Dinner @ Hachioji (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 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.

Dinner @ Kuon Omakase (Sydney, Australia)

October 17, 2020 in Japanese

So after my really memorable dinner at Jizakana in August 2019, I had been meaning to return for chef Hideaki Fukada’s food. But in February 2020, just as I was (late) posting pictures of my meal at Jizakana on Instagram, a fellow instagrammer shared that chef Fukada san had since left Jizakana to open his own restaurant. Gasp!

Since then, I had been checking regularly for updates. And once word was out that Kuon Omakase was officially opening in June 2020 and had started accepting reservation, I quickly made mine. But for July. 2 seatings were offered; 5.30pm and 8pm. And I booked myself for the first seating.

On the day of my dinner, I received a text message from Kuon Omakase with the food menu. Was also given options to top up for sea urchin tempura (AUD20) and truffle (AUD20 for 5g). No surprise that I went with the two add-ons. Keke.

Arrived at the restaurant at 5.20pm. Although it was raining, they could only let us in at 5.30pm as they needed to set up the place. And it’s interesting that seats were pre-assigned with place cards. Once everyone settled down, I commenced my omakase dinner, AUD180 with:-

1) Zeitaku monaka (above) – Osetra caviar with sea urchin and toro tartare on crispy rice cracker. If one had been reading my blog or following my Instagram long enough, one would know my disapproval on using these wafer biscuits (monaka) for savoury. But that’s my personal preference. Else this would have been such a glorious dish with the luxurious ingredients.


2) Usuzukuri (above) – White fish with ponzu sauce. Enjoyed this.

3) Tempura #1 (above) – QLD tiger prawn head.


4) Tempura #2 (above) – QLD tiger prawn.


5) Tempura #3 (above) – Tsushima sea eel.

6) Tempura #4 (above) – Red spot whiting. And for this, we were only given half (a) kisu fish.


7) Tempura #5 (+ AUD20) (above) – Sea urchin and shiso leaf.

8) Kani chawanmushi (5g truffle, + AUD20) (above) – Japanese egg custard with snow crab meat. And for customers who opted for additional truffle, chef Jun Miyauchi came round with the truffle balls to shave, weigh and plate the shaved truffle in front of us.

9) Mushi awabi (above) – Steamed abalone with abalone liver and sea urchin sauce.

10) Ginmutsu nitsuke (above) – Toothfish nitsuke.

11) Yuzu sorbet (above) – Pretty interesting odd that this was served as a palette cleanser just before the sushi leg of our meal.

  
  
  
  

12) Omakase sushi (above) – We were served an assortment of premium fatty tuna (otoro) from New South Wales (Australia), calamari and shiso leaf, imperador (kinmedai), John Dory, premium fatty tuna (otoro) from Japan, scallop, scampi with mullet roe, and anago which was slightly torched. And for the sushi, I noticed chef Fukada san would make them all at one go before serving us. With the exception of the tuna from Japan where he served after making every 2 pieces. As though acknowledging the tuna’s better quality.

13) Tome wan (above) – Fisherman’s miso broth.

14) Handroll (above) – With salmon roe, sea urchin and minced tuna.

  

15) Tamago (above)

16) Mizu-yokan dessert (above) – Red bean agar and strawberry.

It was unfortunate that I arrived at Kuon Omakase with high expectation, only to leave disappointed. The tempura was average despite having read that they used cold-pressed sesame oil that cost $450 for 20 litres. The tempura batter was thick and hard instead of thin and crisp. It might have been fried for a tad too long in the boiling oil too.

But it was really the sushi that let me down. I remembered it was way better when I last had chef Fukada san’s at Jizakana. Firstly, the size of the sushi were oddly small. I was worried about finishing half pack of ramen just 1.5 hours before dinner. But turned out, that might have saved me from hunger cause dinner at Kuon Omakase wasn’t filling. Next, the ratio of sushi rice to the topping (neta) was off-balanced. And finally, I didn’t like that he made all 8 pieces at one shot first before serving us. Sushi once made, should be served immediately to customers. Piece by piece.

Would I recommend Kuon Omakase? Well… I am really on the fence. I could easily think of elsewhere for better sushi (traditional or creative/fusion). And I couldn’t help but feel they were trying to dazzle us by using expensive ingredients (think caviar) instead of concentrating on the taste. But having said that, I still hope to return to Kuon Omakase for another meal to see if there’ve been improvements since. I guess I ain’t giving up on chef Fukada san’s sushi especially since I know how good it could be based on Jizakana days.

Although it’s also to note that as I share this review, Kuon Omakase is fully booked till January 2021. They will be implementing a new booking system for February 2021 and onwards, where reservations are only released for 1 month ahead.

KUON OMAKASE
Shop 20/2-58 Little Hay Street, Sydney, NSW, Australia
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 7
Tues – Thur : 17:30 – 22:30
Ambience: 7
Fri – Sun : 12:00 – 22:30
Value: 7
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon
** Hours are post-COVID lockdown, and may change when normality resumes.

