Dinner @ Sushi E (Sydney, Australia)

January 19, 2021 in Japanese

After arriving in Sydney in 2019, I embarked on my unofficial big (and maybe even ambitious) plan to dine at as many sushi-yas as I could in Australia Sydney that offered omakase. I used the words ‘unofficial plan’ because it’s really my love for sushi that sent me on my hunt for good sushi. And of course, my other love to try new places. Keke.

And no thanks to COVID-19, my overseas stint in Sydney (2019 to 2021) could be categorised as ‘pre-COVID lockdown’ and ‘post-COVID lockdown’. Some of my ‘pre-COVID lockdown’ omakase meals included Jizakana, Osaka Bar, Sushi E and Harada. And my dinner reservation at Sushi E was done via Sushi E’s website. Sushi E offered table seats, and counter seats for both omakase and non-omakase menus. So one should make sure ‘omakase’ is indicated when making one’s reservation.

Located on the fourth floor of the building, I initially thought I was at the wrong place after stepping out of the lift because the restaurant signage that came into sight was for Hemmesphere. It was only as the receptionist led me to the sushi counter, then did I realise Sushi E shared the unit space with Hemmesphere.

The sushi counter was big and looked like it could cater to many people for the omakase course. However reality was that only a small section of the rectangular-shaped counter island was allocated for omakase. Upon seated, the staff confirmed my dietary restriction for no beef. For drinks, I chose not to go with the wine pairing, but stuck to my iced green tea. And it was nice that the waiting staff gave me a glass of water even though I mentioned I was good with just my green tea. :)

Once everyone arrived (there were 5 of us that night), chef Wai Ha Chuen introduced himself before going on to mention our omakase course comprised 5 entrees (from the kitchen), 10 sushi, a main course and 2 desserts. And with that, I commenced my omakase dinner, AUD150 with:-


  

1) Dish #1 (above) – Pommes soufflé with scallop (hotate) tartare and caviar, and choux puff with Tasmania sea urchin and creme fraiche. I really enjoyed these.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Aged alfonsino. And it’s interesting that 1 of the toppings was blood orange.

  

3) Dish #3 (above) – Cold dish of somen, (raw) scampi, salmon roe in scampi dashi and scampi oil. This was really good.


4) Dish #4 (above) – Dashi-flavoured steamed egg (chawanmushi) with spanner crab. And we were told the crab was boiled with salt water before the flesh was removed from the shell.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Scampi prawn grilled over binchotan charcoal, and served with seaweed butter.

  
  
  
  
  

6) Dish #6 (above) – Pink snapper with kombu, 7-days aged medium fatty tuna (chutoro), squid (ika) and urchin with shaved egg yolk and lime, John Dory with salt, aged alfonsino, salmon belly with spicy radish and shiso leaf, scallop with shaved sea urchin, scampi with burnt miso butter, kingfish belly with miso and finger lime, and slow cooked egg yolk with caviar. And yah, was slightly bummed that the yolk had burst when it was served. That said, chef Wai made all 5 pieces before serving them to us. I personally preferred sushi to be given/served after every piece was made. But that’s me… And unfortunately, I didn’t particularly like the sushi rice (shari) too. There was something about its seasoning. Hmm…


  

7) Dish #7 (above) – What’s on the omakase menu for the main was a beef donburi. However, mine was replaced with koji fish because of my dietary requirement. And my koji fish definitely paled in comparison when compared against the beef. So while I noticed from instagram that chef Wai usually presented the beef on the rice in the claypot… He presented the beef separately on a plate for the other 4 customers to take pictures that night. And I appreciated that because we were served mushroom rice from that one claypot.

9) Dish #8 (above) – Palette cleanser with raspberry sorbet being the key ingredient.


9) Dish #9 (above) – Mandarin, yuzu milk and yuzu marmalade sandwiched between wafer biscuits (monaka).

So what stood out from my meal at Sushi E was that dishes of our omakase course was prepared (and served) by 2 chefs. Dishes prepared at the sushi counter were by sushi chef Wai while dishes coming from the kitchen were by head chef Michael Fox. So yes, dinner felt like it was a collaboration between Japanese and European. Best of both worlds? Keke.

Dining experience was unfortunately slightly marred by the draggy bill process. But that of course had nothing to do with the chefs. And I usually make payment in cash, but I forgot to withdraw sufficient cash that night. So my bill came up to AUD159.65 (including credit card surcharge) instead of AUD158. Of which, AUD8 was for the iced green tea. And I know… The difference is just less than AUD2. But I don’t like the idea of upfront card surcharge. Hee.

Would I recommend Sushi E? Well… If one is looking for an authentic Japanese omakase dining experience, other sushi-yas would come to my mind. But if one is looking for a fun (ie, not strictly Japanese) meal, Sushi E would be an option! Cause I’ll be upfront honest… But going to Sushi E with the anticipation of a Japanese (omakase) meal, I left the restaurant enjoying the dishes that came out of the kitchen more. Oops.

