Sunday, 30 November 2014

Sushi E, Sydney CBD - 21 Nov 2014

It's no secret that I love sushi. After discovering Sokyo's sushi omakase menu last month, I was keen to uncover more gems on the Sydney sushi scene. My next venue in my quest to find the best sushi venues in Sydney takes me to Merivale's upmarket sushi bar, Sushi E, which is located in level 4 of The Establishment Hotel.    

I am here during the lunchtime session, which is dominated by a high-powered business crowd. Sushi E has a modern sushi bar layout, with an open kitchen and marble bench tops. Customers are seated in front of the sushi chefs and my sushi chef for today was Mitsu-san. I indicated to Mitsu-san that I was here only for sushi, so the best strategy for me was to let the chef decide what to serve and just let him know when to stop. A sort of omakase menu if you will.

Mitsu-san blowtorching sushi

Sushi to me is more than just fresh fish on rice. It's about creating the perfect harmony between rice and topping. The rice should be served slightly warmer than the fish and the sweetness and acidity from the vinegared rice should bring out the depth of flavour contained within each fish.

The rice at Sushi E was pretty on point although I did think the rice got a tad cool towards the end of the meal. Just a minor niggle, really. And the seafood at Sushi E, was top notch. All the fish are sliced to order at Sushi E from the selection of fish displayed in the cabinet, ensuring that freshness is maintained. Since I am a bit of a sushi purist, I have a preference for Edo-mae style sushi (i.e. nigiri and gunkan, and no to sushi rolls). Also, the sushi chefs generally don't season the nigiri with soy sauce before placing it in front of the diner, leaving it to me to determine how much soy is needed with each piece. Personally for this kind of sushi bar, I prefer the sushi chef to be determining this. 

John Dory ($5), Horse mackerel ($4), Seared kingfish belly ($8), Seared salmon belly ($8)

I start with a John Dory nigiri. This was a very mild flavour fish, much like snapper. It was dressed only with a bit of a lime juice. A good fresh slice of fish; nothing mind blowing. We're off to a solid start!

Next was horse mackerel. Horse mackerel is one of my favourite pieces in Japan, although I have yet to encounter one in Australia that I have been truly wowed by. This piece was topped with ginger and chives. I thought the horse mackerel lacked the depth of flavour of mackerels that I have had before. It also needed more acidity from vinegar to balance the fish's oiliness and strong flavour.

Mitsu-san then placed a kingfish belly nigiri, which had been given the blow torch treatment. The kingfish belly was buttery and had a good flavour however it did not have softness that I have encountered before, for example at Sokyo. This piece was topped with chilli radish.

Then came the seared salmon belly, which I thought was one of the better pieces in this meal. The salmon belly was buttery and melted in the mouth. Not much more needs to be said, this piece was divine!          

Tuna ($6), Salmon roe ($8), Seared scampi ($10), Seared swordfish ($8)

Next was akami maguro (or lean tuna). This was served fresh and while the fish had good flavour and nice texture, it was nothing particularly special.

Next up was salmon roe, another one of my usual sushi favourites. For me, ikura nigiri is one of my flavour bombs of choice: salty bursts of fish oil, with crispy sheets of seaweed and perfectly seasoned rice. Unfortunately this piece did not satisfy my salmon roe cravings. The nori was not crispy and slightly chewy and the salmon roe was certainly not the best quality that I've come across.

Then came seared scampi. The scampi was dressed with a bit of Japanese mayonnaise, seared with the blow torch and topped with flying fish roe (tobiko). The scampi was nice and fresh but I felt that it could have done with a slightly longer sear to bring out more sweetness from the scampi. I would have also liked more Japanese mayo on this piece.

My next piece was seared swordfish, which was topped with yuzu-kosho (yuzu pepper). I've never had swordfish before in sushi and any fears of the tough, dry cooked variety were quickly allayed. The texture was quite nice, lust a little firmness. This was a medium oily fish and the sear, which melted the fat into the flesh, yielded a pretty tasty and enjoyable piece.

