Japanese is one of my favourite cuisines. I just love the precision that goes into it. While you can definitely recreate many dishes at home I always find that to get the most from Japanese food you need to go to a Japanese restaurant.
Lex had been to sushi-e on a number of occasions with work colleagues and raved about it. When Merivale launched their March Into Merivale program this year I decided it was time I booked in.
March Into Merivale – $33 Meal Deals – choice of main, served with miso soup
- Angus beef tobanyaki, miso sesame sauce, Asian greens, shiitake mushroom
- Miso black cod
- Sushi platter: 4pc spicy tuna roll, 6pc nigiri (tuna, salmon, kingfish, snapper, scallop, prawn)
- All include miso soup
angus beef tobanyaki, miso sesame sauce, Asian greens, shiitake mushroom.
Before I knew what was happening the tobanyaki arrived, bubbling away in the ceramic bowl, you could actually see it going crazy with the lid bobbling around. The great reveal allowed the aromas to waft around and I instantly picked up on sesame followed by hearty beef. We allowed it to calm down and cool just a tad before digging in, but when we did we were met by soft tender slices of angus beef, still piping hot but oh so good. There was a lovely clean and pure feel to the dish. Hints of soy, sesame and mushroom were always evident but they were just carriers for the great beef.
sushi platter: 4pc spicy tuna roll, 6pc nigiri (tuna, salmon, kingfish, snapper, scallop, prawn).
We did indeed choose the sushi platter even though I am not a huge fan of sushi rolls. But before you judge I must explain. I find 90% of sushi rolls out there are rubbish and missing what I love about Japanese food – clean and precise flavours. Lex told me the rolls at sushi-e are amazing so it was time to take the plunge.
Hands down this was the best sushi roll I’ve ever eaten. While that has something to do with it being an inside out roll it has more to do with how well it all worked. Dynamite roll and then some, probably the first Japanese dish labelled as spicy and able to deliver on its namesake. A healthy kick of chilli from the tuna being marinated in chilli and topped off with spicy flying fish roe. Of course I cranked the dynamite roll up to 11 by overdoing the wasabi but it was such a good roll nothing could have killed it.
Alongside the roll were six pieces of nigiri. It was amazing to watch these being made and even better to see head chef ‘Ura-san’ manipulating the rice with a deft and precise touch. Lex had the idea of sharing each piece which turned out to be a less than stellar operation. Not only were we unable to eat it traditionally with a light dip of the fish in soy sauce, most of the time it fell to bits as I was trying to divvy it up. Even so, each of the six had their own moment of clarity against the wonderful rice. The prawn was a close runner up to the amazing scallop that won us over with its amazing texture, hints of sweetness and clean flavour.
miso soup – specially blended light miso soup featuring deep fried tofu, mitsuba leaf and spring onion.
Miso is amazing. I even think the little DIY packets are a great way to enjoy it. sushi-e’s version comes in a cool little cup with its very own lid, and when that lid is removed you are greeted with a swirling soup bursting with umami goodness.
There is balance to a good miso but that balance can lean to one of the three key elements (fermented soya beans, kelp, bonito) and accentuate that ingredient with great results. Bonito was the choice here and one that I welcomed as when making my own dashi I tend to be a tad heavy on the bonito flakes as I love all that it brings to the mix.
I really enjoyed the miso soup and the fried tofu (aburaage, most commonly used in inari-zushi) which was such a great touch as it had a light sweetness to it that ensured the savoury didn’t overwhelm.
traditional sashimi served with wasabi and soy – medium 12 pieces ($39.00).
Being the only sashimi in a sauce I decided to try the bonito first. As soon as it touched my lips it sung elegance. Citrus and soy harmoniously balanced to give a great sour zing and a firm salty hit. As a dipping sauce it would be amazing but when used as a light marinade as done here it was perfect. The firm and meaty fish softened ever so slightly making a superb combo.
