Lunch @ Sushi Masaaki

January 12, 2022 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Before returning from my overseas work stint (in July 2021), I had heard from my foodie friends of how hard it was to make reservation at some sushi-ya. But if you know me… As long as the restaurants are not exclusive, I always believed everything is possible. Just need lots of planning, perseverance and luck!

So yes, Sushi Masaaki was one of them.

And taken from their website, reservation for lunch and dinner opens at noon daily, 91 days ahead. Don’t ask me why 91 days. Probably cause 30 plus 31 plus 30? Although it could have been 92; 31 plus 30 plus 31. But I digress. Keke.

I definitely lucked out with my reservation. It was a random day in July. I was serving my hotel quarantine when I decided to check out Sushi Masaaki’s reservation page. And there it was… A slot for weekend lunch in October. Though actually, it’s my friend who lucked out. The dine-in restriction tightened just before my meal; From 5 people to 2. It must have affected another group booking because when Sushi Masaaki dropped me a text to re-confirm my booking, they mentioned I could bring a friend if I wanted to!

I am usually one who prefers taking my trains and buses. But I’ve since caved in to the convenience of Grab and GoJek. Haha. Sushi Masaaki is located at South Beach. The development complex is big, so do direct the driver to the correct drop-off point (South Beach Hotel’s). Though it’s still a 5 minutes walk to the restaurant.

My friend and I entered the restaurant punctually for our 12.30pm appointment. Other customers were already seated and had started their meals. And from the menu, we ordered Sakae, $250 which comprised:-


  

1) Dish #1 (above) – Lightly-boiled (shabu) adult yellowtail (buri) with seasonal mushroom in ponzu sauce.

  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with salmon roe (ikura) and bean curd skin.


  

3) Dish #3 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi), medium fatty tuna (chutoro) and grilled bonito (katsuo) with snow salt.


4) Dish #4 (above) – Pike eel tempura with matsutake mushroom.

  
  
  
  

5) Dish #5 (above) – Sushi assortment of flounder and flounder fin, barracuda, marinated tuna (zuke akami), big eye snapper (kinmedai) with citrus pepper, horse mackerel (aji), surf clam, premium fatty tuna (otoro) and monkfish liver (ankimo) with pickled watermelon. I liked that the barracuda was served warm to better appreciate the oily fish. Though my least favourite was the otoro as it was a bit stringy.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Japanese spotted prawn (botan ebi) miso soup.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Rice bowl with sea urchin (uni) and salmon roe.

  

8) Dish #8 (above) – Hand roll of minced tuna.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Warabimochi.

10) Dish #10 (above) – Roasted tea.

11) Dish #11 (above) – Hokkaido milk ice cream.

Lunch was over in a flash. I guess that isn’t surprising when one is enjoying the meal tremendously. Every dish was great. Well… All except for the otoro sushi. And chef-owner Masaaki’s sushi rice (shari) was served warm and was on the fluffy side, which worked out fine for me.

And thanks to chef-owner Masaaki who had a good sense of humour, my friend and I had lots to laugh about. It was a fun meal! Some may find him familiar too. And that’s because he was previously the head chef of ISHI. Or going even further back, he was at Hashida Sushi. Compared to his ISHI days, chef Masaaki san definitely looked more carefree and happy in my opinion.

Would I recommend Sushi Masaaki? I would! But the thing too was… After my friend and I left the restaurant and our post-meal excitement subsided, we wondered if there should be 1 or 2 more sushi. We felt chef Masaaki san tried to make up for the fewer sushi by serving customers 2 desserts. Cause if I could choose, I would rather give up the second dessert for (more) sushi. Keke. And while this is trivial, but it’s nice that Sushi Masaaki didn’t charge us for the iced green tea.