Cuttlefish ($4), Eel ($8), Tamago ($3), Vanilla panna cotta

Next was cuttlefish nigiri, which had a shiso leaf hidden underneath. This was my least favourite piece in the meal. The ratio of fish to rice was off-balance (yes I just complained about getting too big a slice of fish haha). The cuttlefish was sliced into a large chunk, which I thought spoilt the texture.

The cuttlefish was quickly redeemed by the eel nigiri, my favourite piece for the meal. The texture of the eel was divine: so soft, almost souffle like, and melting in the mouth. The eel was coated with a sweet, sticky, umami filled sauce. Oishii!

Any good sushi meal ends with tamago (dashimaki or rolled omelette). This tamago was spot-on. There was a great balance of sweet and savoury (from shrimp paste), as any good tamago should.

As I asked for the bill, a final treat of vanilla pannacotta and raspberry coulis (complimentary to all Sushi E diners) was placed in front of me.      

Overall, although I think Sushi E is one of the better places for sushi in Sydney, this meal left me with mixed feelings. Some pieces were amazing (such as the eel, tamago, swordfish and seared salmon belly), while others were just average (like the cuttlefish and salmon roe). There is no doubting that the fish is fresh and high quality, but something was missing to take the sushi to the next level. Given the sushi here is at a similar price point to Sokyo, I think I would rather take my hard earned cash to Sokyo if I wanted premium sushi, although Sushi E is in a much more convenient location in the heart of the CBD.

Highlight: The eel, seared salmon belly and tamago were divine!
Lowlight: Trying to chew through cuttlefish steak
Overall: Sushi E is one of the better options for sushi in a city that doesn't have a lot of options in the upmarket sushi department. The sushi was of a good standard, but there just weren't enough pieces that I would describe as "mind blowing". 7/10 (Great)

Sushi E
Address: Level 4, Establishment, 252 George Street, Sydney, 2000
Contact no: 02 9240 3000

Sushi E on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Lucio's Italian Restaurant, Paddington - 15 Nov 2014

Long, lazy weekend lunches are something that I love to do, but don't do often enough. I mean what better way is there to unwind after a long week at work  than to enjoy good food with great company and be served by friendly, attentive waitstaff? Both my wife and I decided that we deserved a little treat (namely Alba white truffles, more on that later!) so we checked out the 2-hatted Lucio's Italian restaurant, an institution in the Sydney dining scene. 

The man behind Lucio's is Lucio, obviously. Well Lucio Galleto to be precise. Lucio's opened in 1981 in Balmain and moved to Paddington in 1983, which it has occupied since. Lucio is from a family of restaurateurs in Liguria in North-West Italy so it would only be natural for Lucio's to be a family run restaurant with his wife, Sally, son, Matteo and daughter, Michela all involved in running the restaurant.

Art restaurant: the art collection alone justifies the trip out to Paddington!

Lucio is an avid art collector and some of his collection can be found hanging on the walls of the restaurant. Dining at Lucio's is like you've stumbled into an art gallery. Some of the works are from leading contemporary Australian artists, who are also regulars at Lucio's. For his contributions to the arts as well as being a restaurateur and an author, Lucio was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2008. The art works on the wall and the restaurant's natural lighting create a bright and charming dining room that's fun, relaxed and perfect for weekend lunches.

John Olsen graces the covers of the menu

Lucio’s menus features traditional, authentic northern Italian cuisine with a focus on the fresh, seasonal produce, which reflects the restaurant's motto: "we follow the season, not the fashion”. The head chef at Lucio's is Nicole Bampton (ex-Tetsuya's and ex-Sepia). Amazingly, Lucio's have only had 3 other head chefs in its thirty years of operation.

I'm not sure if there is a more passionate, energetic and likable front of house person than Lucio in the Sydney restaurant scene. As soon as you set foot in the restaurant, you are greeted by the man himself and treated like an old family friend despite being a first time customer. The service at Lucio's is some of the best that I have encountered anywhere in Sydney. Not only was everyone was helpful and professional (as you would expect at a fancy restaurant like Lucio's), the service was friendly and relaxed and all the staff were happy to have a good laugh with the diners. It's just good old fashioned, warm Italian hospitality at Lucio's!

