Thursday, December 27, 2012

Umi Sushi + Udon: Beyond the sushi train

There are similarities across sushi menus in Sydney, especially when it comes to sushi trains. And although Umi Sushi + Udon in the new-ish Darling Quarter precinct features an elegant sushi train, they have plenty on the menu beyond the conveyor belt of sushi morsels.

Spicy edmame beans at Umi Sushi + Udon, Darling Quarter, Sydney
At Japanese restaurants I love starting with edamame soy beans as I ponder over a menu, as if they provide sustenance for perusing lengthy menus.

These edamame were tossed in pepper, chilli and soy sauce, making each pod a warm and delicious delight to pop into the mouth and squeeze for the beans.

Yuzu sake and brown sugar umeshu plum wine
Umi Sushi + Udon has an intriguing selection of sake and umeshu plum wine. The citrusy yuzu sake was light, sweet and rather similar to lemon squash.

They have Choya umeshu and another brand that's a drier plum wine, in addition to the brown sugar variety which is dark, caramelly sweet, and best served with lots and lots of ice.

Kingfish ceviche
Our first dish was a serve of fresh kingfish: thin, raw slices lightly dressed in citrus, soy and oil so as not to overpower the delicate fish. It was presented in a modern fashion with diced sundried tomato, baby shiso leaves and snow pea sprouts.

Sashimi platter
There was silent appreciation for the round, wooden platter of sashimi that arrived, simply resplendent with visible freshness.

We had crowd favourites of salmon and kingfish; tuna sprinkled with dried garlic; red-skinned snapper; chewy, red-tipped surf clams; and creamy scampi topped with tobiko flying fish roe.

The platter disappeared in impressive time between four diners, and I reckon we could have gone the same again.

Smoked salmon and mango cheese salad
Over the summer months, Umi Sushi + Udon are featuring in-season mangoes on the menu. It doesn't click automatically as a sushi pairing but the pretty plate of bright mango components makes for interesting eating.

Firstly, the smoked salmon-wrapped asparagus was served with a vivid mango sauce which had sweetness to counter the saltiness of the smoked fish.

The mango cheese was creamy with hits of tropical sweetness, while the salad of ripe mango cubes, strings of raw beetroot and mixed lettuce leaves was a healthy and refreshing side.

Tuna and mango "lollipops"
The mango-inspired sushi is a a completely new take, without rice or seaweed. Instead, cucumber skins are wrapped around tuna and mango, and served skewered like little fruit and fish 'lollipops'.

I'd never usually take issue with a perfectly ripe mango, but in this combination its utterly sweet and bursting ripeness stole the show from the thick pieces of tuna.

Roast spatchcock with braised mushrooms
The roasted quarter of a spatchcock seemed a bit of a western approach, albeit with gourmet Asian mushrooms on the side.

The small bird was cooked well, still juicy on the inside, while the clean flavours of the mushrooms and juices made the dish quite classical.

Uramaki sushi rolls
Plates of food continued with a stunning sushi platter featuring an array of interesting pieces I don't think I've ever seen before.

The fried chicken and cream cheese uramaki inside-out sushi rolls were topped with cheese and tomato, while the other was filled with cooked tuna and draped with unagi grilled eel.

Salmon oshizushi pressed sushi
There was a raw scampi gunkan sushi wrapped in crisp nori seaweed and an inari fried sweet tofu pocket filled with rice and topped with mushrooms.

But most impressive of all was the oshizushi pressed sushi which isn't all that common around Sydney.

Topped with grilled salmon and pearls of salmon roe, the rice beneath was seasoned and dotted with bits of salmon and tobiko. The pimped-up rice was absolutely mind-blowing, cleverly making the normally plain rice the star.

Fried rice omelette
And when we felt like we could eat no more, an omelette-wrapped package arrived, tied up with chives and garnished with carrot flowers and caviar.

Served with squiggles of the barbeque-like Japanese tonkatsu brown sauce, we wondered what could be inside the pale, thin egg omelette.

Prawn fried rice omelette
A petite serve of prawn fried rice was the answer, dotted with whole prawns, peas, diced carrots and more egg. The lightly-seasoned fried rice acted as the filler for the end of the meal, as if we weren't close to bursting already.

Flower tea
A pot of hot tea helped make room for dessert, which in this case was an authentic Japanese treat not to be missed. The flowering bloom of the tea made for quite a strong, floral brew which is very much to my tastes but not for all.

Strawberry daifuku
The platter of halved strawberry daifuku was a sight to behold. Strawberry cross sections sat in sweet red bean paste within moderately thin mochi rice balls, each topped with whipped cream and a fresh mint leaf that really lifted and lightened the sugary flavours of the daifuku.

Daifuku are one of those items I often see on sushi trains but have never tried. Indeed, this visit to Umi Sushi + Udon has given me cause and confidence to look beyond the usual sushi train suspects, where plenty of new and interesting dishes do the rounds.

Food, booze and shoes dined as a guest of Umi Sushi + Udon, with thanks to O'Loghlin Communications.

Umi Sushi & Udon on Urbanspoon


Miss Piggy said...

I LOVE a good sushi train...but I agree it's good to get off the train every now & then...I always start with Edamame provides good "thinking time".

john@heneedsfood said...

By the look of all that you ate it really is a step away from the regular selection we often see around town. Strange to see a dish called ceviche in a Japanese restaurant.

gaby @ lateraleating said...

What a creative array of dishes. Not sure what the purists would say, but some of them look tasty, like the tuna/mango thingies, and the tamago-wrapped rice.


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