There is a very familiar scenario that plays out when a group of friends get together to catch up at a restaurant. Everyone arrives bursting with excitement and stories to tell, the talk and chatter is non stop. - We then feel sorry for the waitress or waiter, who has probably been back to ask if the group is ready to order more than five times. Then there is a pause in the chatter for concentration purposes, which ceases immediately once the relived waiter or waitress walks away with the order.
The laughter and the chatter continues of course - at times, other patrons tend to look at your table and wonder what all the ruckus is about. Now, this usually goes on until the food arrives - and I emphasize the word usually. You see, this wonderful dinner at Azuma Kushiyaki was a catch-up date with 3 of my lovely friends.. and we are definitely one happy chatty bunch! Is it because we are a group of filipina's? That could be it... :)
Azuma Kushiyaki is a special little Japanese gem of a restaurant located at the Regents Place Arcade in the Sydney CBD. It is off George Street, and right next to the Lumiere Building with an entrance also from Kent Street, next to the Fraiser Suites lobby. I just want to give out detailed location descriptions, so as you don't end up at the other Azuma in Chiefly Plaza. (like Trish? :)) We start with some Edemame ($7) and some green tea for Trissa. I really like the beautifully mis-matched tableware they have here, none identical but somehow it just all works.
Kath made sure we all tried the Seared Tuna Salad with Ponzu Sauce ($16). The center of each precicely cut tuna is perfectly pink - with its seared edges giving it a great contrast - visually and textural. The tuna is served cool and is topped with grated ginger, shalots and radish. It is all brought together by the ponzu dressing. It is their signature dish and a great start to the meal. The grilled Cuttlefish tentacles was on the other side of the flavour wheel but was a delicious comparison. Where the tuna was delicate - this staters was warm, salty and has that smoky barbecue taste, I know I wanted more!
Fresh oysters here in Australia - whatever variety and wherever they are from are fresh and delicious. Now add to it some ponzu dressing and this Sugaki (3.50 each) was a clear winner.
The deep fried soft shell crab Spider ($11) Inside out roll was a hit. The tangy mayonaise, crispy batter and generously sized serve makes this my favourite 'naughty' sushi.
We also tried the Unagi Yanagawa, which is spinach and grilled eel with a soft cooked egg. I can count the number of time I have tried eel in one hand - but I have to say this dish is one of the more favored eel dishes I have tried. Everytime someone asks me how eel tastes like, I always say 'Chicken'.
The term KUSHIYAKI literally translates into grilled skewers, And when our selection starts to arrive im immediately brought back to those random Kushiyaki and Yakitori hole-in-the-walls I fell in love with in Tokyo. Our choices included the Quail Eggs with Kushiyaki Sauce ($3 each), Paradise Prawn with Salt ($3 each), Duck breast with Japanese sansho pepper salt ($4.50) and Chicken Thigh Fillet ($4.50) They were all well cooked and the spices and sauces really brought out the flavour of each meat. The quail eggs were a favorite and I could have eaten all 4 serves myself!
The Tsukune or homemade chicken meatballs were delicious. They were generously dressed in Kushiyaki sauce - you couldn't help but double dip!
Azuma Kushiyaki is not a large restaurant at all, but they have private booths available - for more intimate social gathering where you would rather not be next to a group of talkative girls catching up!
And now to the second part of this story. Demos spied me uploading photos for this post a while back and got a little jealous. Being the kind wonderful and thoughtful girlfriend that I am, we went back!
Of course we had to get the the Spider Roll again - since i thought it was awesome the first time around! Being the indecisive creatures that we are, the decicion making was put into the chef's capable hands by ordering the Assrted Kushiyaki platter ($29.80) Tonight's selection (photo above, above) was awesome - with ox tounge, beef fillet, scallops, chicken breast, salmon, and a few veggies also.
Now - picture the look on our lovely waitress' face as she saw Demos being his usual OCD self - and yes, we had the seared tuna salad again - I could go back there everyday just for it!
For Dessert, we headed next door to try the very popular Azuma Patisserie. Its bustling with people on a week night, and like a kid in a candy store, I press my face against the glass cake display. And just my luck - we run into Phuoc from Phuoc'n Delicious and Anh from Anh's food blog.
Now I have herd nothing but good things about the perfect chiffon cake that live here and so I had my heart set. Demos looked at me with confusion and says "That cake looks so boring" seeing that there was no fruits, nuts, praline, icing etc. Little does he know that a high level of skill is needed to make that perfect fluffy chiffon cake - and Azuma Patisserie has done this We dont speak at all as he judges my black sesame chiffon slice - I savour every bite of this delicious cake. I was even tempted to even buy a whole serve to taunt him. Demos sticks to his more exciting Green tea 'mix' yoghurt.
These two delicious nights were awesome - Both Azuma Kushiyaki ad Azuma Patisserie provide great food and a convenient location - where everyone can catch up. I can't wait to make the trifecta and visit Azuma at Chiefly next.
Now for The Empty Fridge scorecard:
- The Peak - Cathching up with friends and finding a new Authentic Japanese gem in Sydney
- The Pitt - Demos upsetting the chiffon cake. I hope they didn't hear you. Oh, and driving BOTH times - there is a serious sake selection and wine list to be attacked here - 3rd time lucky.
- Empty Fridge Dish of the Day - Who thought boiled eggs could taste so good - the quail eggs with kushiyaki sauce is up there with the seared tuna salad.