Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good old days of sushi

When the phrase 'comfort food' comes up I tend to think of hearty, warming meals that are almost English in their nature. Maybe I see it as an English term although really it should be any food that is personally comforting. It would be food that makes me feel safe, and not in a hygiene sense. I'm not really sure that I have a definitive list of comfort foods but odd as it may sound, sushi is one of them.

Perhaps not so much the sushi rolls that can be hit and miss on quality, but freshly made sushi from a restaurant usually hits the spot. In some ways it's a bit of a shame because a visit to a Japanese restaurant is no longer a special affair, notable exclusions aside. But fear not, I shall not be bored in safe hands, just comfortable.

There are a tonne of Japanese restaurants in Sydney, and especially loads in Chinatown. Sometimes it's difficult to know which ones are of superior quality, which ones have certain menu items, which ones are pricey, which ones are a diamonds in the rough. One of the restaurants I used to regularly frequent with friends is Yumei in the arcade by Capitol Theatre.

In the times since we've been going there, essentially everything has changed. First, I think, the name changed. Then the refurbishment. This time, after a half year hiatus at least, the menus have changed, in terms of content and appearance. They're much prettier and correspondingly more expensive.

Yumei also has those waiter-attention-seeking doorbell contraptions which I still find so impersonal but so efficient. Our drinks orders are away within seconds but back shortly as two of the ordered items aren't available. Sometimes the well-trodden path is just more reliable.

I cherish the communal dining culture of many Asian societies, which can be such fun when among close friends and family because you're well aware of others' preferences and so forth. Admittedly a little dangerous when among not so familiar dining colleagues. Anyway, tonight I'm after a bit of a red meat iron fix before giving blood later this week. Another diner is after sushi and another is after a light feed with sashimi. Easy.

We begin with edamame, which are warm and flecked with salt flakes but the shells are a little on the soggy side - not that it should really matter but I wonder if this is a function of cooking time or ingredient freshness. My iron fix comes in the form of the beef tataki.

Beef tataki from Yumei, Haymarket

The pretty presentation did not last long. Almost immediately the lemon is squeezed over everything, the beef slices submerged into the sauce and the centre garnish tasted - it actually turns out to be thinly sliced raw onion rather than the radish I was expecting. A good portion of the edges of the beef are cooked through leaving the centre red raw. I find the beef a little too thick and a little overcooked thus a touch chewy, and the ponzu dressing a little too mild in flavour. Disappointed but chock full of iron, I suppose. And then comes our array of sushi and sashimi - a platter and two roll selections.

Sakura sushi and sashimi platter

The boat platter looks a little light on cargo, which unfortunately look less interesting than their wooden carrier vessel. There is a small but fresh and tasty gathering of salmon, tuna and kingfish sashimi slices on the far side; nigiri of salmon, octopus, kingfish and cooked prawn; and a few pieces of a salmon hosomaki (thin rolls). It's pretty basic and uninspired but I can't complain about the freshness.

Tasmanian futomaki (top) and spicy tuna futomaki (bottom)

Tasmanian futomaki (salmon and avocado)

The thicker futomaki are much more interesting and enticing. The unusually named Tasmanian roll is your basic salmon and avocado roll masquerading as an Aussie state, topped with some additional salmon, superbly unripe avocado and a few pearls of not-so-fresh tasting salmon roe. The spicy tuna roll, however, is not involved in a masquarade of any sort - it is spicy! The raw tuna in the roll is coated in a very spicy red bean paste and rolled up with slivers of cucumber. Again, fellow diners regard my tastebuds as sensitive and seem surprised that the sushi is hot. Again, I'm laughing.

Even after our table is cleared, the staff happily allow us to remain chatting and laughing possibly a little loudly. Granted it was a quiet Wednesday night for them, but we talked our way into the night's darkness and almost felt as though it was the good ol' days. Except we used to eat ourselves to the point of being stuffed. So in a way this night's experience is better; however with the plethora of competing establishments for our seemingly recession-proof dining dollars I'm not sure we'll be returning anytime soon. I only wonder what will be different the next time.

Yumei on Urbanspoon

1 comment:

Lorraine @NotQuiteNigella said...

I love sushi and sashimi boats, they always increase the visual appeal of food! I wonder why they didn't move the food a bit to the side so that it was more centered so there isn't such a gap.


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