Best Japanese restaurants in Sydney
There's no hard-and-fast definition of "modern Japanese cuisine". Like "modern Australian", the term is fairly ambiguous.
What isn't ambiguous in Sydney is the quality of the dining experience. At its best, it fuses local produce, Japanese techniques and French finesse.
It's also abundant -- and good Japanese food is speckled around the city.
Here are five that have won the adoration of the local dining circuit's regualrs.
Toko has hosted so many power lunches and celeb-packed parties that it could easily be the place Sydney loves to hate.
But the food is just so good that Sydneysiders queue for an hour just to get a seat.
Luckily, the bar is appealing, where the Don Julio margarita is the perfect accompaniment to the chili edamame on offer.
The restaurant is dark and somewhat sexy, courtesy of dim lighting and a largely wooden interior. The crowd is cool -- dominated by local devotees and young professionals.
The menu has changed little since opening in 2007, perhaps because all the items are somebody’s favorite – such as that classic Oz-fusion, the uchiwa ebi no sugata age (Moreton Bay bug tempura).
The tempura is perfectly crunchy and the bugs are fresh. The accompaniments -- chilli ponzu and yuzu mayonnaise -- accentuate the flavor of the dish.
Toko, 490 Crown St., Surry Hills; lunch Tuesday-Friday noon-3 p.m., dinner Monday-Thursday 6 p.m.-11 p.m., Friday-Saturday 6 p.m.-midnight; +61 (0)2 9357 6100, www.toko.com.au
On any given night the restaurants lined along Victoria Street in Darlinghurst are packed with diners. Tucked conveniently between a bottle shop and gelataria, Zushi is the strip's Japanese offering.
Zushi opened in 2005 with a clear mantra -- to deliver quality Japanese cuisine that is fuss-free and affordable. The bustling hole-in-the-wall eatery delivers just that.
The team behind Zushi has avoided the temptation to make this establishment any more than it is -- a place that people come for a quick bite that is consistently good.
The menu, while not extensive, satisfies the Japanese staple with gyoza, sushi, sashmi and teriyaki.
Their Signature Rolls that include the popular Tiger Roll -- tempura prawn, cucumber, strips of prawn, avocado, mustard mayo and sweet soy -- are addictively good. It is that power couple (mustard mayo and sweet soy) that makes the dish.
Zushi has an adequate wine list and offers carafes. Just perfect for ‘Kamikaze Hour’ -- half-price Signature Rolls from 6 p.m.–7 p.m.
Zushi, 239 Victoria St., Darlinghurst; lunch Monday-Friday noon-3 p.m., dinner, daily 6 p.m.-10 p.m.; +61 (0)2 9357 3533, www.zushi.com.au
Tetsuya's is the most revered Japanese experience in Sydney. The restaurant has featured on S.Pellegrino’s list of 50 top restaurants on numerous occasions.
Chef Tetsuya Wakuda’s 11-course degustation is served in the serene surrounds of a Japanese garden and fountain.
His menu is constantly evolving, reflecting a focus on fresh produce and his commitment to dishes that combine Japanese food philosophy and French finesse.
The only constant is Tetsuya’s signature dish: the confit of Petuna ocean trout served with konbu, celery and apple. A plate of soft pink and fresh green, the dish is beautiful and delicate.
The ocean trout stands tall -- after all it is the hero. The dish is a melting mouthful accompanied by an intense explosion of flavor. The apple provides a crisp contrast to the caviar on the palate.
Tetsuya’s is a bit of a must for serious Japanese food lovers.
Tetsuya's, 529 Kent St.; dinner Tuesday-Friday from 6 p.m., Saturday lunch from noon and dinner from 6.30 p.m., bookings essential; +61 (0)2 9267 2900, www.tetsuyas.com
Tucked behind one of Sydney’s most exclusive cocktail lounges, sushi e is on the fourth floor of the downtown Establishment Hotel.
Inside, Chef Nobuyuki Ura and his team are culinary artists. A sleek white marble bar acts as the centerpiece and stage. Diners can sit at the bar and take in the action or opt for more intimate table seating.
The menu has options from the sushi bar and kitchen.
The Wagyu Beef is the standout. The 500-day grain-fed Wagyu is served with a white miso and sesame sauce, grated radish, chives and sautéed enoki mushrooms.
sushi e, 252 George St.; lunch Monday-Friday from noon, dinner Monday-Saturday from 6 p.m., bookings recommended, +61 (0)2 9240 3000, www.merivale.com
Saké combines contemporary design in a heritage precinct and likewise brings modern flavors to classic Japanese technique.
The wooden interior sits in a restored heritage building in The Rocks. The clean lines and layout create a sleek vibe, while bursts of color bring warmth and richness.
Saké offers a few dining experiences -- communal tables, intimate booths or sunken spaces.
Executive Chef Shaun Presland’s dishes are a testament to time spent in Japan during his early career and a stint with Nobu.
His Kingfish Jalapeno sashimi is a delicious and delicate. Hiramasa Kingfish is served with yuzu soy, thin jalapeno slices and coriander. The latter two accompaniments create a new dimension and fresh flavor to the classic dish.
As its name and the large barrels that line one of the restaurant's walls suggest, Saké has an extensive and exclusive list of the Japanese rice wine.
Saké, 12 Argyle St., The Rocks; lunch Monday-Sunday noon-3 p.m., dinner Monday-Thursday 6 p.m.-10.30 p.m., Friday 6 p.m.-midnight, Saturday 5.30 p.m.-11.30 p.m., Sunday 5 p.m.-10 p.m.; +61 (0)2 9259 5656, www.sakerestaurant.com.au/sydney