Thursday, March 29, 2012

Azuma Kushiyaki in three words: fried chicken skin

It’s been a while since I’ve returned to Azuma Kushiyaki in Regent Place as I so often get tempted instead by Ton Ton Ramen just before reaching the restaurant, especially when a movie is involved.

Not a great deal has changed it seems, although the crowd on a weeknight is decidedly corporate, and in some cases, Japanese businessmen. It’s beers all round, despite the prominent positioning of many a wine bottle. But a lot of the menu at Azuma Kushiyaki is actually ideal beer food, so Sapporo it was for me.

Tsukemono – assorted homemade Japanese pickles from Azuma Kushiyaki, Regent
Place, George Street, Sydney
For starters, it doesn’t sound like the match made in heaven that it is but beer and pickles together are really quite the pairing. My favourite was the fluorescent yellow daikon; crunchy and just a bit tart – a standard that’s even sold vacuum-sealed in Asian supermarkets here.

Tsukemono pickles
The diced takana Japanese mustard greens pickles weren’t as exciting as they looked while the squashed-looking, completely black eggplant pickle was mostly just salty.

Yaki Nasu – grilled eggplant with ginger, bonito flakes and soy
We moved on to subtlety with the eggplant, grilled with delicate flavours of ginger and soy sauce, topped off with katsuobushi bonito flakes. The pure and relatively healthy flavours in this are almost enough to make you feel enlightened.

Ninniku Butter – oven roasted garlic cloves with butter
The garlic butter dish is just that: whole cloves of garlic cooked in a cute cast iron pot with lots of butter, which I’ve also seen at Korean barbeques. The completely soft garlic loses all its pungency and becomes sweet nubs of mush – ideal for first dates even.

Tori Kawa deep-fried crispy chicken skin seasoned with salt
And here’s what you’ve been waiting for – the deep-fried crispy chicken skin. Its presence on the menu was a little surprising even, and its arrival at the table deserved fanfare, even for the couple seconds before we dug in.

With the option of fresh lemon juice squeezed over for additional flavour and some good nutrients, the golden fried chips of glorious chicken skin are crispy with a slight chew and that unmistakeable flavour of well-cooked skin. Watch out pork crackling, you have serious competition.

Kushiyaki – platter of a dozen mixed skewers at the chef’s choice
To round out the meal, we opted for the namesake platter of kushiyaki – things cooked on skewers. The chef’s choice offers 12 skewers: three each of chicken, beef, seafood and vegetables.

(From top) Salmon, sea perch and prawn kushiyaki
Starting on the seafood, the sea perch marinated in soy, sake and mirin was actually a little uninteresting while the Atlantic salmon fillet with soy could have used more soy.

The paradise prawn with salt was so spot-on I quickly ordered another. Like the happiest savoury lollipop ever invented, the prawn was sweetly fresh with a nice coating of salt cooked into the shell which is intended to be eaten.

Chicken breast (middle) and chicken thigh kushiyaki
The classic chicken thigh fillet kushiyaki with quite the traditional soy-based yakitori sauce was comfort on a stick. With beers and good company, it scares me to think how many of these I could eat.

The chicken breast, was a little less interesting as a result of its less fatty and flavoursome flesh, despite the efforts of the pickled plum mayo.

Wagyu beef (top two) and ox tongue kushiyaki
The wagyu beef tenderloin with yuzu citrus pepper was overcooked for my liking, although the green squiggle of yuzu sauce was a perfect match.

The grain-fed ox tongue covered in sliced shallots was chewy with a slight metallic note and almost unnoticeable curry salt. On this occasion I managed to chew and swallow before having cow-kissing thoughts – just.

(From top) Okra, zucchini and asparagus kushiyaki
The asparagus dressed with soy and butter was a delight, as were the okra segments seasoned with dried shiso leaf flakes giving it an interesting flavour. Less enthralling was the zucchini with the same seasoning.

(Bottom) Chicken tsukune kushiyaki
We ordered a few additional skewers, being a little greedy and peckish still. The tsukune homemade chicken meatballs were a bit of a revelation and unlike any kind of minced chicken I’ve come across. Almost fluffy, in a good way, and fragrant with ginger, they were spiked onto the tiniest skewers I’ve ever seen.

Shitake mushroom with prawn kushiyaki
The fresh shiitake mushroom stuffed with minced prawn needed a little more colour and seasoning, though I probably would have been happy enough with the mushrooms alone.

As the businessmen drank on civilly still, we took our leave after just a couple of beers and a whole lot of great beer food. Now if only they did takeaway packets of that fried chicken skin for home or the movies next door.

Azuma Kushiyaki on Urbanspoon


MissPiggy said...

Oh yum, I've been to Ton Ton and have seen this place and always wondered. Food looks great! Always looking for yummy Japanese in the city so shall keep this in mind.

chocolatesuze said...

HAHA that's how i feel about ox tongue too!

joey@FoodiePop said...

More fried chicken skin goodness! Mizuya across the street does them too.

JB said...

Definitely deserving of fan fare.

It's like muffin tops... screw the chicken, give me the chicken skin! Why hadn't this been done sooner?!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

How fabulous! Anything that gives pork crackling a run for its money has got to be worth trying :)

Richard Elliot said...

"With the option of fresh lemon juice squeezed over for additional flavour and some good nutrients"

I think you are clutching at straws if you hope that lemon added to chicken skin makes it healthy! ;-)

gaby @ lateraleating said...

Cow-kissing thoughts... LOL. I've been a couple of times there and though food was really good. Didn't really notice some dishes lacked seasoning, but could be because of the food we had.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

cow-kissing thoughts? haha aww it's not THAT bad is it? haha. food looks pretty good and tasty! i've been to one of the sister restaurants, the one off george st and i was pretty impressed!

Dolly said...

i could eat bags of this Tori Kawa ..


tania@mykitchenstories said...

Oh how deadly are those chicken skins, i dont think I should go here or I might eat too many

Tina said...

Hi MissPiggy - It's hard to resist the pull of ramen and karage chicken at Ton Ton...

Hi Suze - I try to like it but a few more than five chews and I start to struggle...

Hi joey - Haven't tried Mizuya yet, but can't really go wrong with fried chicken skin anywhere ;)

Hi JB - Ha ha, how about a chicken skin store a la Seinfeld's muffin top store..?

Hi Lorraine - Yep, I'd definitely say it could almost be better :)

Hi Richard - No denying that it's not healthy, but come on - fresh lemon juice! Vitamin C!

Hi Gaby - There is indeed a huge range here; you could easily have a very different meal and experience.

Hi Tina - It's fine as long as it's not chewy. Chewy means more time to think about the cow as I chew... :/

Hi Dolly - Wouldn't that be glorious(ly unhealthy...)?

Hi Tania - Not too many in one serve. That's as long as you don't order more than one serve...

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

Out of the places I've tried, here is still where i can find the best deep-fried chicken skin!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...