In the nineties when Suminoya first began, a CBD alleyway like Hosking Place, would have been unlikely to even have residents. Over the ensuing years, what began as a Japanese restaurant doing traditional charcoal barbeque cooking inside the kitchen, expanded to include charcoal barbeques at every table. At the same time, Sydney moved from being a place where we came to work, to a place where many people also began to live. The surrounding City of Sydney area saw a thirty percent increase in residents in the decade between 2005 and 2015.
Today there are now residents living a mere six metres away from where the exhaust from this busy Japanese restaurant exits, ten levels above the street. The ensuing years have also seen a number of coroners' cases where people have died from carbon monoxide poisoning after bringing their charcoal barbeques indoors for heat. This double-edged sword of health risks (particularly for staff) and resident complaints, have built a case for City of Sydney to decide that individual charcoal barbequing might not be possible in the big smoke (if you pardon the pun) - well at least without a state of the art exhaust system pumping out 10,000 litres per second. Though Council staff were quick to admit they came to this decision reluctantly, because “the flavour is fantastic.”
So expect to find gas barbeques and a whole lot of industrial hardware hovering over your table when you now come for yakiniku at this longstanding Japanese restaurant. And while there is a cost to the intrigue and aroma that once emanated from this CBD alleyway, the obvious advantage is you can now nip back to the office after a long lunch without your hair and clothes reeking with the tell-tale aroma of barbeque.
Beer goes hand in hand with barbeque, and Japanese barbeque is no exception. My favourite is the Koshihikari Echigo Beer ($15/500ml) made from Niigata Koshihikari rice – the finest rice grown in Japan.
A Three Choice BBQ Set ($26.90) here comes with salad, rice and miso soup, offering up a full and balanced meal.
It’s further improved by clever collective ordering that - even between two people - allows you to load up your barbeque with a diverse and interesting feast.
Seeing the Joto Seafood truck unloading supplies in the alleyway inclined us towards including some seafood in our grilled meat adventure. Three salt-topped prawns in the shell, wagyu rib fingers and a fan of pork rib slices made up my personal selection.
My dining companion opted for scallops, duck and thin slices of beef tongue.
Each table is also charged a buck for a disposable mesh barbeque cover, courtesy of another new health regulation. However the increase in rules and regulations are quickly forgotten when you get to the fun part of cooking your own lunch.
With Japanese barbeque there's less marination (a few items are sauced) and very simple dipping sauces in comparison to the big flavours of Korean barbecue. This centralises the quality of the ingredients, and of the ones we chose, it is the wagyu rib fingers that shine most brightly.
With a good firing on the grill, they dissolve in your mouth with a big hit of rich, beefy flavour.
Beef tongue is another winner - and every time I try this cut, regardless of cuisine, I wonder why we leave such a good and tasty part of the cow out of our day-to-day beef eating at home? When the opportunity cost is so low - even an extra plate will only set you back $9.90 - I hope you consider giving this tasty secondary cut a go!
NOTE: If you love Japanese cuisine as much as I do, become a member of Washoku Lovers (for free) and receive free ice cream when you dine: http://www.washokulovers.com/
1 Hosking Place, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9231 2177