It’s been quite a warm Summer, and in such climes, I’m liking the clean lightness of Japanese food.
Incidentally, I also noticed a recent post on Broadsheet listing where to go for Melbourne’s best sushi. Sozai was in that list, so I made my way here on a hot 41ºC Summers night.
It’s an unassuming (but busy) suburban Japanese joint along Armadale’s high street, with a commensurate number of Western customers. It was quite chaotic when we arrived at 8pm, presumably the transition time between guests leaving and arriving. Service was friendly, but a touch flustered that evening.
wafu salad 7.5
beanshoot, beans & tofu salad with a light soy-based dressing
I vetoed my dining companion’s suggestion of steamed edamame beans and got us a cold salad instead. He liked it, while I thought the dressing was rather thin. It could’ve had a bit more citrus and flavour punch.
– iwanoi karakuchi-dry junmai chiba (230ml carafe) 18
– yasai soup 5 asian mushroom and seasonal vegetables in a light clear soup; fish stock base
– miso soup 3.5 (background) soy-bean soup with seaweed, tofu & spring onion; fish stock base
I don’t know about you, but even on hot nights, I still love a nice hot soup… I’m funny that way. The yasai soup was really enjoyable, a clear, light oceanic broth with hints of mushroom. The miso soup was pretty decent too but it was a tad too salty for me.
chef’s special for two 72
chef’s special selection of sushi & sashimi of the day, served on a huge platter
On to mains. We ignored all the other sushi and sashimi options on the menu and went with the best of the best – the chef’s special for two. A perfect cool meal for a 41ºC night, and a great way to taste the (purportedly good) sushi in this joint.
Sadly, I wouldn’t really call this an exceptional chef’s selection of sushi and sashimi. The only sashimi pieces on offer revolved around salmon and akami maguro (lean, red fleshed tuna) in astronomical quantities, with no offerings of white fish, shellfish and no premium cuts like chutoro / ootoro (tuna belly). The akami tuna also came fridge-cold and it tasted pretty fishy (ie. not that fresh).
The sushi selections also revolved around lots of salmon and lean tuna pieces, with the occasional piece of something different. The different things were (I believe) – 1 prawn nigiri, 1 ikura (salmon roe) nigiri, 1 tobiko (flying fish roe) nigiri, 1 hamachi (yellowtail kingfish) nigiri, 1 piece of marinated fried fish. Considering this was sold as a platter for two people, it was quite surprising that these ‘different’ sushi came only as single pieces. Did they expect us to halve these sushi and share? We did like the texture, temperature and flavour of the sushi rice though, and the spicy tuna uramaki (inside-out roll) was quite nice too.
The week before, I had a much nicer (and fresher) sashimi platter at Shoya for $65, and it featured 4 types of white fish, plus scallops, scampi, chutoro and sea urchin, with freshly grated wasabi. So by comparison, even though this platter (at $72) was bigger and more filling, we felt quite let down from the lack of variety (and quality).
To be fair, after my relentless and expensive discovery of Japanese food in the past year (check out my A$430 omakase at 2 michelin-starred Shinji by Kanesaka), I’ve become quite discerning of what quality to expect when it comes to this cuisine. Most Melbourne places will probably fall short of my expectations and I’m not really singling this place out.
But to put it simply, I had much higher expectations here mainly because Broadsheet had suggested this as a go-to place for ‘Melbourne’s best’ sushi. Other than that, my main comment would be that a chef’s ‘special’ platter should have better variety in order to command that price, and making up that deficit with sheer volume of food just won’t cut it for me.