Willoughby Road is alive with al fresco diners making the most of this unseasonably long summer. Tucked in amongst the restaurants along this vibrant strip, is En Toriciya, the sister restaurant to Toriciya in neighbouring Cammeray.
Chef Hideaki Fukada tells me the reason for having his restaurants so close to one other is so he "can look after both shops, because far away I cannot control.”
Yakitori – particularly tsukune, those delicious, juicy Chicken Meatballs ($4/stick) - are a specialty at this restaurant, while the Cammeray store is your go-to sashimi spot.
The highly competitive nature of the strip is reflected in the price of En Toriciya’s 9-Course Degustation Menu ($60/person). However it’s Chef Fukada’s love of sake and food matching that makes his Matching Sake ($20/head) package the real steal.
Thin slices of kingfish adorned with bright red umeboshi plum vinegar and green crushed jalapeno are dressed with yuzu soy, and teamed with the medium bodied Denemon ($14/tokkuri) from Echigo Denemon in Niigata. This junmai ginjo (polished to 60%) is smooth, and cleans the palate of any oiliness from the fish.
Polished to 50%, the Asabiraki Junmai Daiginjo ($22/tokkuri) from the Iwate prefecture is soft, round and gentle. It’s matched to a modern sashimi ceviche tostada, which I almost find a distraction from the sake’s beauty.
I have no such complaints about the baked savoy cabbage. This aromatic dish, my favourite of the night, teamed slightly charred cabbage with earthy truffle, dried chilli threads and ponzu.
Chef Fukada also presented me with the first cloudy sake I’ve really enjoyed – Nama moto-Dobu ($16/tokkuri) by Kubomoto brewing from the Nara prefecture. The sediment from the rice makes it cloudy, with a softly yoghurt-like flavour which is enhanced when it’s served quite hot, at 60 degrees Celcius.
It’ll suit tender miso black cod (another menu highlight) that flakes under the slightest pressure, and even stretch to sushi, traditionally served at the end of the meal. Despite this location being the sumibi (charcoal grilling) specialist, the sushi I tried was a highlight, not least of which for the high quality toro I was treated to.
The sushi rice stems from the Niigata prefecture, Japan's rice capital, and is a particular short grain rice called Koshihikari, thought to be the best rice you can choose for sushi. You'll also find the wasabi here is particularly potent, pounded from fresh Tasmanian wasabi root, unlike the cheaper powdered wasabi you'll find in many other places. So be careful to apply only a small amount to your fishes.
With an assortment of other courses, from creamy popcorn prawns dotted with bright orange roe, to deep fried chicken wings stuffed with the same filling as gyoza dumplings, this modern Japanese degustation menu will definitely sate your appetite, whilst teaching you a thing or two about sake pairing.
And the bargain price of sixty dollars even includes Chef Fukada's selection of desserts.
NOTE: If you love Japanese cuisine as much as I do, become a member of Washoku Lovers (for free) and receive today's carpaccio for only $10 when you dine: http://www.washokulovers.com/
100 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest
Ph: (02) 9438 1738