Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Ume Restaurant, Surry Hills - 17 January 2015

My wife and I have wanted to make a return visit to Ume Restaurant for quite some time following our memorable lunch back in August 2013. We decided to drop by for lunch last weekend after a stop at our new favourite coffee place, Artificer Speciality Coffee Bar and Roastery, which is just across the road from Ume. The coffee there is seriously awesome, but more on this another day!

Ume is located in a relatively quiet section of Surry Hills on Bourke St. The decor at Ume is pared back with white walls, dark wood and a plum blossom painting on one wall. The head chef and owner is Kerby Craig, who worked at Tetsuya's back when it was in Rozelle and Koi in Woolwich before opening Ume.

The menu at Ume is Modern Japanese cuisine, utilising classical Japanese techniques, modern flair and local, seasonal ingredients. There are a la carte options or set menus available (5 courses for $67 or 7 course set menu $87). As we had only tried a la carte courses at Ume in the past, we were keen to try the 7 course set menu this time. With advance notice, Kerby Craig was able to prepare a separate vegetarian set menu.

Some of the sakes from Ume's great selection
House made yuzu soda ($5.50) and Izumibashi Nama Genshu Natsu-Yago, Kanagawa ($21)
There's a great selection of sake, shochu, whisky and umeshu at Ume. I opt for the Izumibashi Nama Genshu (180ml, $21) to start the meal. This sake was served chilled, perfect for a 39 degree day.

My wife went for Ume's house made yuzu soda. Being a yuzu fanatic, I loved this soda! For me it was just right: refreshing, tangy and not too sweet. I'm calling this my favourite yuzu beverage in Sydney! We loved this yuzu soda so much that several rounds of this drink were in order. 

Course one
Kingfish sashimi: shiro ponzu, black sesame, house made yuzu-kosho
My menu starts with beautiful slices of kingfish sashimi dressed in a white ponzu and served with Ume's house made yuzu-kosho. The kingfish was delightfully fresh with firm textured flesh. The tart and peppery notes from the yuzu-kosho were a perfect accompaniment to the kingfish. 

Chargrilled asparagus, avocado, yuzu-kosho, ponzu
My wife's first course was char grilled asparagus, avocado, Japanese negi, Ume's house made yuzu-kosho and ponzu. This was a simple yet enjoyable course. My wife commented on how good that ponzu sauce was. So much so that she would have run her finger through the sauce if no one else was watching.     

Course two
Seared Hokkaido scallop: koikuchi shoyu, kombu brown butter, finger limes
The next course was a revised version of Ume's signature dish - seared Hokkaido scallops. Scallops were thinly sliced, like a carpaccio, and fanned out in a shape of a flower. The texture of the scallops was just beautiful - smooth and velvety and the flavours in this dish were on point. The scallops were sweet, the kombu brown butter was loaded with umami and little rocks of finger limes provided bursts of acidity. I thought this version improved on the original, which was already an excellent dish!

Roasted yuba, koikuchi shoyu, kombu brown butter, finger limes
My wife's second course consisted of the same elements as my course (i.e. soy, kombu brown butter, and finger limes), with roasted house made yuba (tofu skin) taking the place of scallops. The yuba had a soft and silky texture. But it was the roasting of the yuba, which imparted an amazing toasty/smoky flavour, that really made this dish stand out. This was one of the favourites courses for my wife this meal.    

Course three
Kakuni: soy braised pork belly, karashi su-miso, broccolini, pork crackling furikake
Pork belly was slowly braised in soy and dashi stock and then finished on the charcoal grill. This must have been the softest layer of pig fat that I have ever eaten: so good and just melting away in the mouth! The meat was also very tender and tasty. But it was the karashi su-miso (a combination of Japanese mustard, miso and egg yolk) that really brought this dish together. The sweetness and pungent heat of the sauce went really well with the pork belly. Pork crackling was sprinkled on top like you would sprinkle furikake over rice for texture. 

Shiki no salad: roast heirloom carrots, fried brussel sprouts, buckwheat, black vinegar, tamari custard
My wife had the shiki no salad, which we ordered last time and was our favourite course from the previous meal. Our assessment of this dish doesn't change: it's fantastic and loaded with umami. The highlight of the salad were the fried brussel sprouts. The crispy sprouts were so so delicious when dipped into that creamy tamari custard and addictive soy and ginger dressing. The assorted roasted heirloom carrots were also delicious.   

More yuzu sodas... a much needed remedy for a 39 degree day! ($5.50)
Course four
Yaki nasu: charcoal grilled eggplant, wari shoyu, nori oil, grated ginger, Ito-gaki katsuo-bushi
Next was one of my favourite vegetables in Japanese cooking, eggplant. Nasu dangaku (miso eggplant) has been replaced by yaki nasu (charcoal grilled eggplant). The eggplant, which was sitting in an umami-filled wari shoyu broth and nori oil, was smoky, fall-apart-tender and juicy. The eggplant was served with grated ginger and katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes).    

Yaki nasu: charcoal grilled eggplant, wari shoyu, nori oil, grated ginger, nori
My wife's yaki nasu was topped with crispy nori rather than katsuo-bushi.

Course five
9+ Wagyu sukiyaki: David Blackmore 9+ wagyu, local asparagus, onsen tomago, soy and mirin reduction
That #yolkporn!
Thin slices of lightly cooked David Blackmore wagyu beef (marble score 9+), asparagus and shimeji mushrooms were immersed in a soy and mirin reduction, sukiyaki style. David Blackmore produces some of the best beef in the country and this was evident here. The beef was amazingly tender and flavoursome when coated in the soy and mirin reduction, kind of like a refined teriyaki sauce. The onsen tamago with perfectly oozing yolk and soft, just cooked egg white made for an excellent dipping sauce for the beef and vegetables. This was my favourite course of the meal.   

