This article was written for The Sydney Morning Herald blog.
After eating at two French restaurants consecutively for Let’s Do Lunch – Becasse and glass brasserie – we’re giving our livers a break with one of Sydney’s favourite cuisines, Japanese. We’re aching for some cleansing miso and the destination is Azuma Kushiyaki. I’m a fan of chef Kimitaka Azuma’s other restaurant (Azuma) in Chifley Plaza and am excited to try out Kushiyaki.
As expected, the interior is elegant and modern, with beautiful wall hangings and various objets d’art that reinforce the relaxing Japanese aesthetic. The exposed, timber tables make for a welcome change from the linen clad counterparts of the previous two days.
Kushiyaki’s $35.00 Let’s Do Lunch offer substitutes the usual coffee with green tea. That is served first and arrives in a stunningly glazed ceramic cup. The meal that follows is bento style, with a variety of dishes accompanied by rice and miso soup.
Sesame sprinkled ohitashi – boiled spinach with soy, mirin and dashi – is simple and light. More exciting is Azuma’s seared tuna salad, known to food lovers through the television show Food Safari. Yellowfin tuna is briefly seared, then marinated in a punchy ponzu dressing and served completely covered with grated onion and daikon. The flavours are fresh and the tuna is silky smooth – a dish that lives up to its reputation.
Though it is perfectly ok to visit Azuma Kushiyaki while Azuma’s not there, it’s incomprehensible to leave without trying a few kushiyaki (grilled skewers). Luckily, these are also there as part of our meal: a crunchy zucchini skewer sprinkled with dried shiso leaf and a simple, single prawn skewer, edible with shell and all. These two are perfect companions to beer, and the included Coopers Pale Ale works a treat.
On the Crave Sydney International Food Festival website, the meal’s centrepiece is advertised as wagyu sirloin steak with garlic soy, but is described on our menu as grain-fed tenderloin. A quick back-and-forth between the waitress and the kitchen confirms that the beef is in fact, not wagyu; but the juicy, wonderfully flavoured steak reminds us that, yes, there are varieties of beef other than wagyu that are still worth eating.
As we finish with rice and miso, my colleagues have wide grins on their faces. Azuma’s meal is so far the week’s favourite. It not only ticks the flavour box, but it also fills up the tummies of hungry office workers. Portion means a great deal to us blokes.