SUSHI MASAAKI
26 Beach Road, South Beach Avenue, B1-17, Singapore
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 8
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 23:00 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon

Dinner @ Kisuke (Sydney, Australia)

April 15, 2021 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

I was lucky to have one more sushi meal at Osaka Bar during their last month of operation. And it was then while striking a conversation with Kazu Nakatani san’s wife (Mori san) that I learnt Osaka Bar’s lease will be taken over by the team behind Kisuke (previously located at Willoughby). So while I knew Kisuke was scheduled to open in March 2021, I forgot to keep track. Haha. By the time I remembered… Which was also when pictures of the newly opened Kisuke at Potts Point started appearing on Instagram (on 2 March, their official opening date), Kisuke was fully booked out for a month. The earliest seat I could get was for mid April 2021.

But I thank my lucky star because Hyota Sugihara san from Yoshii’s Omakase contacted me and mentioned he had seats for his friends at Kisuke. :) And thus, I was able to dine earlier at Kisuke in mid March instead.

There are two seatings at Kisuke. One at 5.30pm, and the second at 8.15pm. I was slotted for the first seating. And when I stepped through the entrance, I was truly impressed with what chef-owner Yusuke Morita had done with the space that previously housed Osaka Bar. It was a 180 degree change; Kisuke was bright, modern yet authentic, and cosy. In fact, the space looked so much bigger too! And once everyone was seated, I commenced my omakase dinner, AUD175 with:-


  

1) Dish #1 (above) – Appetiser; Abalone steamed in sake served with its liver sauce, Pacific rock oyster with ponzu, brussels sprout cooked in dashi and served with miso sauce, rolled egg (tamago), and soy-glazed duck with mustard seeds.


  

2) Dish #2 (above) – Clear soup made with bonito flakes and dashi, served with sand whiting, ladyfinger (okra), carrot and a slice yuzu peel. I ain’t sure if it’s intentional but the ingredients used for the soup was colourful; White, green, orange and yellow! Nice.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi assortment of bonito and snapper.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Steamed egg (chawanmushi) with bass grouper and soy-marinated salmon roe.

5) Dish #5 (above) – This was meant to be a beef dish. But because of my dietary requirement, the wagyu was replaced with trevally. What head chef Morita san did differently for my fish dish was that he grilled the sea urchin and trevally together (The wagyu was grilled too, but served with raw sea urchin). And to be very honest, I felt guilty towards head chef Morita san because I forgot to mention my dietary requirement through Hyota san. I only mentioned it at the restaurant when head chef Morita san was preparing the dish. So kudos to him! It was amazing how he managed to think off his feet and replaced the beef with fish for me. Although when he was shaving truffle onto the portions with beef, he didn’t put any on my fish. It was only after he served everyone their beef, then did he shaved me some truffle before serving. I later learnt from him that he was hesitant because he wasn’t sure of the taste since he didn’t try the fish with truffle.

  
  
  
  
  
  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Bass grouper, garfish mixed with ponzu, scallop marinated with dried kelp (kobujime hotate), torched (aburi) scampi with chopped yuzu peel, cuttlefish with lemon, shiso leaf and salt, sardine, imperador (kinmedai), 7-days aged blue fin tuna, marinated medium fatty tuna (chutoro zuke), premium fatty tuna – cheek cut (kamatoro), and sea eel (anago). I liked that head chef Morita san used the Japanese names of the fishes for introduction. It’s been a while since I heard that cause the chef normally used the fishes’ English names in Australia. And I got to say I was impressed when kamatoro was served. Although I wasn’t exactly happy with how my chutoro zuke looked. His sushi rice (shari) was stickier than average. But don’t get me wrong. It went well with the fish toppings (neta).

  

7) Dish #7 (above) – Minced tuna and spring onion (negitoro) and sea urchin hand roll.

8) Dish #8 (above) – Inaniwa udon in fish broth. So good! And this was prepared by head chef Morita san’s wife. And it was a joy watching her prepare the thin udon noodles dish. There’s so much grace to her movements!

9) Dish #9 (above) – Fruits for dessert!

10) Dish #10 (above) – Green tea.

I truly enjoyed myself at Kisuke. Head chef Morita san was friendly, although he’s still slowly warming up to having-to-pose-for-pictures; He did pose with the array of fishes (to be served for the sushi leg of our dinner), but he was too shy to make eye contact with our cameras. Keke.

