The age old question for us - "So where should we eat tonight?"
It can be answered in a split second or could take the whole day to decide. Sometimes we can't even decide at all and just walk into the first restaurant that we can find. Fortunately, on this particular night, WX told me to check out Kabuki Shoroku on my iPhone. Our criteria for the night was something relatively cheap as most of our dinner companions were to be travelling very soon and needed to save up as much as possible. When we arrived and looked at the menu however, we decided that we could add this to our list but probably dine elsewhere for the night.
Right across from here, we spotted Sakura-Tei which at a brief glance looked like a small, hidden restaurant that no one knew about inside the arcade. When we walked in and surveryed the place, however, we realised most of the diners were Japanese people and the atmosphere was of a traditional izakaya (居酒屋) which is a Japanese bar where businessman usually go for cheap after-work drinks and snacks. When I was in Japan on exchanged, I saw first-hand how popular this places were and how delicious yet cheap the food was.
From the menu, we observed that kushiage and yakitori were the specialties of this little bar and boy, was I excited! Since coming back from Japan, everytime I've eaten Japanese cuisine, it's been the usualy sushi and sashimi. I never realised that kushiage even existed in Sydney! Kushiage is basically a variety of skewers which come deep fried while yakitori as you can see in the photo below, are grilled chicken (mainly) skewers which are especially delicious in the streets and arcades of Tokyo!
Since WX was craving sashimi, we ordered a small Sashimi Assortment to share which consisted of salmon, tuna and kingfish served fresh on a bowl of ice. Great way to start our battle plan against slightly hotter, oilier and more fried food assortments!
Sashimi Moriawase $16.00 (Sml)
This was followed by a dish of Cuttlefish Natto (納豆) which are fermented soybeans with a side of cuttlefish which is a healthy and frequently eaten dish among the Japanese. For those of you who haven't tried it before however, be warned, those of us who like it will like it a lot but it will also leave you with an extremely bad impression if it doesn't rest well in your mouth. The texture is sticky and slimy with an almost web-like substance around the beans and many people won't be used to the powerful smell and flavour. I really liked eating it when I was on exchange and had no problems mixing it with a bit of soy sauce and wasabi on rice but most of my dining companions were quite put off - you have been warned!
Cuttlefish Natto $12
At this point, it was every man for himself (or woman for herself in the case of WX and FYL). We went absolutely crazy with the Yakitori and the Kushiage. I make no guarantees that we took photos of everything, or that you'll be able to differentiate between the variety of Kushiage! From the Yakitori list we ordered Chicken Thigh & Shallots, Ox Tongue and Chicken Cartilage. Unfortunately, they didn't have any Chicken Skin left which was a shame! This was all served with pinches of salt and a squiz of lemon juice.
Ox Tongue $2.40
Chicken Cartilage $2.20
Chicken Thigh & Shallots $2.50
From the Kushiage list, we ordered King Prawn Wrapped in Shiso, Quail Eggs and Scallops & Shiitake Mushroom. My personal favourites from our orders would have to be the Ox Tongue and the Scallops & Shiitake Mushrooms - so succulent and flavoured. Having said that, I loved all of them - I don't think I missed them this much until I saw the platters of them appear in front of me! Needless to say, we made another order after that and continued to consume skewer after skewer.
Assortment of Kushiage
There's even a special little place to keep those used skewers that the waitress told me was called a kushi-ire which was shaped as a fish.
And finally, our selection of alcohol. They had a selection of beers from which we picked two popular Japanese ones - Sapporo and Kirin. Just to be different I ordered something of a lower alcohol content Chu-Hai which is like a lightly flavoured mixed drink. I chose the Green Apple flavour - it's almost like soft drink!
It was definitely a authentic experience and one which I truly missed (or my tastebuds did anyway) about Japan and their small hidden bars. Word of warning however, if you're hungry you should really keep track of how many skewers you order. We made the mistake of ordering without that in mind and racked up about $60 per head. In Japan, we paid about $30 AUD for kushiage tabehoudai which is basically a buffet of kushiage that you can choose yourself and cook for yourself - well worth the money. Having said that, finding this little gem in Sydney was a surprise I was quite happy about!
Ground Floor, St Martins Tower
202 Clarence St Sydney 2000
PH: (02) 9267 4552