You're never too far from great Japanese in Sydney from ramen to yakitori to precision-cut sashimi. In this preview from the forthcoming national Good Food Guide we present 10 of our favourite places for chawanmushi and chopstick good times.
Tuna salad at Azuma. Photo: Supplied
Chef Kimitaka Azuma might be stationed at the sought-after sushi bar serving tuna belly nigiri to regular diner Tetsuya Wakuda, but his skill and commitment to fine produce extend throughout the corporate dining room. Hand-thrown plates carry rich, marbled wagyu beef, finely sliced, sizzled, sweetly sauced and topped with a thatch of crisp potato straws. Buzzy by day and leisurely by night, Azuma delivers something for everyone across a range of dining experiences.
Level 1, Chifley Plaza, 2 Chifley Square Sydney, 02 9222 9960, azuma.com.au
Punters enjoy yakitori at Chaco Bar. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer
Like jewellery and puppies, the best things often come in small packages. This pint-size yakitori bar is a stellar example. Can't decide which yakitori sticks to order? Get the chef's selection, which covers everything from pork belly to chicken heart. Staff keep the sake flowing and the grins growing. You better believe we'll be back soon for a famous Monday night or lunchtime ramen.
238 Crown Street, Darlinghurst, 02 9007 8352, chacobar.com.au
Share plates at Cho Cho San. Photo: Nikki To
Cho Cho San
Cho Cho's Scandi-style room is dominated by a buffed-concrete bar/communal table where you can enjoy smart cooking offset by a sense of surprise and humour. The king crab omelette is, in fact, an arrangement of fluffy wisps of crab amid just-set egg with loads of umami and texture, and the sticky date 'pudding' appears as a spongy, thick pancake garnished in artful lines of cream, like a dessert version of okonomiyaki.
73 Macleay Street, Potts Point, 02 9331 6601, chochosan.com.au
Kenji's fried chicken at Izakaya Fujiyama. Photo: Edwina Pickles
So you didn't expect a soundtrack of bluegrass with your sushi and sake? Chef Kenji Maenaka's taste in his music, like his food, is full of surprises. That means a menu that leaps from glistening snapper sashimi to Kenji's finger-lickin' deep-fried chicken to little fishcakes (they're called satsuma-age, dipped in a gingery dressing). There's no shortage of eats – or drinks – at this cosy Japanese-style tavern with sake bottles on every wall.
38-52 Waterloo Street, Surry Hills, 02 9698 2797, izakayafujiyama.com
Rising Sun's 'darkness' ramen. Photo: Christopher Pearce
Rising Sun Workshop
Go for the ramen, stay for a double serving of gyoza – plump, juicy, lightly pan-fried and with a slight chilli kick. This part cafe, part motorbike workshop is not only about the delicious pan-Asian snacks. The food helps fund a space for those who lament a time when there was an abundance of space for people to tinker with bikes. That means you shouldn't feel guilty ordering dessert, which can be anything from an oversized Monte Carlo or a gooey Turkish delight brownie.
1C Whateley Street, Newtown, 02 9550 3891, risingsunworkshop.com
Patagonian toothfish baked in banana leaves with miso butter at Sake. Photo: James Alcock
Sake Restaurant & Bar
Sake, with its ultra-cool mod-Japanese decor, is the place to be seen in Double Bay. And with the quality of the food, now under the culinary direction of Neil Perry, it's also the place to eat. Perry's influence is immediate, including 'new classics' like the nori crisps with tuna and kingfish sesame. Glacier 51 showcases the meltingly unique Patagonian toothfish, served in bamboo leaves with a flood of miso butter, while desserts, such as orange yuzu and wasabi ice-cream, capture elusive Asian flavours.
33 Cross Street, Double Bay, 02 8017 3104, sakerestaurant.com.au
Tuna tataki from Sokyo.
With a moody dining room under its looping ceiling of coppery lightshades, you'd think you were in a buzzy nightclub – until the food comes. Spicy tuna-topped rafts of crisp-fried yumepirika nigiri, say, or spanner crab, avocado and spicy aioli rolled in parchment-thin soy paper. If you just want edamame and sashimi, you can do that, too. Or push the boat out with juicy, grilled, miso-coated lamb cutlets.
The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, 02 9657 9161, star.com.au/sokyo
Spider rolla at Sushi e. Photo: Ben Dearnley
It's no coincidence that dining at Sushi e involves stepping onto a stage-like platform. Eating here is all about the theatre. Watch a cast of serious sushi chefs slicing raw seafood with quiet precision or using razor-sharp knives to shave vegetables into paper-thin scrolls, a jaw-dropping technique called katsuramuki. Choose your own nigiri sushi adventure or let the chefs make up a sashimi boat of the day's best catch.
Level 4, 252 George Street, Sydney, 02 9240 3000 merivale.com.au/sushie
Confit ocean trout at Tetsuya's. Photo: Jon Reid
Tetsuya Wakuda's benchmark Japanese fine diner has launched as many careers as it has served its signature confit ocean trout. Sydney continues to come for pampered dining that starts with courtesy calls pre-dinner and extends to the BYO policy that allows Sydney's elite to flex their cellars (for $30 corkage). New dishes include soy-licked, velvety yellowfin tuna under a chiffonade of fresh saltbush leaves, and a plush slice of seared wagyu warmed to fat-rendering temperature with the crunch of wasabi and sesame broccoli.
529 Kent Street, Sydney, 02 9267 2900, tetsuyas.com
Tsukune chicken meatballs at Toriciya. Photo: Christopher Pearce
A little bit of Tokyo transported to a tiny shopping strip in a north shore suburb. With all the animation of an authentic izakaya, the space is the width of the open kitchen, with bar seating, and one row of tables. The $70 'first time visit' degustation, a succession of the kitchen's greatest hits and a specials menu includes Tasmanian long spine sea urchin sushi and northern bluefin tuna sashimi.
18 Cammeray Road, Cammeray, 02 9904 2277, toriciya.com.au
The Good Food Guide goes national this year with hats awarded across Australia. The Good Food Guide 2018 will be launched in October with our presenting partners Citi and Vittoria and will be on sale in newsagents and bookstores.