Dinner @ Yoshii’s Omakase (Sydney, Australia)

January 29, 2021 in Japanese

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.

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 3 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). Its 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 – A 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 the head innards was marinated with miso and cooked before topping onto 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 3 weeks) & Sun
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.