Moving along the platter in a very orderly left to right fashion saw me come to the snapper next. Less commonly seen on your average sashimi menu, snapper is great when done correctly. As one would expect from a place like sushi-e their snapper sashimi was amazing, light clean flavour and a smooth texture.
With generally more fat than salmon, ocean trout is a definite favourite of mine. The additional fat content makes for a silky piece of fish and in my opinion it is better than salmon any day of the week. I only wish I could find it more readily.
Since my first taste of tuna sashimi a few years ago there has been no looking back. When you get such perfectly prepared versions such as this that melted away in the mouth, I wonder why it took me so long to discover it.
Having come a long way in my culinary exploration I find sashimi to be a wonderful thing, and still what I love the most is kingfish. The texture, flavour and visuals all work so well for me and although I don’t dislike any sashimi, I love kingfish sashimi.
Being the most common sashimi around town, salmon is the one I tend to avoid when there are other options. Having said that, the salmon was the last of the platter and was able to close out proceedings wonderfully. Big on texture and full of flavour, reminding me what salmon sashimi can be when done well.
spicy scallop – juicy scallops flame seared under black mountain chilli and spicy mayo, baby leaf salad ($23.50).
While the $33 meal deal is amazing the term ‘When in Rome’ seems to get thrown around a lot when we dine out (most evident with our 2012 March into Merivale blowout at est.) Hence how one of Lex’s sushi-e go-to dishes was ordered.
Being able to watch the assembly and torching of the chilli/mayo was brilliant. I love mini flamethrower action.
Eight plump scallops on a bed of cresses was just heaven. Searing brought the temp of the scallops up and had a positive impact on the whole dish, making it gel that little bit better. Permeating everything was the char to the ground chilli that had been sprinkled on the spicy mayo and even though it wasn’t a hot chilli it didn’t need to be. A lively soy and citrus dressing in the baby leaf salad made it more than a garnish, becoming a proper component that complimented the rest of the dish well.
purple sweet potato tempura – finished with a brown sugar glaze, caramelised walnuts and vanilla bean ice cream ($18.00).
Luckily Japanese cuisine is so light there was ample room for sweets. Maybe it was the non-dessert nature of the potato or maybe the deep fried batter that helped in the decision, but either way choosing the sweet potato seemed easy. Initial impressions were it was quite a sweet dessert but that was only when the molasses-like brown sugar glaze was applied to each spoonful too liberally. Candied walnuts were reminiscent of caramel popcorn and the ice cream was pure vanilla heaven. The tempura was quite well done, thick enough to have a good contrast against the soft potato, and it tasted quite spot on when everything was balanced. It was only the texture of the potato that didn’t quite work for me, but Lex on the other hand enjoyed it all.
yuzu mousse – yuzu mousse with coconut and lime sponge served with a passionfruit gel ($16.00).
The second dessert was an easy choice for me (citrus and coconut) but I do have to admit I wasn’t expecting all that much from it. I knew the best way to try it was one element at a time. Spoon at the ready I took a piece of the sponge that was so much denser than anticipated. My word was it amazingly good. Dense, yes, but it crumbled on the tongue and was coconut and lime through and through. Never was it fatty regardless of the amount of butter that must have been used.
Coconut ice cream is something I have made many times in the past. Compared to this gem my versions seemed amateur. Almost marshmallow-like in texture, chewy and gelatinous but oh so creamy and a coconut explosion in every bite. The main attraction, the mousse, was balanced and executed well; light and silky but set well to make it firm without being overdone. Yuzu is a great citrus and along with the great sponge and epic coconut ice cream I was in awe of such a great dessert that suited me to a tee.
Impressed is the least I can say. I knew it was going to be good but I had assumed it would come with a hefty price tag. I was pleasantly surprised it wasn’t as expensive as I’d thought. Although there is much more of the menu I need to investigate, to date sushi-e is my favourite Japanese restaurant in Sydney.
Level 4, 252 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
(02) 9240 3000