Sourdough roll, butter, olives
Set at each table upon arrival was a small dish of olives coated in some of the finest olive oil from Liguria and sourdough rolls, which were still warm as they had only just arrived from the baker. If I had to guess, the rolls were from Iggy's Bread.

Burrata, crushed broad beans, mint ($22.50)
My wife and I decided to share the burrata, crushed broad beans, mint and Lingurian olive oil to start the meal. This was a simple, yet highly enjoyable starter with high quality ingredients. Burrata is often runny in the centre, but this one was more soft and creamy rather than oozing.

Let it rain white truffles!
Now onto the ingredient that convinced me that I had to make the trek to Paddington from the west: Alba white truffle!  Readers may know that I have  a small obsession with truffle. I go nuts over the aroma and flavour of truffles! The white truffle from Alba (in Northern Italy) is stuff of legends. It is widely considered to be the best truffles in the world and can only be grown in the wild (and not farmed) for a few months of the year (October and November being peak season). Lucio's is one of the few restaurants that I am aware of in Sydney that imports white truffles each year and has even created white truffle menus in previous years.

Pasta of the day - Pappardelle, truffle butter, Alba white truffles ($50)
Lucio's pasta of the day was pappardelle tossed in white truffle butter, with fresh white truffles and Parmigiano Reggiano shaved at the table. We each ordered the truffle pasta, since there was no way either of us were going to share. Like all of Lucio's pastas, the truffle pasta was served simply, allowing the magic of white truffle to shine. Predictably the flavour and aroma of the white truffle was pungent and sent me into raptures. 

Not to be out matched are the pasta at Lucio's, which are made in house daily.  The pasta is some of the finest you will find in Sydney. The pappardelle were thick ribbons of the silkiest pasta while retaining a delightfully firm bite. I ate this bowl of pasta slowly so I could savour the taste of truffle for as long as I could.

Lucio showing one of his waiters how pesto pounding is supposed to be done!

I like a bit of theatre and one of Lucio's specialities is their pesto, which is freshly pounded at the table. Not listed on the menu is a basil pesto pappardelle, which we noticed during this meal is a favourite amongst their regulars (cue for me to remember to order next time!). Watching the pesto being pounded made me realise how simple pesto really is to make and question why I would even buy it from a jar. Sometimes the best things in life are the most simple!

Grilled asparagus, parmesan ($18)
We were both already quite full by this stage, so it was a good thing that my wife opted for some grilled asparagus with grated Parmesan. I tried one of the spears and I was amazed with the quality of these asparagus. They were wonderfully thick, juicy and flavoursome. So good that we'd both happily eat them on their own.

Black handkerchief pasta with cuttlefish, mussels, prawns & chilli ($32)
While every other table seem to order the green taglioni with blue swimmer crab tossed in a rich tomato sauce, which has been a signature dish of the restaurant since day one, I ordered the restaurant's other signature pasta:black handkerchief pasta with an assortment of chopped seafood (cuttlefish, mussels, prawns), garlic, chilli and finished with a generous drizzle of olive oil. Again, this was a minimalist pasta dish with fresh, simple and amazing flavours and silky sheets of pasta. The chilli in this dish is quite subtle though so I would have preferred the chilli to have packed more of a punch.

Campari babá, ruby grapefruit & mandarin sorbet with white chocolate & citrus curd ($17)
By the time we got to the decision of whether to order desserts, we were both filled to the brim. But how could we leave without trying one of Lucio's desserts? So we opted to share one of their lighter offerings: a baba cake soaked in Campari; with a ruby grapefruit & mandarin sorbet; fresh segments of ruby grapefruit and mandarin; and a white chocolate & citrus curd. The baba was light and moist, the sorbet was tangy refreshing and the white chocolate and citrus curd was moreish. Like the savoury courses, dessert was simple yet incredibly delicious!

