I am a massive fan of Japanese food. The only problem is I find it prohibitively expensive to enjoy on a frequent basis. To tell you the truth if you rewind 10 years Japanese was a cuisine I’d never experienced and sushi was something that made my skin crawl.
A lot has changed since then and Lex knows that due to her influence (and me no longer being an idiot) I adore Japanese cuisine. It was her turn to book a restaurant for date night and she chose Ume in Surry Hills. I suspect that mostly has something to do with the fact I have tried to get the usual crew there since it opened.
Ume was launched in June 2012 in the old Bistrode site on Bourke Street in Surry Hills. Head chef and owner Kerby Craig was best known around town for his role at Koi where he earned the restaurant one chef’s hat in The SMH Good Food Guide. A few months after opening Ume itself was awarded one chef’s hat which it retained in the 2014 guide.
Six Course Menu – $80.00 per person / with matching sake $125.00 per person / with matching sake & wines $130.00 per person
- Snapper Carpaccio – Shredded Cucumber, Shiso, White Soy, Black Sesame
- Scallop Carpaccio – Soy Brown Butter, Lime, Dulse
- Shiki no Salad – Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Fried Cauliflower, Dashi Custard, Soy & Ginger Dressing
- Tako – Slow Cooked, Tender WA Octopus, Koji Potato, Lightly Pickled Cucumber, Bonito Oil
- Riverina Lamb – Charred, Soft Lamb Shoulder, Wasabi-Pea Sauce, Yaki Nori, Pea Shoots
- Purin – Matcha Milk Pudding, Sake Simmered Blueberries, Pecan
Snapper Carpaccio – Shredded Cucumber, Shiso, White Soy, Black Sesame.
Although a carpaccio may not be a traditionally Japanese technique per se this had so many distinctly Japanese ingredients they can get away with it. Four slices of snapper were glistening on the plate from the dressing of white soy, ever so finely shredded cucumber flecks, black sesame and some neatly trimmed shiso leaves. It looked stunning and tasted perfect, everything harmoniously balanced to make an elegant and light starter.
Scallop Carpaccio – Soy Brown Butter, Lime, Dulse.
Keeping in the same direction as the first dish our second course was again a carpaccio made Japanese by the ingredients used. Fantastically thin sliced seared scallops were arranged in petal formation to create a scallop flower on the plate. Contrasting the previous dish the flavours here were not shy. Gloriously browned butter made for a luscious sauce for the scallops. Shreds of purple sea lettuce added both a textural element to the dish as well as a saltiness. A balanced lashing of lime kept the richness of the butter in check. We both love scallops and this was one of the best scallop dishes we’d had in some time.
Shiki no Salad – Roasted Heirloom Carrots, Fried Cauliflower, Dashi Custard, Soy & Ginger Dressing.
After two immaculate seafood dishes we moved on to something with a bit more bite. Baby heirloom carrots were slow roasted until tender, cauliflower was coated in what I believe was brown rice flour and fried for that extra crunch, a very umami dashi custard was creamy and had great depth but it was the soy and ginger dressing that really stood out. Overall there were some great elements but neither of us were convinced it all worked together.
Tako – Slow Cooked, Tender WA Octopus, Koji Potato, Lightly Pickled Cucumber, Bonito Oil.
Of all the seafood out there octopus is probably the one I approach with the most trepidation. I am fairly sure I had never before eaten any octopus I truly enjoyed or that I thought was cooked properly. Ume comes into the foray with a slow cooked version, something completely different to all of the super-fast and uninspiring offerings in my past. True to the menu descriptor the octopus was tender and was able to restore a bit of my faith in this ingredient.
Riverina Lamb – Charred, Soft Lamb Shoulder, Wasabi-Pea Sauce, Yaki Nori, Pea Shoots.
Our last savoury course and oh boy did it look smashing. Charred to perfection and amazingly soft the lamb shoulder was just superb. Texturally it was out of this world, the charred outer was firm while still giving and the rest just fell apart. Pea shoots and crunchy nori broke up the addictive and intense lamb but it was the wasabi-pea sauce that truly complemented the lamb and made this dish a standout.
Purin – Matcha Milk Pudding, Sake Simmered Blueberries, Pecan.
Dessert was nicely presented in two halves. A little glass pot of matcha milk pudding side by side a dish of sake simmered blueberries and pecan. The pudding had a wonderfully smooth custard consistency and distinct matcha flavour. Now it is not that I dislike matcha but it is just not endearing to me, so sadly this dessert was a little lost on me.
Our meal was at its end. We were quite happy but there was a little something missing for me. Recently I had been finishing with a bit of a digestif, and that is when our awesome waiter stopped by and asked if I might like to peruse their selection of whiskeys.
He came back a few moments later and began arranging bottles of varying whiskeys along our table. After much discussion and thought I settled on the Nikka Yoichi 20 Year Old single malt and it was a masterpiece, such a great whiskey and a lovely way to finish a super meal.
There are just so many things about Japanese cuisine that speak my language. I love the food, the wine, the sake, the whiskey and more than anything the thought put into dishes. Ume has positioned itself well in this respect, I would say it is a modern Australian take on Japanese food done superbly.
We loved our meal at Ume and have recommended it to friends who all agree it is great. We can’t wait to return for another awesome date night.
478 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9380 7333
UME Restaurant Website