And if I may just add… I would even use the word classy on them. Head chef Morita san is a real gentleman. It’s not often seen in restaurants, but he would serve all the female customers before serving the male. And I felt it was a nice touch that head chef Morita san’s wife was dressed traditionally. Right down to the footwear (Japanese flip flop – Geta). Wow.

I definitely see myself returning to Kisuke for many more meals! For the ambience, for the cute husband-wife team, and for the food! And at AUD175 per person, I felt it was money well-spent especially for the quality ingredients head chef Morita san was dishing out. Seats are released on a daily basis, almost 6 weeks in advanced. I know… It’s a little odd how it’s 6 weeks and not just 1 month. But it’s definitely good news that it’s not extremely difficult to secure a reservation (yet).

KISUKE JAPANESE
50 Llankelly Place, Potts Point, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 8871 7171, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sat : 18:00 – 22:45
Ambience: 8
Value: 8
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Dinner @ Yoshii’s Omakase (Sydney, Australia)

January 29, 2021 in Japanese by thywhaleliciousfay

Yoshii’s Omakase is the latest sushi-ya to join Sydney’s omakase scene. Opened in December 2020, Yoshii’s Omakase is located within Nobu at Crown Sydney. And as with the restaurant’s name, Yoshii’s Omakase is head-speared by head chef sushi master Ryuichi Yoshii.

I was extremely lucky with my dinner reservation. It was only through someone’s last minute cancellation that I was able to snag a reservation. Uh huh… I miraculously chanced upon a seat for Friday on a Monday. And on the day of my dinner, I received a call from the restaurant at mid-afternoon. I was informed to be punctual for my reservation at 6pm as it was the first seating, and was told that they may start the first course without me if I was late. Emphasis on punctuality certainly noted.

One of the first few differences that I noticed after arriving in Australia was that what’s called first floor in Singapore was referred to as ground floor in Australia. So it was really odd that the lifts in Crown Sydney didn’t use ground floor. And do note the lifts in Crown Sydney are destination controlled. To get to level two, one should choose ‘level 2’ on the keypad and wait for it to announce which elevator to take.

And yes, I was punctual for my 6pm reservation. Upon seated, the staff took my order for drinks. But the first 10 minutes into 6pm were spent watching the chefs preparing the ingrdients and plating the sashimi platter course. And at 6.10pm, I commenced my omakase dinner, AUD280 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Beetroot jelly with caviar, served in homemade broth made with bonito flakes and dashi.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Charcoal-grilled bluefin tuna and brocollini tossed in miso-vinegar-mustard sauce, and topped with shredded dried chili and leek.


  

3) Dish #3 (above) – Sashimi platter of i) radish, ii) river crab, iii) sea urchin wrapped with cuttlefish and topped with caviar, iv) roll of tuna, salmon, kingfish and cucumber, v) yellowfin tuna and avocado, vi) grilled swordfish, vii) salmon belly, viii) bar cod, and ix) premium fatty tuna (otoro). Served with homemade soya sauce. And this dish just screamed exquisite. It brilliantly showcased the chefs’ incredible knife skills and attention to small details. I mean, just look at the butterfly-shaped carrot on the wasabi!


  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Lobster wrapped with baby whiting, in clear soup (osuimono). The staff mentioned many other ingredients, but I lost track. Although I did manage to catch the staff saying this was typically a soup served during New Year.


5) Dish #5 (above) – Toothfish marinated in saikyo miso for 2 days before smoked in cedar. Paired with pickled radish. And the staff mentioned the dish was sushi master Yoshii san’s signature.

6) Dish #6 (above) – Ginger-mango sorbet.

  

7) Dish #7 – Sushi assortment (above) – Garfish topped with bone salt (left) and kingfish belly (right).

  

8) Dish #7 – Sushi assortment (continued) (above) – Similar to what chef head sushi chef Hyota Sugihara served during his Shiki days… He placed the (diced) cuttlefish sushi on our plate, but covered with shiso leaf. We were told to wait. It was only after we had 2 other sushi that he went on to remove the leaf, dap some soya sauce before re-putting it on our plate. And yes, this time for consumption. Sushi chef Hyota san warned us that the sushi would be soft, but I was a little surprised when the sushi nearly broke into 2 when I picked it up with my fingers.