Almond biscotti
A plate of almond biscotti marked the end of what was one of the most memorable weekend lunches that I've had in Sydney for quite some time. Based on this meal, I would have to say that Lucio's is one of my favourite Italian restaurants in Sydney and I can't wait for a return visit to try more of their menu.

Lowlight: Said truffles are available for limited time only.   
Overall: It might cost a bit, but Lucio's is a Sydney institution serving some of the finest Italian food in town. The food is authentic and served simply and highly satisfying. The service is warm, friendly and attentive. 8/10 (Excellent)

Lucio's Italian Restaurant
Address: 47 Windsor St, Paddington NSW 2021 
Contact no: 02 9380 5996 

Lucio's on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 15 November 2014

Hartsyard, Newtown - 13 November 2014

Hartsyard is a restaurant that has been on my wishlist since like forever! Since opening its doors about 2 years, Hartsyard has received a lot of praise and accolades for its share style American cuisine, including a chef hat from the SMH Good Food Guide. Hartsyard is run by the husband-wife team of Gregory Llewellyn, who manages the kitchen, and Naomi Hart, who manages the front of house. As none of the members of EMC2 had dined at Hartsyard, we all decided that this needed to be rectified.     

The Grifter Pale Ale ($10) and doggy snacks, I mean chicken jerky. Seriously though, the chicken jerky was pretty delicious!
Hartsyard is the kind of restaurant that fits right into hipster Newtown. The dining room is bustling with crowds and full of energy. The lighting is dim and moody. And the music is loud, of course.  

The share style menu is divided into seeds, the lighter meals, and feeds, the heavier meals. Virtually everything on the menu is made in-house, from the hot sauce that can be found at every table to the chicken jerky that I munched on as I waited for the rest of dining group to arrive. And much of the vegetables come from their own garden and greenhouse too.

Oyster Po' Boy ($9 each)
I’ve never had po' boys before but boy were these deliriously good! The English muffins were soft and fluffy on the inside while staying crisp on the outside. Each muffin is filled with deep fried oysters coated in a delightfully crunchy batter and a creamy Old Bay coleslaw that was both creamy and fresh.  It was a good thing I was dining with 4 other people, because I could have easily eaten a whole tray of these! I am sure to return to Hartsyard soon to have more of these oyster po' boys!   

Raw mushroom and artichoke salad ($26)
A meal at Hartsyard will generally be a big meaty affair, but make sure you don't overlook this gem of a salad, carnivores included! Thin slices of raw mushroom, globe artichoke and celery are beautifully arranged on the plate and dressed in one of the best salad dressings that I have had in a Sydney restaurant for some time. It was creamy, savoury and just downright delicious. It's a dressing that I definitely wish I had the recipe for so I can replicate at home. The salad was also topped with Jerusalem artichoke crisps, Parmesan crisps and black kale.

Duck, duck, duck ($34)
Duck, duck, duck as the name suggests consisted of 3 different kinds of duck: crumbed and deep fried rillettes, parfait, and shaved foie gras. Encased within each crispy croquette were delicious shreds of soft duck meat, cooked in its fat. The parfait and shaved foie gras elements added a richness to the dish that was well balanced and never overpowering. The combination of mulberry and lemon jam with the richness of duck, duck, duck was a delightful one. Along with the Oyster Po' Boy, this was my favourite dish of the night. 

Crispy pig tails ($21)
Unfortunately the crispy pig tails were a bit of an anti-climax, coming in after three dishes that have set the bar high. Two crispy croquettes were filled with soft, rich and gelatinous pig tails bits, flavours and textures that I didn't make much of an impression on me. The pig tail croquettes were served with a buttermilk dressing, radish and pickle slices to help cut through the fattiness. We were encouraged by the waitress to eat the croquettes with the housemade hot sauce that can be found at every table. Unfortunately we all forget to take this advice (probably because we were too busy worrying about photographing our food, as shown by the next pic lol).

Food bloggers in action - cameras eat first hehe!