Akita-Komachi rice ($4.50)
I don't think you can have the wagyu sukiyaki without a bowl of perfectly cooked, fluffy rice to mop up the sauce. Akita-Komachi is a high end, short grain rice from Akita prefecture in Japan and the rice was cooked with dashi stock.  

Kinoko moriawase: assorted mushrooms, yuba, soy
My wife's final savoury course was kinoko moriawase (or assorted mushrooms) with bamboo shoots, yuba and soy; another simple, yet enjoyable dish.

Course six
Strawberry compote: caramelised white chocolate, ice cream powder, matcha pudding, ginger bread, dango
The first dessert course consisted of strawberry compote, white chocolate caramel, matcha custard, dango (Japanese glutinous rice ball), ginger bread and white chocolate ice cream powder. I love my matcha bitter and the matcha custard in this dessert was just that. The sweetness of the white chocolate and strawberries were a great match with the bitterness of the matcha custard. This was my favourite of the dessert courses.  

Uzen Shiraume Ume Yusui, Yamagata ($10)
I ordered a Uzen Shiraume Ume Yusui to have with my dessert courses. The tart flavours of ume were wonderfully balanced with moderate sweetness, creating a ume-shu that was really pleasant to drink and not sickly sweet.

Course seven
Mango: mango tofu, frozen green tea, mochi, dehydrated cocoa mousse, mango sorbet
The final course of the menu was just as pleasant to stare at as it was to eat. I had a similar dessert in my previous meal at Ume; except this time mango was in season rather than mandarin. The mango sorbet was nice and refreshing. The mango tofu was interesting and was -more like the firm tofu variety or a jelly rather than a soft tofu. This dessert also utilised the matcha and fruit combo with frozen green tea. The shards of dehydrated chocolate mousse and mochi provided textural contrast in this dessert.

Like my first meal at Ume, I was highly impressed with the food; every course was enjoyable! Ume's food utilises classical Japanese techniques which are familiar to me but it's the modern flair that elevates the food to another level. My verdict of Ume remains unchanged: Ume = Yummeh! 

Highlight: Wagyu sukiyaki with a bowl of rice. 
Lowlight: Expect Japanese-sixed portions, after all this is a Japanese restaurant.   
Overall: Ume's food is pure, clean and full of umami flavours, all of which are hallmarks of great Japanese food. Ume is one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Sydney and one that I would happily revisit regularly.   8/10 (Excellent)

Ume Restaurant
Address: 478 Bourke Street Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Contact no: (02) 9380 7333
Website: http://www.umerestaurant.com.au/

Ume Japanese Restaurant on Urbanspoon 


  1. Yay I'm glad they catered for Shirley and it was a good enough meal to make you want to go back with EMC2! I wanna try fresh yuba but I don't want the vegetarian menu (especially not the carrots).. I heard you made friends with Kerby, will there be a way around that? ;D I can't wait to try it all, and the matcha pudding, and the yuzu soda!

    1. Hi Crystal, yeah they catered for her and the menu they came up with was very enjoyable . Fresh yuba is really good definitely different from store bought tofu skin. Nah I wouldn't say that Kerby and I know each other that way. We just share a common interest in Hokkaido, as he has just gotten back. Can't wait to go back to Ume :)

    2. Oh haha so this is where we are going hehe. I'm so excited to try the kombu brown butter dishes!!!!! And look there's a salad with pretty flowers....:P

    3. We will get the shiki no salad when we go since I know how you love pretty little flowers and how much Crystal loves carrots :P

    4. hhahahah woo u know me too well..I do like flowers :D okay 2 weeks to go!!! お腹が空きました!!!

    5. LOL I had no idea what that means. Needed to put that into Google translate. Do you know Japanese?

  2. Glad to see they can cater for vegetarians now for the set menus. No stopping me from pigging out now!!!

    1. And that Yuzu Soda!!!! Can you steal the recipe for me???

    2. I will ask Mr Craig next time for recipe

  3. Love Ume, especially that scallop dish! We were too full to try the desserts last time but they look pretty amazing!

  4. Really need to try this place! The scallops looks beautiful :)

  5. The wagyu and yuba look fantastic. I'm trying to imagine the taste of the yuba! It sounds intriguing :D

  6. The vegetarian menu looks so good! Really wanna try this place :)

  7. First, we love the mural - cherry blossom!!! Second, the sashimi looks so fresh and the scallops are so tempting!

    Julie & Alesah
    Gourmet Getaways xx

  8. I have been wanting to try this place for so long! Always seems to slip through the cracks. Used to love Koi at Woolwich, was really disappointed when it closed.

  9. It's been awhile since I've visited Ume - then for a Valentine's dinner - it still looks just as delectable as before. Given the value, I'm not sure why I haven't made a revisit. Perhaps it's time for a Valentine's recall!

  10. Everything looks really quite lovely, but those yuzu sodas would have been awesome on a 39 deg day.

  11. This place looks so cozy! I have to try the set menu because it looks fantastic.

  12. the food looks amazing! i've been meaning to try ume for the longest time. After seeing this post, it will definitely have to be sometime soon!

  13. Dear Chris,

    Thanks for an excellent review as friends have told me about Ume and was wondering what the food was like. The 9+ wagyu looks like the swinger for the 7 course menu.

  14. I think what I'm most impressed by is how well they cater for vegetarians - so often, the vegetarian options are but a weak version of the normal menu. I'd be quite happy eating the vegetarian degustation here!

  15. I sooo wanna try that seared hokkaido scallops! Can't wait to check em out.

  16. Dear Chris,

    The hokkaido scallops remind me of the ones at Cho Cho Sun. This degustation looks like fantastic value, great review!