SUSHI E
Level 4, 252 George Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 9114 7314, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Fri : 12:00 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Sat : 18:00 – 22:30 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Sun

Dinner @ Gou Sushi (Sydney, Australia)

December 28, 2020 in Japanese

One could say my quest to find more Japanese restaurants offering omakase in Sydney doesn’t stop. Not when a few of my favourites (1, 2) have since closed down. Ultimate sadness.

Gou Sushi has been in operation for 5 years. But it’s interesting that they don’t have much online presence despite of that. I wasn’t able to find any information on their omakase course or of their reservation system for omakase. So I dropped them a message on Facebook even though the Instagram post, which I first read about Gou Sushi, mentioned slots for omakase were fully booked till (end) January 2021.

And I was really fortunate; The staff managing their Facebook account mentioned they were booked out but offered to check if they could fit me in (as a solo diner). So yeah! The rest is history I guess, because I secured a reservation for mid-December. :)

To shed some light on the omakase course offered at Gou Sushi… It’s only available on Saturdays. But not every Saturday though. Head chef Rio Lau Chun Man takes a break every 2 weekends. Uh huh. Say omakase is available on Weeks 1 and 2. It’s not available on Week 3 as the restaurant closes to rest. And then it’s back again on Weeks 4 and 5. But omakase aside, head chef Rio mentioned set menus are offered on weekdays, together with a-la carte menu.

I reached early at 5.50pm for my 6pm reservation. And if one’s booking is for the first seating, I recommend coming either punctually (at 6pm) or 1 minute later because they only unlock the main door at 6pm sharp.

And Gou Sushi being a conveyor-belt sushi restaurant, the space was designed with the conveyor-belt placed in the center of the space in a rectangular layout. So I stepped through the entrance to see head chef Rio standing in the middle of the ‘belt’ island. And upon seated, the staff passed me the omakase menu and drinks menu.

Interestingly (again), I thought everyone had to be present before our omakase course started. But heaf chef Rio started me off first. It was later through my conversation with him that I realised another group of 4 was meant to be present at 6pm too. But head chef Rio went on to say he’s flexible (with timing) because most of his customers for his omakase course were regulars. In fact, he shared his Saturday omakase came about because of requests from his regulars. And if one was curious… The group of 4 only arrived at 7.25pm.

So yes… My omakase menu, AUD85 comprised of:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Abalone sashimi. With dashi jelly and ponzu sauce. I guess I must be too used to eating braised abalone because I was expecting this to be tender too. However, this was crunchy (as how abalone sashimi would be). It’s texture reminded me much of geoduck sashimi.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Crab chawanmushi.

  
  

3) Dish #3 to #6 (above) – Bass grouper kombu-jime, tuna daikon-maki, ark shell, and bonito.

4) Dish #7 (above) – Scallop and celeriac tempura.

  
  

5) Dish #8 to #11 (above) – John dory, sea eel kombu maki, ikura, and aburi paradise prawn. The prawn was topped with mayonnaise, firefly egg and some crisp bites which I reckon was garlic. Garlic chips.

6) Dish #12 (above) – Chilean tooth fish saikyo-miso grill.

  
  

7) Dish #13 to #16 (above) – Chimaki, cuttlefish, blue mackerel, tuna tartare. Chimaki meaning a steamed Japanese dumpling made of various ingredients, wrapped in leaf (bamboo or banana). And at Gou Sushi, sea eel (anago) was wrapped within the bamboo leaf. Although when first presented, head chef Rio teased and said “糯米鸡” (Lo mai gai – Chinese dish of steamed glutinous rice with chicken, wrapped in lotus leaf). And the tuna tartare was special; Instead of sushi rice, puff rice was used.


8) Dish #17 (above) – Cold green tea soba.

  
  

9) Dish #18 to #21 (above) – Tasmania handroll, egg plant, scampi, and aburi salmon belly. And for the open handroll, there was sea urchin, scallop and salmon. However, the problem with passing the handroll by putting it on the serving plate meant that the seaweed wasn’t as crisp as it got wet from the leftover sauce on the serving plate. Such a shame cause I really like this. And for the scampi, I was told was that the the head innards was marinated with miso and cooked before topping it on the scampi.

10) Dish #22 (above) – Red bean ice cream with chocolate brownie.

It was a nice heartwarming dinner; I came alone but left having made a new friend. Yes, with head chef Rio. Dining at Gou Sushi was like dining at a friend’s place. He was friendly, easy going, and a very engaging conversationalist too. Although my Chinese wasn’t as strong and had to mix in some English. Ha. And yes, head chef Rio was originally from Hong Kong. It’s also through my conversation with him that I learnt Gou Sushi has been opened for 5 years, and that head chef Rio was previously working at Masuya and had trained under Toshihiko Oe san (now head chef at Sushi Oe). What a small world (read my story of how I met Oe san to understand why so)!

Food wise, it was nice. But to manage one’s expectation… It wasn’t nice to the extent that it wow-ed. Rather, it was nice enough to satisfy. And head chef Rio’s sushi was more of fusion than traditional. And because my meal was in December, he shared his sushi rice was seasoned with red vinegar instead of white as a Christmas special.

