You’ll find Kabuki Shoroku directly across the arcade from Sakuratei at the rear of St. Martins Tower. The aging décor of this long-established Japanese restaurant is more elegant and tranquil than its lower-rent sibling.
I’m shown to my seat at the marble sushi counter by a woman taking tiny steps in a kimono, geta and tabi (special socks worn with Japanese wooden sandals). There’s a wooden rack of knives on display behind the sushi chefs, backed by a textural organic art piece that has bamboo leaves etched onto it. Overhead a bamboo framework of poles holds the lighting.
Even the view is textual with dancing leaves highlighted over a sprayed concrete car park with the unsightly traffic below shaded out by bamboo-etched frosted glass.
Positioned at the sushi counter, on my first visit I order the Seared Sushi Assortment ($60/10 pieces) and a cup of Green Tea ($4.80). The tea arrives quickly and is delicate and fragrant in a small ceramic cup that’s wordlessly refilled before I reach the bottom. Presented on slate, the seared sushi selection contains eight seared nigiri sushi pieces, two raw tuna topped with mayonnaise and crisp panko crumbs for some textural interest, and six small uramaki filled with salmon. In the latter, the rice is on the outside, and here it’s a bit loose and distracting, but it was fine on the aburi nigiri selection.
While my platter was presented without any indication of what I would be eating, scampi nigiri is easy to recognise. It has been buttered and kissed ever so lightly with heat so that the creamy raw texture of the crustacean isn’t lost in the tail. I’m also enamoured with the thickness of the scallops, which gives you nice textural contrast between cooked and raw. The salmon belly has been given enough of a blast to make the fat ooze against curls of green shallot that cut against its richness.
While I enjoyed my lunch, I found myself questioning the value when I paid the $64.80 bill. I resolved to return for a second time and see what value could be had on their wider menu. Kabuki’s Special Lunch ($35) starts with a simple salad – an iceberg lettuce, cucumber and tomato affair, dripping with a tangy pink dressing that reminded me of seafood sauce. Each diner then makes a selection of three plates from twelve-strong list, that are served with miso soup and a small bowl of steamed rice.
Kicking my trio off with the sashimi assortment, I was served five slices of thick-cut fish. The salmon had good flavour, though the tuna was even better.
Three grilled scallops arrived in a surprisingly tangy Kabuki cream sauce that make them more about sharp tartare than mornay with melty cheese. I accompanied them with a Japanese craft beer - Coedo Ruri Pilsner ($14/333ml), a toasty golden quaffer that was easy to down.
My favourite dish proved to be barbequed eel, glistening with a lovely sweet glaze that wasn’t so strong as to knock out the flavour of the fish. At $49 this was a better value meal, that certainly didn’t send me back to my desk hungry. While I appreciated the tranquil feel of Kabuki Shoroku - well, bar for the loud Caucasian businessmen using the space for high volume lunch meetings - it’s still a stretch to see what justifies its much higher pricing.
Ground Floor, 31 Market Street, Sydney
Ph: (02) 9267 4552