Thursday, September 18, 2014

Sakana Ya: An ode to fish

The humble fish is rarely as pleasing as when done well in a Japanese restaurant. Japanese cuisine certainly has a way with fish, whether it's cooked or raw, which makes it all the more tempting to order the entire menu at places like Sakana Ya in Crows Nest.

Table setting at Sakana Ya, Pacific Highway, Crows Nest
The dining room at Sakana Ya, which is Japanese for 'fish shop', is very elegantly Japanese despite its location on busy Pacific Highway in Crows Nest. Perhaps it's the softly tinkling music, the deferential service, or that unmistakeably Japanese smell of soy sauce and frying oil.

Tamagoyaki - sweet egg omelette
The menu at Sakana Ya is traditional in all the right ways, adding to the feeling that we might have been in some Tokyo restaurant. We started on warm tamago-yaki sweet omelette, carefully formed into blocks and grill-stamped with the restaurant's name in Japanese.

This was served with finely grated daikon white radish to which I like adding a touch of soy sauce for flavour, not that the omelette needed it.

Deep fried school prawns
Whole fried school prawns aren't necessarily traditional Japanese, but these relatively large schoolies simply fried to a crisp and served with lemon were satisfying enough, although there are much more interesting renditions of the dish around town.

For lunch mains at Sakana Ya, there are a range of set meals plus donburi rice bowls in two sizes, in addition to a la carte options.

The sashimi lunch set included a generous plate of thick-cut assorted raw tuna, salmon, kingfish, kingfish belly, snapper and I think flounder. The firmer white fish of snapper and flounder had more of a textural appeal rather than flavour, especially compared to the fairly standard salmon and tuna.

But it was the kingfish belly that was the revelation: a softer, deliciously creamier version of the relatively clean-tasting kingfish that was a first time but I certainly hope not the last.

Miso grilled sablefish
From the extensive fish selection, available on the menu in a variety of cooking styles, the waitress informed us that the sablefish was by far the most popular with the local, often Japanese clientele.

I'd never heard of sablefish before, but the firm-fleshed fish also goes by the name of black cod. That's right, miso grilled black cod in the most traditional Japanese style, without the fanfare and price tag that would accompany it at a more modern Japanese eatery.

The fillet of dark-skinned sablefish was beautifully done with fine and firm flaking flesh and sweet miso overtones. The juliennes of a crisp, pickled vegetable on the side and steamed rice were the perfect accompaniments for the utterly satisfying dish.

Sides: rice, pickles, salad and miso soup
With the sets come the all-encompassing, meal-making sides including salty-sour cucumber pickles, all wrinkly and green; leafy salad with a creamy dressing; miso soup and steamed white rice. We could each barely finish all our sides, which added lots of variety to the meal and bulked out what otherwise could have been very rich and luxurious lunch.

Sakana Ya is about as traditional as it gets. Don't let the location or small dining room deceive you, this is the real deal, Japanese ode to fish.

Sakana-Ya on Urbanspoon


Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

One of my fave places and apparently it has a sister restaurant in Japan too! Try the anmitsu and iced matcha latte next time - just like the rest of the menu, both are authentic and of great quality.

Jacq said...

One of my favourite Japanese restaurants in the area! I love their grilled fish and how they have a whole list of specials for that day. Never had a bad meal here!

chocolatesuze said...

mmm the kingfish belly sounds awesome and i had no idea black cod was called sablefish!

Anonymous said...

Sakana Ya has stood the test of time in Crows Nest, where so many restaurants have come and gone

Chris @ MAB vs Food said...

I need to come to Crows Nest to check out the Japanese restaurants. Sakana Ya will be one of the first on my list :)

Tina said...

Hi Rita - What a gem, just there amongst the hubbub of Pacific Highway..! Thanks for the recos.

Hi Jacq - And it feels so authentic! And then you walk outside and whoa, it's Crows Nest..!

Hi Suze - Neither! (thanks Mr Google!)

Hi napolirestaurantalert - It certainly looks that way :)

Hi Chris - Yeah, definitely a great one to add to the list!


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