Ricotta gnudi ($32)
The ricotta gnudi is one of the latest dishes to be included onto the Hartsyard menu.  The ricotta gnudi were like a softer, creamier version of gnocchi. Butter poached prawns were well cooked: juicy and springy. The gnudi and prawns were swimming in a pool of crab bisque, with its wonderful aroma wafting through the air as soon as the plate hit the dining table. Rounding out the dish were confit tomatoes and grilled fennel. Yet another solid dish!

Pulled pork ($33)
I am going to start by saying that I don’t remember having pulled pork this good anywhere else in Sydney. If you love pork, just order it! A brick of pulled pork is served with a slab of maple bacon riding on top. The pulled pork was brined and smoked and the smoky flavour from the hickory wood was very prominent. The pulled pork was so soft, falling apart easily with the pull of a fork. And the maple bacon, which was a thick pork belly slice, was to die for! The maple glaze was sweet and sticky; the bacon was deliciously fatty and melted in the mouth. To the side were green apple pieces and yoghurt to provide acidity and tartness to balance the richness of the pork. There were also ultra-crunchy pork rind chips to add a third dimension of pig to the dish.

Poutine ($26)
If you’re ever going to eat soggy chips, let this poutine be it. Poutine is a French-Canadian invention, so rich, tasty and calorific that it was probably invented for hangovers, much the same way kebabs were (although I can’t prove this fact). Basically its thick cut potato chips doused in rich beef shin gravy and a cheese and beer sauce. The whole thing was incredibly rich but oh so moreish! You can’t just help but keep coming back for more! The beef shin gravy was really delicious but it does get a tad salty after a while, which made me reach for my glass of water.       

Fried chicken ($29)
The fried chicken at Hartsyard has a reputation for being one of the best fried chickens in Sydney and I was delighted to discover that the chicken lived up to its high praise. The chicken is brined, smoked and  coated in a crispy, raggedy, double (yes, double) coating of batter. The flesh is well seasoned, juicy and succulent. There’s a drumstick, thigh and breast.  The fried chicken also comes with a buttermilk biscuit and a creamy, low country gravy studded with coarse chunks of sausage.  I have never been a big fan of American style biscuits (or scones) as I find them dense (at least the ones that I have tried).

This week's Hartsyard soft serve, a collaboration with Blackstar Pastry!
The desserts, designed by Andrew Bowden (or Andy Bowdy, lord pastry master, as proclaimed on his Instagram page), are worthy of a trip to Hartsyard alone. Each week Andy Bowdy  comes up with a different soft serve flavour and a pie of the week. We wanted to order the pie and the soft serve but unfortunately we were informed that the pie is only offered on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so we would have to return another day to try the pie.

Any Sydney foodie that has an Instagram account would have noticed that every second picture on their feed last Sunday would have been the Hartsyard x Blackstar Pastry crossover, watermelon cake soft serve, from the Newtown Fair. Unfortunately for me, whilst every foodie and their dog (so the saying goes) was enjoying this creation,  I wasn’t free that day, so I missed out.

Luckily for me, Hartsyard answered the call from Sydney foodies (which included those that were bummed to have missed out in the first place and those that just can’t get enough) and made the watermelon cake soft serve their special flavour of the week! The soft serve was served in a cone too (the one at the Newtown Fair was served in a cup). And it just so happened that we already had a reservation at Hartsyard!  We decided to order 3 soft serves to share between the 5 of us, seeing as the soft serve is quite large.
Watermelon cake soft serve ($16)
The watermelon cake soft serve consisted of an almond dacquoise soft serve, toasted pistachio, macerated strawberries, watermelon and rose granita and dried rose petals. As Black Star Pastry’s watermelon cake is probably my favourite cake in Sydney, did the soft serve version live up to the original? You bet it did! As soon as you take your first bite, you realise how remarkably similar it is to the cake. It was light, refreshing and you get that proven combination of strawberries, watermelon and rose. I think we all enjoy having familiar flavours,  especially when they are this good. Some at the table thought the soft serve was a bit icy, but I thought it was just right and a perfect ending to our meal at Hartsyard.

