on the barely set scallop, all the way to simple sesame seeds on the nori-wrapped grilled eel.
For something a bit decadent, Uni ($27.50) gives you an arrangement of sea urchin roe sashimi and nigiri sushi pieces with cucumber, radish slices, parsley and roe, served in tangled daikon. It’s a lovely celebration of this premium ingredient that makes for a fancy lunch treat to break up a long day in the office.
Sushi & Grill @ York Street
Lower Ground, 119 York Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9264 7888