Restaurant Sasaki in Surry Hills isn't just a doorway into Japan; it's a direct connection to the owner's childhood. Chef Yu Sasaki grew up in Shimane, north of Japan's Hiroshima, and his menu includes a crab and egg chawanmushi that channels his memories of eating the egg custard with relatives in his homeland – except his version uses blue-swimmer crab, with the roasted shell infused in dashi and lemon oil added for a citrus twist.
The wooden cutlery is made by his retired dad, two sakes come from his home-town breweries and sencha (infused with sakura leaves, ginger and yuzu) have been custom-blended for the restaurant by a Shimane tea company.
While a traditional Japanese influence can be seen in the menu and the elegant teahouse-like surrounds ( after dropping by his restaurant, you will want Sasaki to design your house), his time at acclaimed Western establishments such as The French Laundry, in the United States, and Sydney's Marque and Universal, also plays a part.
"A lot of skills I learned from fine dining: even if people can't see it on the plate, they can probably feel it," he says.
The sly inclusion of dark chocolate in the beef with red miso and wine sauce can be traced back to a veal and cocoa powder dish from Sasaki's stint at Mark Best's hatted restaurant. (In fact, it was 12 years ago – when he first stepped into Marque – that he knew he would one day open Restaurant Sasaki.)
Given that he owns the Cre Asion patisserie next door, the hitokuchi-gashi (Japanese petits fours) at Restaurant Sasaki are standouts, and exemplify his East-meets-West playfulness. The drops of dark soy sauce in his salted caramel mousse are the secret weapons that make his monaka wafers with miso caramel nuts undeniably great. And for anyone doubting that a sweet potato dessert can actually be any good, the chef's judicious use of brown butter and sweet potato crisps will likely convert naysayers.
Open Mon to Sat, 5.30pm-10pm
102/21 Alberta Street, Surry Hills, 02 8068 9774, sasaki.com.au.