Highlight: The oyster Po' Boys are finger licking good! You will want to have more than one though.  
Lowlight: Watermelon cake soft serve is only on the menu for one week.
Overall: You can pretty much forget about your diet if you're on one. The food at Hartsyard is resolutely American: big portioned, fried, rich, comforting and seriously delicious. You will leave well-fed, or in a food coma like we did! 7.5/10 (Great)
Address: 33 Enmore Rd, Newtown NSW 2042
Contact no: 02 8068 1473

Hartsyard on Urbanspoon

Saturday, 8 November 2014

Sushi Omakase at Sokyo, Pyrmont - 29 October 2014

Sushi is my favourite food. Nothing gets me most excited than sushi. People that know me will know that I have a love affair with Japan. The country, the culture, the people, and of course, the food. I have been to Japan numerous times and the highlight of each trip is always the sushi (here's my write up of Sushi Tanabe in Hokkaido to see an example of what I mean).   

Unfortunately after each trip to Japan, I leave craving badly for sushi. There's just not many great options for sushi in Sydney despite the abundance of wonderful seafood in Australia. I have been trying to find a go-to sushi place in Sydney for some time now to no avail. As soon as I heard from Timeout Sydney that Sokyo was offering a sushi omakase experience, I knew I had to book myself in. I even come dressed for the occasion with tuna nigiri cuff links on the day lol!

Yes, I am a sushi geek!
Sokyo, a 1-hatted Japanese restaurant in the Star, is a restaurant that I have not been since they opened back in 2011. The executive chef is Chase Kojima, who has worked at numerous Nobu restaurants and most recently as Executive Chef at Nobu Bahamas, before heading to Sydney to run Sokyo. 

Since I was booked in for the sushi omakase menu, I was taken to the sushi bar where I would be seated in front of my sushi chef for the night, Takashi Sano (ex-Tetsuya's and ex-Koi). Sano-san has built up a reputation of being the best sushi chef in Sydney and possibly Australia. 

You know these guys are serious about their sushi here. Fresh is not always best with sushi. They age their tuna bellies like steak houses age their steaks. The flavour and texture of the tuna improves with time as steak does.

View from the sushi bar - Chase Kojima and his chefs in the kitchen
As I was on the omakase menu, no menu was required. I have put myself in the hand's of the chefs to guide me through the evening. Before proceedings commenced, Chase explained the menu to me. The starting price for omakase is $100 per person but I have opted for the $150 menu, since I am happy to pay good dosh for the best sushi. The omakase consisted of appetizer, 20 pieces of sushi, a selection of signature Sokyo dishes and desserts. The sushi consisted of a mix of traditional pieces and Sokyo's modern/contemporary interpretations.  

Sano-san torching something
For me being seated in front of the chef is the best seat in the house. You get to watch the chef construct each morsel before your very eyes. He then serves you and explains to you what each piece is. And you get to chat with him; something that excites a sushi geek like myself! This is theatre and the best service that you will find in a restaurant, and you don't even need waiters!        

Before I even start with any of the sushi, let me just say that the sushi omakase at Sokyo is a non-stop parade of exquisite seafood! Sano-san hits you with piece after piece, each one unique in their own way. I was mind blown by the variety, the quality, the flavours, the textures... this experience left me lost for words! In my foodgasm state, I closed my eyes as I savoured each piece, trying to detect the different subtleties in flavour with each piece.

Any way, that was the short version of my Sokyo review, here's the more detailed version, captured and described piece by piece!

Sano-san brings out a little appetiser to kick things off. There were cubes of bluefin tuna cooked in a sweet soy and shards of snapper in a yuzu ponzu sauce.

Snapper, Sand whiting, Alfonsino, Herring
My first piece was snapper (ikijime) nigiri. The snapper was sweet and slightly oily. The freshness of the fish was apparent with no hint of fishiness.

This was then followed up with sand whiting nigiri, which had a firm flesh, mild flavour and seasoned with soy and yuzukosho (yuzu pepper).

