My good friend, Epicurean Explorer and I visited Azuma Kushiyaki not long after it opened earlier this year. While we found the food to be quite good, we were less than impressed by their $35 per person minimum spend for dinner. Especially when we were shown the fine print after taking our seats.
We didn’t think any more of Azuma until I read about Not Quite Nigella’s encounter with Tetsuya Wakuda at Azuma. Well, if it’s good enough for Tetsuya, then it’s good enough for us. So Ms. Explorer and I ventured back, this time with Mr. Taste in tow.
On a Friday night, Azuma was alive and buzzing with customers. With no tables in sight, we told the hostess we were willing to wait (an hour if we have to!). So we left our number and wandered around the Spanish Quarter.
45 minutes later, we were back and seated.
Azuma’s decor is a little austere, if not boring, but there’s enough of a vibe to set it apart from the countless other Japanese restaurants in the CBD.
What really caught my attention was Azuma’s chopstick holders, one of which looked like dentures!
Given that kushiyaki is Azuma’s specialty, we decided to order the spatchcock platter ($16.80), scallops ($3 per skewer) and whole prawn ($3 per skewer). All skewers were accompanied with dipping salts in three flavours – chilli, cumin and green tea.
The scallops were done to perfection, firm but not chewy. The prawn is juicy and sweet.
The spatchcock platter – complete with breast and thigh skewers, battered drummettes (done KFC style) and glazed wings – provided an interesting mix of textures and flavours.
I was a little disturbed that my skewers were slightly raw. But thinking back to when Anthony Bourdain visited Japan in Season 2, he had no qualms about gobbling down chicken sashimi at a Tokyo yakitori house. I figured this was the Japanese way – fresh and raw.
The Kingfish Capaccio at Azuma is incredibly well prepared. The kingfish sashimi has the subtle sweetness that only fresh seafood carries, while the accompanying sauce is light and citrusy with just the right amount of sesame.
The next dish to arrive was the pork jowl. Until this visit, I had no idea what jowl was – much to the amusement of my dining companions. It sounded like some lesser known innard, but it was actually the fatty parts of a pig’s chin. Set on a hot plate, our pork jowl arrives sizzling and spitting all sorts of lovely smells. It is tender and tasty and not at all fatty.
Our wagyu in spicy miso ($15) arrives next. For some reason I had expected something on a hot plate. The miso was not as spicy as I would’ve liked, but the wagyu was very well cooked. The meat simply fell apart in your mouth.
The pork belly ($15) came next, set in a broth with vegetables. The pork was both light and tasty, and we were impressed at Azuma’s take on this classic cut of meat.
Our two sushi orders arrive next. The spider ($11) and salmon avocado ($11) were both very fresh. Considering sushi isn’t Azuma’s specialty, the rolls are truly fantastic here. I’d rate it above most sushi restaurants I’ve been to.
The last order to arrive is the onigiri in salmon and roe. Both of which were saved for the doggy bag.
Our return visit to Azuma was much better than the first. The dishes here are thoughtful, authentic and well made. The pricing is very reasonable given the quality of the food, but making the $35 minimum can be quite difficult for small eaters or large groups who like to share. Luckily the minimum includes drinks, so bottoms up!
Ground Floor Regent Place Shopping
501 George Street
Sydney NSW 2000
# 02 9267 7775
Open daily from 12:00 – 2:30pm and 6:00 – 10:00pm.