  
  
  
  

9) Dish #7 – Sushi assortment (continued) (above) – Bonito with plum sauce, mackerel, bar cod, scallop from Queensland, yellowfin tuna marinated with soya and mirin, swordfish belly (which was torched for hint of smokiness), 2 pieces of premium fatty tuna (otoro) and squid.

  

10) Dish #7 – Sushi assortment (continued) (above) – Handroll of sea urchin from Tasmania and cucumber.

  

11) Dish #7 – Sushi assortment (continued) (above) – Sea eel (anago) drizzled with sushi master Yoshii san’s 28 years old master stock. And now… I highly suspect we were meant to have just 1 piece of sea eel. But because 2 in the group of 3 that sat beside me were too full, I was lucky to have 2 pieces of sea eel in mine.

12) Dish #8 (above) – Miso soup.


13) Dish #9 (above) – Egg omelette (tamago). The very dish that I was most looking forward to. Head sushi chef Hyota san shared that he had since adjusted the egg recipe under sushi master Yoshii san’s guidance. Still using paradise prawn, the amount of salt, oil and sugar was tweaked. So good! Was super lucky too that head sushi chef Hyota san entertained my request for a second. Keke. But if I’m to be very honest, I actually preferred the previous version. The egg omelette now felt heavier due to the evident wet middle layer.

14) Yamecha tea, AUD5 (above)

15) Dish #10 (above) – Bamboo charcoal ice cream with charcoal cracker.

16) Sake (180ml) (above) – Sharing a picture of my drink because it’s interesting that the sake was served in this ‘wooden crate’. Was told sushi master Yoshii san carried these back personally from Japan!

So what’s interesting odd at Yoshii’s Omakase was the sushi leg of my meal. Based on my past experiences and in (more) normal sushi-dining situations, 1 chef (usually the head chef) would ‘knead’ the sushi-s for all customers at the sushi counter. Even if customers were taken care by different chefs, the sushi-s were typically prepared and served in the same style/way. But at Yoshii’s Omakase, sushi master Yoshii san and head sushi chef Hyota san did the sushi in their own styles. Uh huh… For the 8 of us who were dining that night, the 2 chefs took care of 4 each. So while the fishes for the meal were the same, how the fishes were used for the sushi-s differed.

For example, sushi master Yoshii san chose thinly-sliced cucumber over roasted seaweed for his sea urchin nigiri sushi while head sushi chef Hyota san used roasted seaweed but served his as a handroll. Another example, sushi master Yoshii san put watermelon radish on his kingfish belly nigiri sushi while head sushi chef Hyota san drizzled his with soya sauce.

So in a way… Yes, I was slightly bummed because I came with the anticipation to try master chef Yoshii san’s sushi. But I wasn’t that bummed because I dined at Shiki before and knew I was in the good hands of head sushi chef Hyota san. In fact, I was really thrilled to see him again! :) One may argue head sushi chef Hyota san may not be as skilled as his mentor/teacher since master chef Yoshii san has 30 years of experience under his belt while head sushi chef Hyota san is with just 17 years. But I wish to highlight that it’s rude to purely correlate one’s skill just to the number of years.

Will I recommend Yoshii’s Omakase? I would, even though they are probably the most expensive at AUD280 among the other sushi-yas because I felt the price was justified by the quality of ingredients, the taste and visual of the food, and the ambience. I’m definitely going to try to book myself a return visit, and hopefully to be seated at master chef Yoshii san’s end of the sushi counter. Keke. Seats are released via their website on a monthly basis. Ie, March reservations are released on 1 February. Good luck! :)

YOSHII’S OMAKASE AT NOBU
Level 2, 1 Barangaroo Avenue, Crown Sydney, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 8871 7171, Website
Overall: 8
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Thur : 18:00 – 23:00
Ambience: 8
Fri – Sat : 17:30 – 23:00
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Mon & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.