Dinner @ Sushi Suzuki 鮨 鈴木 (Tokyo, Japan)

October 12, 2020 in Japanese

For my February 2018 meal at Sushi Suzuki, my hotel concierge assisted to make the reservation in January 2018. And I was pre-informed that the omakase course would cost about ¥30,000. And for my 7pm appointment, I managed to arrive at the restaurant punctually although I was slightly thrown off-guard by Google map. For some odd reason, Google map directed me to the smaller road behind the building when one should really enter the building from the main road.

Seats were pre-arranged. I was led to sit between pairs of men dressed in suit and engaged in some pretty serious conversation (by the tone of their voices). Guessed they must have come for dinner after work. And the ambience at Sushi Suzuki was pretty quiet and solemn. And after taking my drinks order, I commenced my omakase dinner (¥30,000) with:-

1) Dish #1 (above) – Blow fish.

2) Dish #2 (above) – Grouper with salt, and Japanese spotted prawn (botan-ebi) with wasabi.

3) Dish #3 (above) – Whale with ginger.

4) Dish #4 (above) – Steamed oyster with yuzu.

5) Dish #5 (above) – Blow fish (fugu) milt with caviar. And I was cautioned by chef-owner Takao Suzuki that it was going to be hot.


6) Dish #6 (above) – Steamed abalone. Very tender and nice.

7) Dish #7 (above) – Black throat sea perch (nodoguro).

8) Dish #8 (above) – Saba bozushi (mackerel stick sushi). This was good! Pretty stoked that this was served as 2 pieces too.

9) Dish #9 (above) – Mullet roe (karasumi).

10) Dish #10 (above) – Monkfish liver (ankimo). I was surprised this was a cold dish.

  
  
  
  

  
  
  

11) Dish #11 (above) – Sushi assortment; Flounder (hirame), striped jack (shima aji), tuna (maguro), medium fatty tuna (chutoro), premium fatty tuna (otoro), baby gizzard shad (shinko), needlefish (sayori), sea urchin (uni) rice, squid, ark shell claim (akagai), tiger prawn (kuruma-ebi), clam (hamaguri), sea eel (anago) and rolled egg omelette (tamago).

At this point, head chef Suzuki san asked if I was full. Since I’m one who eats till I’m 120% full rather than 80%, I said “1 more”. He asked me to choose the fish I would like to have, but I asked him to recommend instead. And as I was having my baby snapper nigiri sushi, I watched head chef Suzuki san dish out scallop nigiri sushi for the pair beside me. And it looked so good and tempting. So when head chef Suzuki san followed up and asked if I was full, I couldn’t resist but say “1 more” again. Haha. I really was just being greedy by this point cause I was already 110% full.

  

12) Add-ons (above) – Baby snapper (kasu) and scallop (hotate).

Now, the pair beside me showed no sign of ending their omakase meal yet. I watched them being served giant penshell nigiri sushi. And as with my previous sushi, head chef Suzuki san checked to see if I was full after I finished my (additional) scallop nigiri sushi. But this time round, I nodded instead of letting greed get the better of me. Ha!

With the 2 additional sushi and my green tea, my dinner came up to ¥40,000 (inclusive of tax and service charge). And I have to say this was one expensive dinner. It was even more expensive than some of my sushi dinners at restaurants which had Michelin star. Uh huh. Sushi Suzuki has no Michelin star, though one may argue that it’s ranked Bronze by Tablelog.

So a brief history about Sushi Suzuki… Head chef Suzuki san trained for 12 years at Sushi Aoki (in Ginza, Tokyo) before opening his own restaurant in 2015.

It was pretty amazing watching head chef Suzuki san make his sushi cause he was fast! When I was still chewing (slowly) on my sushi, he was already preparing my next sushi. And that’s even when there were 5 of us! And for his sushi, his sushi rice (shari) was warm. And one could taste the slight distinct sourness of the vinegar used to season the rice. Don’t get me wrong. I actually like my sushi rice that way.

Would I recommend Sushi Suzuki? Well… I honestly enjoyed what he dished out. However the price tag just didn’t seem to justify. It’s way too expensive. I would recommend Sushi Suzuki if my dinner cost 25% lesser. But if one really wants to try head chef Suzuki san’s food, probably make reservation for lunch where I heard it’s cost less than half compared to dinner. Yet still being able to enjoy equally quality sushi. But if price isn’t a factor, Sushi Suzuki is relatively easy to make reservation. Pretty handy if one needs a last-minute (ie, same day) booking.

SUSHI SUZUKI 鮨 鈴木
6-5-15 Ginza, Chuo, Tokyo, Japan (東京都 中央区 銀座 6-5-15 銀座能楽堂ビル 5F)
+81 3 5537 6868, Tablelog
Overall: 7
Opening hours:-
Food/Beverage: 8
Tues – Sun : 12:00 – 14:00 (Lunch)
Ambience: 7
Tues – Sun : 18:00 – 22:00 (Dinner)
Value: 6
Service: 7
* Closed on Mon