Sydney's Wafu 'sushi nazi' serves diners a raw deal

Sydney's Wafu 'sushi nazi' serves diners a raw deal

Fed up with diners not finishing their food, this Surry Hills restaurant denies entry to new customers. And us
Wafu Sydney
The closest you will probably get to Wafu's food. Perhaps. We didn't get to see it, so stuck up this file photo instead.

It’s the most exclusive restaurant in Sydney. While a meal won’t set you back much more than $30, only an elite few are privy to its organic, home-style Japanese fare.

If you’re not already a “member” of Wafu restaurant in Surry Hills, or if chef Yukako Ichikawa is not in a conciliatory mood or doesn’t like the look of you, then forget it. Say “sayonara” and take your appetite around the corner to Matsuri -- her ex-husband’s restaurant with a far more embracing door policy. 

Sydney’s “sushi Nazi” established her formidable reputation a year ago. Fed up with the excessive food waste generated by picky or non-hungry diners, she began offering a 30-percent discount to those who finished their meals.

She then offered “membership” to customers who polished off everything on their plates (lemon slices, gari and wasabi excluded). Those who failed to finish their food were told not to return.

A year on, it seems Wafu’s “policies” -- displayed on the Cleveland Street restaurant’s front window and pictured below -- have become even more authoritarian.

When I visited Sydney's Wafu recently for dinner, despite there being only five customers in the 30-seat restaurant, a large sign on the door stated, “Do not come in!!! Wafu club members only!”

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How to get in

Becoming a member at Wafu is no easy feat.

First-timers are advised to turn up with an existing member. Even then, service is not guaranteed.

Two females were turned away by a flustered Ichikawa because one of the women had forgotten her membership number. 

Wafu First-timers are advised to turn up with an existing member. Even then, service is not guaranteed.For those without friends in high places, getting a seat is even trickier.

The policy on Wafu’s website advises that if you come as “only two people” you might get served.

First-time patrons are also advised to arrive “hungry, as Wafu is a place to eat –- it is not a café to simply chitchat.” Also, to bring “a sturdy reusable container” to take home any leftovers.

Trying our luck

Despite not being a member, I had adhered to all the rules -- we arrived with just one other person, a raging appetite and a suitable plastic container.

So we decided to try our luck.

First, we asked one of the five diners if she could pretend she was our friend.

She refused, saying that lying could jeopardize her membership and her reputation as a good, compliant customer. She suggested, however, we ask Ichikawa about her cooking classes as a way of breaking the ice.

Heeding her advice, we waited at the counter until Ichikawa acknowledged our presence.

“I’m interested in your Sunday cooking classes,” I nervously explained.

Ichikawa’s face lit up. “Send me an email,” she replied courteously.

“And I’d really love to eat here as well,” I added hopefully. Perhaps a little too desperately.

Ichikawa’s smile dropped and her voice rose.

“At the moment I can’t take any more members. I can’t waste any more of my time explaining my policy," she said.

And with that, we left, walking dejectedly around the corner to her ex-husband’s restaurant on Crown Street.

The place was packed, thanks to the steady stream of Wafu refugees -- including those two ousted females  lacking a membership number -- who were busy drowning their rejection in bowls of steaming miso soup.  

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getting there

460 Cleveland St.
Surry Hills NSW 2010
tel. +61 (0)2 9319 1880