Kazan review

Kazan's interior mimics a traditional Japanese Noh theatre and is tucked away at 25 Martin Place (the old MLC Centre).
Kazan's interior mimics a traditional Japanese Noh theatre and is tucked away at 25 Martin Place (the old MLC Centre). Photo: Nick Moir

25 Martin Pl Sydney, NSW 2000

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Opening hours Lunch Tue-Sat noon-3pm, dinner Tue-Sat 5.30-10.30pm
Features Accepts bookings, Pre-post-theatre, Gluten-free options, Licensed, Business lunch, Events, Family friendly, Groups, Lunch specials, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Romance-first date, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 8080 8074

One of the biggest problems about working from home is that lunch just isn't a bottle of premier cru Chablis and a plate of sparkling nigiri sushi. Who knew? Given these limitations, it's never going to catch on.

In a return to some sort of semblance of normality, the venture capitalists and lawyer folk are dining out once again in the CBD and making up for lost time. Mind you, they're doing it quietly, not as conspicuously as in the past.

That's why the new Kazan suits the suits, being tucked away in the nether regions of 25 Martin Place (the old MLC Centre). What could have been a difficult site may yet prove to be right for its times, with few people gawking at diners through the goldfish-bowl windows.

Confit salmon tacos with house-made shells filled with a bright mix of fish, herbs and jalapeno dressing.
Confit salmon tacos with house-made shells filled with a bright mix of fish, herbs and jalapeno dressing.  Photo: Nick Moir

Kazan, the latest offering from Amaya Concepts, the team behind Canberra's Peruvian-Japanese restaurant Inka, is tailored for working lunches and playing dinners.

Co-director Kiehyon Yoo has been a fixture on the Sydney dining scene for more than 20 years, and brings a quiet elegance to the floor. Or should I say, stage.

International design studio Patricia Barbis has treated the hemispherical restaurant with a sense of drama through a raised cocktail bar and robata bar, echoing the outdoor stage of traditional Japanese Noh theatre.

Tempura king prawns are served with a little bowl of dashi soy and two fine-grained salts for dipping.
Tempura king prawns are served with a little bowl of dashi soy and two fine-grained salts for dipping. Photo: Nick Moir

Note, too, the intricate wooden ceiling, cleverly crafted in the kumiko style without nails or glue, designed to represent a canopy of trees.

Head chef Shinya Nakano trained in Kyoto with fifth-generation sushi masters, later working his magic at Nobu and Kisume in Melbourne. His nigiri is clean and subtle, the fish cut in a tapering style, the rice lightly vinegared.

The six-piece itamae nigiri ($64) is full-on luxury, but even the standard pick-your-own selection is anything but standard. Smooth hiramasa kingfish, rich and meaty Hokkaido scallop and a resilient red snapper are individually seasoned with toppings, needing no drenching in soy. Fresh bluefin tuna is seasoned with a nutty gomasio garnish that's like plant-based caviar.

Steamed New Zealand red snapper with ginger and shimeji soy.
Steamed New Zealand red snapper with ginger and shimeji soy. Photo: Nick Moir

Confit salmon tacos ($12) are fun, the crisp, blistered, house-made shells filled with a bright mix of pale fish, herbs and creamy jalapeno dressing. Crunch, smunch, gone.

Even the tempura king prawns ($26) are given a twist, served with a little bowl of dashi soy and two fine-grained salts for dipping – one curry powder and the other, umeboshi plum. The batter is light and golden, and the salts are culinary cocaine.

For a place that has a real focus on robata grill, however, it's underwhelming to face overly polite choices such as chicken breast and beef tenderloin. Perhaps that's why there are such decorative garnishes – of foie gras and honey garlic soy with the beef, and a thick coating of white miso, mirin, garlic and soy on the chicken ($32).

Kazan signature nigiri selection.
Kazan signature nigiri selection. Photo: Nick Moir

Superfluously, you are asked to dip each slice of chicken into the warm, soft, runny onsen egg, leading to the usual "ah, but which came first?" comments. Actually, the fragrant, zesty, organic chardonnay from Greystone in Waipara, New Zealand ($19 glass) did.

After the character and skill of the raw courses, other dishes are more middle-of-the-road. Robata cauliflower is striped with a great deal of nutty sesame cream ($16) and doused with crushed macadamias and chives. A signature dish of NZ red snapper steamed in sake with shimeji soy ($34) is more subtle, but feels firmly cooked.

Desserts are something of a Western/Japanese co-production, featuring yuzu pavlova, strawberry cheesecake and a Yamazaki chocolate and whisky fondant with coffee ice-cream and miso caramel.

Robata chicken breast with onsen egg.
Robata chicken breast with onsen egg. Photo: Nick Moir

Kazan's strengths are sushi – I suggest it is mandatory – and Kiehyon Yoo's innate understanding of wine and sake. Weaknesses at this early stage, are a tendency to thicken sauces and to gild the lily.

When it relaxes a bit and has more fun with the smoke and sizzle of the robata grill, it will really give those WFH ham and cheese sandwiches a run for their money.

The low-down

Kazan

Vibe Elegant ambitious Japanese for corporates and pre-theatre

Go-to dish Six-piece itamae nigiri, $64

Drinks Japanese'd cocktails (eg Kyoto Protocol) and Keihyon Yoo's savvy old world/new world wine and sake lists.

https://kazandining.au/