Next was alfonsino (kinmedai) nigiri. This piece was simple but that's what makes the traditional pieces so incredible. The gentle sweetness of the alfonsino was brought out by a light glaze of soy. And the texture of this piece was soft and melting the mouth.

Herring (or Australian kohada) was strong in flavour like mackerel, had medium oil content, and a nice, soft texture. Very different to kohada in Japan but still yum! 

Yellowfin tuna, Bluefin tuna
The first four pieces were then followed up with two kinds of tuna.   

The first piece was Australian yellowfin tuna. This was a less fatty piece with an amazing, soft, silky texture and again seasoned with a little soy. Delicious!

I thought the yellowfin was amazing, but then this aged bluefin tuna from Japan arrived to steal the show. It was fatty, flavoursome and just melted in the mouth. This wasn't otoro though (the highly prized, fatty tuna belly with melty texture). Tuna belly sometimes has sinew which counteracts its otherwise soft, melty texture but this piece was sinew-free and still had the glorious texture that we've all come to love with otoro. I was absolutely mind blown by this piece; these are the moments that I live for!

Scampi, Kingfish belly, Ocean trout
Scampi is one of my favourite pieces in Australia. It has a deep sweetness and a soft, creamy texture. This one was seasoned with a pinch of lemon salt.

The kingfish belly, which has been finely scored 47 times to give it melt in the mouth texture and seasoned with mustard and black pepper, made me wonder why I don't ever eat this cut of the fish anywhere else. It was much more flavoursome and softer than any other kingfish out there.

The ocean trout had a beautiful, buttery texture and was seasoned with soy, lime zest and kombu.    

Tempura asparagus, edamame dip
A brief intermission from sushi came in the form of tempura asparagus. This was excellent tempura, with light crispy batter that didn't feel greasy. The tempura was served with a creamy edamame dip.     

Sea urchin, Engawa, Seared scallop
To start the next act was sea urchin (uni) from Tasmania served on a ultra-crispy sheet of nori. Sano-san informs me that the sea urchin had only just arrived in the afternoon! I was salivating at the thought of how fresh and amazing the sea urchin was going to be but the proof was in the uni, literally.
Obviously, the urchin was really fresh, as there was no hint of fishiness. The rich, creamy texture of the sea urchin was heavenly in the mouth. A heavy sweetness and aroma of the sea urchin filled my mouth as I ate it. This was a pure foodgasmic moment that I wish could have lasted longer!

The next piece was seared engawa kinmedai. Engawa is the thin muscle of the fin of the kinmedai (alfonsino). This part of the kinmedai had a higher fat content, which made it very soft and more concentrated in flavor than the earlier kinmedai.

A piece of lightly seared scallop was served on a crispy sheet of nori. Scallop is another favourite of mine in Australian sushi restaurants for its sweetness and soft texture. The light sear gave the scallop a nice, smokey flavour.  

Robata king brown mushroom, lime, coriander, truffle soy
I was given another break from sushi with king brown mushrooms cooked on the robata grill. The mushrooms were great: meaty, juicy with nice, charred flavour from the robata. The king brown mushroom was dressed with lime, coriander and truffle soy.  

Squid, Seared kingfish belly, Makerel
The cuttlefish (ika) was sweet and delicate in flavour. The cuttlefish was scored to tenderise the flesh, which gave it an almost milky texture. This piece was seasoned with lemon, kombu, and sesame seeds.

Next was seared kingfish belly with sweet miso. The blowtorch melted the fat and miso into the flesh, creating an absolutely amazing nigiri that was full of melting, umami goodness. This was one of my favourite pieces of the night. 

The mackerel was an oily, strong tasting piece, marinated in vinegar for acidity and balance. A sheet of clear Japanese seaweed was laid on top of the mackerel and the firmness of the fish was a nice contrast against the fluffy sushi rice.

