Osaka Trading Co review

Japanese style: Wagyu rump cap with mushroom and Japone sauce.
Japanese style: Wagyu rump cap with mushroom and Japone sauce. Photo: Christopher Pearce

1 Dalgal Way Forest Lodge, NSW 2037

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Opening hours Mon-Thu noon-10pm; Fri noon-11pm; Sat & Sun 11am-11pm
Features Bar, Degustation, Accepts bookings, Wheelchair access, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 8880 0717

Creating dazzling restaurant precincts in new developments and heritage buildings is big at the moment, but here's the thing. You can do the most dedicated, independent fit-out; you can create little microcosms of space and time within the whole space; you can weave your hospitality magic around each diner - but it all falls apart when it's time to go to the loo.

It's such a rude awakening to leave the table, then leave the restaurant, then search for a public toilet. Spell = broken, no matter if you're dining on lobster at Cirrus at Barangaroo, or orecchiette at Bondi's A Tavola in the Hall Street Hub.

It's the same deal at Tramsheds, which a Harold Park greyhound wouldn't recognise these days. It's an odd place, a full-blown restaurant and food mall inserted into the Victorian magnificence of the original 1904 tram sheds.

The venue has the colour and character of a cosy izakaya.
The venue has the colour and character of a cosy izakaya. Photo: Christopher Pearce

They've pulled some big names – Gelato Messina, Bodega 1904, Flour Eggs Water from the A Tavola team – as well as the ambitious Butcher and the Farmer, the breezy Fish & Co, charming Dust bakery, high-style Garcon cafe and popular Middle Eastern Bekya.

Somewhere in the middle is Osaka Trading Co, from the team behind Surry Hills's cute little Tokyo Bird robata and whisky bar.

At night, Japanese cartoons play on the bare brick wall to the rear, while former Bar H chef Shota Sato serves up small Japanese dishes that go with a drink – especially Japanese whiskey and sake – via raw bar, deep fryer and robata grill.

Go-to dish: prawn kushikatsu.
Go-to dish: prawn kushikatsu. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The trick is to keep eating, and keep drinking.

Four freshly opened oysters, pleasingly topped with finger lime, yukari (shiso salt) and shallots ($16). A glass of peachy, golden, oily Tengumai Yamahai Jikomi Junmai sake ($16 a 100ml glass).

A terrific dish of lightly torched aburi salmon dressed with pickled cucumber, jalapeno chilli, sesame seed oil and spidery bright red chilli threads ($16). A Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi sake that's like drinking alcoholic water ($14).

Aburi salmon, jalapeno and pickled cucumber.
Aburi salmon, jalapeno and pickled cucumber. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Prawn kushikatsu ($9), two skewers of nubbly prawn mousse, crumbed, deep-fried and served with lemon and Japanese tartare sauce is just the sort of deep-fried nonsense you want with a malty, rich but light Hitachino Nest cedar-matured Japanese ale ($13).

In the same vein, golden, dusky chicken karaage ($14), a pile of dry-outside and juicy-within fossilised rocks, is just what you need when you want chicken karaage. Or is that chicken karaoke? Or have I had enough sake? Mmmm, probably, given I am not in a karaoke bar.

A smoky, bosky Henty Farm pinot meunier ($13) stops me from singing, as does a grilled wagyu rump cap, sliced and doused with a Japone sauce of grated onion, rice vinegar and dashi ($26), although it's not the world's most exciting dish. A side of roast pumpkin with pinenuts and raisins ($12) was an under-cooked dud.

Karaage chicken and chilli mayo.
Karaage chicken and chilli mayo. Photo: Christopher Pearce

The two young owners, Jason Ang and Yoshi Inishi, have lined the long narrow space with bottles, filled it with high tables and stools, and hung traditional Japanese lanterns that give it the colour and character of a cosy izakaya straight out of Osaka's Kitashinchi district or Tokyo's Piss Alley.

It's fun, if not particularly fast, and nails that snacky/drinky Japanese thing nicely. Now excuse me, while I find the loo.

The lowdown

Best bit: Flexi-time snacky/drinky menu

Worst bit: The trek to the (rather nice) public loo

Terry Durack is chief restaurant critic for The Sydney Morning Herald and senior reviewer for the Good Food Guide. This rating is based on the Good Food Guide scoring system.

Go-to Dish: Prawn kushikatsu ($9)