As of this sentence, Raita Noda's new, namesake restaurant is now Sydney's worst kept secret. The experimental chef, last seen wielding blades at the defunct Ocean Room, has opened a snug eight-seat sushi bar on the old Riley Street Cafe site (is that a leftover jar of green olives, or are we about to see some Sicilian Japanese fusion? It's all possible with this guy).
Snug is definitely the operative word here, where even getting in and out to use the loos is like a complicated version of Tetris. Best to hold on as long as possible, or go easy on the hot sake. There's not a lot to the place, which Noda opened just under a month ago with his son, Momotaro –it's pretty much an open kitchen, a bar and thou.
Very few restaurants in Sydney are this intimate, fewer still offer omakase. It's chef's choice all the way here –a 10-course menu ($120) reliant on whatever Noda can get at the Sydney Fish Market on any given day. That could be West Australian octopus, sliced thinly and dressed in a combination of hot extra virgin olive oil and soy sauce brightened with the sweet acid of finger lime. Or it could be a fillet of boarfish, lightly torched and tucked into an avalanche of tomato water granita, hidden along with a shy silky scallop.
A shallow bowl of hot, smoky dashi broth holds a deep-fried prawn and a stretchy, glutinous rice ball. There's no doubt he's having a good time with the eats, mixing things up with a "taco" (that's a deep-fried dumpling skin) of soft-shell crab, or coupling Sydney rock oysters with a foam of Japanese whisky, finished with a few drops of chilli. Briny, fresh and hot all at the same time.
So here's the thing. It's a bit of a long night. The Nodas make everything a la minute, and do all the serving themselves. That 10 courses is up to three hours worth of painstakingly prepared Japanese food served to beats that wouldn't be out of place in the chill tent at Big Day Out. So while there's plenty to recommend this local secret (Suntory on tap, fresh from Japan! A very attractive copper sake warmer! Strange and delicious snacks!) it does take pretty significant chunk out of your evening.
Still, it's worth it, if only for Raita Noda's outfit –a splendidly embellished chef's jacket covered in swirls of silver glitter –and a chance to see the Preatures saunter by in a hip clump. That's about all the cool we can handle for one night.
Raita Noda, Suite1, 222 Riley Street, Surry Hills, 8093 9807. Open Monday to Saturday, 7pm-late.