Dengaku Man
Dengaku Man (or caramelised miso cod) is a signature dish at Sokyo and probably their most popular warm dish. It's just incredible and I would give it the title of best miso cod in Sydney. The outside is wonderfully caramelised, sweet and sticky. The flesh was flaky, moist and buttery. The miso cod was served with a Japanese salsa and cucumber salad to freshen things up.

Scallop abductor muscle, Minced tuna, Seared scampi, Seared salmon belly

Next was scallop abductor muscle gunkan, topped with shavings of lime zest. The flesh was firmer and the acidity and acidity of the lime zest went nicely with the sweet scallop.

Then I was treated to another piece of glorious tuna. This was minced tuna and obviously had an amazing flavour. I was completely taken by surprise with the texture of this one. It was mushy and a bit grainy.

It's hard to choose a favourite, but the seared scampi with Japanese mayo comes close. The seared scampi had an intense sweetness and together with the mayo, which melted into the scampi from the blowtorch, and soy, created a bite that put my taste buds into overdrive!

Next was seared salmon belly topped with aged grated daikon and yukari shiso. Another melting moment!

Seared sea urchin (extra), Sea urchin salmon roe and squid (extra), Sea urchin and scampi (extra), Tamago
Sano-san announced that there would be one piece left in the sushi part of the omakase menu. What already? I did not want this omakase to end and to Sano-san's surprise, so I requested for more sea urchin. I think I almost knocked the chef off his feet with the size of my appetite!

The first sea urchin was in the form of seared sea urchin with a crispy sheet of nori. I've never tried sea urchin seared before and I think I usually prefer it fresh. But this one was pretty amazing! The sear was quite brief, long enough to intensify the sweetness and give the urchin a slight smoky tinge while still retaining its sublime, creamy texture.            

Next was sea urchin, salmon roe, and cuttlefish gunkan. Not only was this piece food porn to my eyes, it tasted ridiculously good. I could taste each  component separately and together they created one amazing flavour bomb!

With the last savoury piece, it was as if Sano-san could read my mind. It consisted of sea urchin, my favourite, and scampi, also my favourite. Sano-san described this as sweet on sweet. I call this awesome on awesome!   

I signalled to Sano-san to bring on the tamago, as I was completely stuffed by this stage. The tamago was like a sweet, soft and slightly dense sponge cake. Tamago done properly, like this one, is always the best way to end a sushi meal.

Sokyo “Mochi Ice Cream” and Tofu Cheesecake
I thought my dessert was the tamago and then a waitress brings out a tray of desserts! Despite being filled to the brim, I pushed on as there was no way I was going to let this go to waste. 

The first dessert was Sokyo mochi ice cream. The Yatsuhashi kyoto mochi was a green, chewey rice ‘dumpling’ that was filled with a delicious frozen strawberry milkshake.

The tofu cheesecake was my favourite of the two desserts. The cheesecake was so light, it was like eating fluffy clouds of cheese. This dessert was served with thyme sugar, fresh strawberries, strawberry jellies and strawberry consomme.

After dessert, I emerged from my food coma to thank Sano-san for what was my best sushi meal since Hokkaido. He gave me his business card and asked me to give him a call when I wanted to return to Sokyo. You can pretty much guarantee that I will be back at Sokyo very soon based on this meal. I think I have found my go-to sushi place in Sydney!

Highlight: Uni heaven!
Lowlight: Having to compete with the speakers blaring out loud music to have a conversation with the sushi chef.
Overall: Sushi omakase is a must-do experience for any sushi lover in Sydney. This was a non-stop parade of exquisite seafood that left me mind blown. There is nothing else like it in Sydney! 8.5/10 (Excellent)  

Sokyo at the Star
Address: Level G, The Darling, The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Contact no: 02 9657 9161

Sokyo on Urbanspoon 

Making a reservation for sushi omakase: no booking are taken over the phone, all booking need to be directed to Sokyo and made a week in advance due to the lengthy preparation required (maximum of 6 customers per night and 4 per booking). Reservations are managed by the restaurant directly and not by The Star.

Reservation requests can be made through or by contacting the chefs directly.