Would I recommend Gou Sushi? Yes for one’s casual sushi craving. But no if one is after a more elaborated omakase experience. And if one is also looking for a venue for bigger groups, Gou Sushi is definitely a good venue because of it’s relaxed vibe! In fact, Gou Sushi was almost like a hidden gem. Although it’s a mere 3 minutes walk from Central station, there’s barely any human traffic to the restaurant; It’s located between the 2 exits. So people exiting from the left exit would head left and people exiting from the right exit would head right. Thus missing the restaurant. Pity. But that said, head chef Rio has established a pretty strong regular customer base to keep the business going. And it’s seems like he’s only going to get busier because word of his Saturday omakase has gotten out! :)

GOU SUSHI
2/30-34 Chalmers Street, Surry Hills, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 2 8387 1148, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Mon – Fri : 11:30 – 15:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Mon – Fri : 17:30 – 20:30 (Dinner)
Value: 7
Service: 8
* Closed on Sat (every 2 weeks) & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Dinner @ Hachioji Willoughby (Sydney, Australia)

November 22, 2020 in Japanese

After learning about Hachioji’s opening in August ’20 from fellow blogger I’m Still Hungry, I made my reservation for a meal in (early) November ’20. Not that the restaurant was booked out that advanced. But rather… November was my earliest slot since I restricted myself to 1 (fancy) meal a week. And yes, it’s a habit that I plan my meals in advanced.

Between the first seating (6pm) and second seating (8pm), reservation was made for 6pm. However, I was very late. I only reached Hachioji at 6.20pm. My bad. And so… I entered the restaurant to see the other 6 customers had already started their dinner omakase course. Since I was the last to reach, I could only guess that seats were pre-assigned. Especially with the perspex screens which were placed between the different groups of customers as part of the restaurant’s COVID-19 safety plan.

Prior to my meal, I didn’t know chef-owner Benson Pang wasn’t responsible for making sushi for all customers. So yes… I was assigned to the half of the counter that’s served by sous chef. Sigh. Had I known earlier, I would have indicated my preference for head chef Benson in my reservation. Shrug.

There was an option to upgrade my AUD99 course to include sea urchin and scampi nigiri sushi-s with an additional AUD31. I went with it since I wanted to have sea urchin. And with that, I (quickly) commenced my 18-courses dinner menu, AUD99 with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Lady finger (okra) topped with bonito flakes. I think there were small pieces of fish cake too.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Snapper sashimi.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Mackerel sushi.

  
  
  
  
  

4) Dish #4 (above) – Nigiri sushi assortment of trevally, 4-days aged kingfish, John dory with umeshu and white soy sauce jelly, 4-days aged salmon with caviar, snapper with yuzu pepper, blue fin tuna (really small piece of tuna, by the way), premium fatty tuna (otoro), alfonsino (ain’t sure if I got this right), aburi scallop with shiso leaf, grilled and torched firefly (this was introduced as ‘baby squid’ by sous chef), and sea eel (which sous chef introduced as ‘baby eel’). And I wished the sushi were bigger. These were like size XS. And food aside, I was quite amazed at myself that I managed to catch up with the rest by my third piece of sushi. Ha.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Rich bowl with oyster, salmon roe and wasabi leaf.

6) Top up to premium omakase menu, AUD31:-


(A) Scampi sushi (topmost)

(B) Tasmania sea urchin sushi with shiso leaf (above)

7) Dish #6 (above) – Fish soup.

8) Dish #7 (above) – Houjicha ice cream.

With the top-up of AUD31 for the scampi and sea urchin sushi-s, my dinner came up to AUD130. Did I enjoy my meal? Not really. I was bummed to know there was 2 chefs and that I was served by sous chef. And very unfortunately, sous chef failed to impress too.

Sous chef wasn’t too confident with his English, so I failed to hear (or even understand) what was served for 90% of my dishes. He spoke really softly. Mumbled, to be exact. I could have asked him to repeat, but I decided not to put him on the spot because I figured it wouldn’t be any clearer. In fact, the only time when I heard him at his loudest was when he said “scallop”. And now… I could be nitpicking this but sous chef should have cleaned the sauce from the plate before placing the next sushi.

Every now and then, I could hear what head chef Benson said to the customers served by him. And I thought it was odd he always said “no soya sauce” with every sushi. Hmm…

So while I wouldn’t recommend Hachioji based on my most recent dining experience, I guess I ought to take into consideration that they are still into their first few months of operation. So yes… I may re-visit in a few months’ time to see if there has been improvement since. Hopefully sous chef would be more confident and speak louder. Although for my next reservation, I would indicate my preference for head chef Benson and for the VIP omakase course (AUD188).

But having said that, noting how most popular sushi-yas are fully booked out, one could give Hachioji a try if one is staying in the North Shore and has a very strong craving for sushi that needs to be satisfied as it’s fairly easy to get a reservation at Hachioji. Their affordable menu price is makes dining at Hachioji pretty attractive too. But in case one is strict about the chef’s background, please note the chefs are Taiwanese. Pretty evident by the way they dressed with the black tie underneath.

HACHIOJI
2/56-58 Frenchs Road, Willoughby, Sydney, NSW, Australia
+61 422 421 203, Website
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Sun : 11:30 – 14:30 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 17:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 8
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.