The advent of truffle season has seen truffle-enhanced dishes pop-up all-over town. Gaku Robata Grill won my business for two reasons. The first was a clever picture of their Truffle Tamagoyaki ($32), where five portions of Japanese free-range egg omelette are dusted with a generous amount of fluffy, shaved black truffle.
The second reason for my visit was they finally got the Council seal of approval for their robata grill after my initial review, so I was keen to give it a whirl.
From the sake of the month list, we begin our drinking adventure with Tsukino Katsura ($25/300ml), an unpasteurised sparkling sake, that is rather delightful. Think salt spray and lightly fermented yoghurt, with a fresh fruity finish.
By contrast the Kuromatsu Senjo ($36/180ml) is a faintly sweet, clean junmai daiginjo sake that’s perfect for gentler dishes like the well-presented Scampi ($28). In this dish a trio of pale pink shellfish rest on bed of crushed ice, their delicate, creamy flesh insulated from the cold by their own carapaces.
It’s topped with bright orange kombu (seaweed) cured sea urchin and served with a chunky aroma sauce that surprises me by being more strongly flavoured than Japanese sauces usually are.
If you ask me, the best dish on the short-run truffle menu is the Truffle Hiramasa Kingfish ($18) served with an intriguing puddle of smoked soy cream. You get a big earthy hit from the fungus, without losing the flavour of the fish, even against the cream.
The daily menu also includes limited season seafood, like Tasmanian uni, served as a Sea Urchin Hand Roll ($15/each) in crisp nori sheets that you roll up at the table for a creamy, briny flavour explosion cleaned up by house-pickled ginger.
For a spot of fun, the Foie Gras ‘Monaka’ ($12/each) is served in branded paper bags in a basket passed over the bar from the kitchen. It’s a play on the Japanese sweet called monaka that sandwiches a sweet filling between two crisp wafers made from mochi.
Chef Harunobu Inukai has replaced the azuki bean jam with saikyo miso (sweet, less salty miso) marinated foie gras and apple balsamic. It’s fun, tasty, and bound to make you smile.
And finally, from the robata grill I claimed to be here to try, we order Saikyo Yaki ($26).
This charry toothfish collar is a rich and fatty piece of deep ocean fish, with the rich intensity cut quite nicely by lime and Brussels sprouts.
While the dessert menu’s Yaki Imu ($10) is sorely tempting after watching documentaries where the street sellers sing about their roasted sweet potatoes, we’re off to a film so don’t have the fifteen minutes making time to spare. Luckily the sweet soy brushed Yaki Onigiri ($6/each) or grilled rice cakes, slathered with whipped grade A5 wagyu fat, function as Japanese crumpet-like desserts anyway!
Gaku Robata Grill might be tiny, but it punches way above its size, and, while the menu is pricy, it’s otherwise hard to fault.
NOTE: You can see my initial review of this venue back HERE.
Gaku Robata Grill
132 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9380 2145