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

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