Tag Archives: sashimi

a fortifying dinner at Daruma Japanese Kitchen

I really envy old people. Somewhere along the line, they get to this stage where they can tell you how they feel about just about everything and not care whose feelings they hurt.

Thus, gamba rehearsals were starting to become bittersweet. The lady who very graciously allows me to come to her house and play with her posse while certain regular members are in absentia was starting to get me down. Don’t get me wrong, I know my playing is bad: I’ve only just started to practise again, am having lessons but not able to do so regularly and my instrument still has a few technical teething problems. However, I love playing so even though I know the organiser will ‘sledge’ me in front of everyone (by all means, criticise but do it in a constructive manner), I still go because I need the experience and there isn’t exactly scores of folks to jam with.

front window

Tristan knew all of this, so he consented to treat me to dinner near the rehearsal venue. Despite getting a good sashimi fix at Matsu Hashi recently, my craving wasn’t fully sated. He suggested we try out a place in Camberwell called Daruma Japanese Kitchen. Again, someone still loves you, Urbanspoon.

I lugged in my instrument and Tris was already there, with liquid refreshment. They have several sakes to choose from and also have a shochu list. Throughout the course of our dinner we ordered three small flasks of sake (large is also available) – Bishounen Junmai Ginjo (smooth, a little fruity, 15% ABV), Kizakura Yamahai Jikomi (semi-dry with a rich body, 15% ABV) and lastly Nenihi Junmaino sake (dry with a mild, rich flavour, 16.2% ABV. Only available in a small flask). The bracketed descriptions are directly pinched off the menu. All of the ones we had were served cold and staff even recommended we wait for particular ones to cool for longer. My guess is they know their sake, excellent!

sake flasks on cold ice

It was unusual, however, to not be drinking beer, especially when signs all about us were telling us that Hokkaido, Japan’s most northern island, is nature on tap: who can resist such a catchy slogan?

Hokkaido is nature on tap

We shared two starters, firstly horenso and enoki mushrooms, cooked spinach with enoki mushrooms in a sesame dressing. They may have neglected to mention that it also had Japanese mayonnaise. Win! The enoki isn’t highly visible in this photo but it was plentiful.

horenso & enoki mushroom

The second starter was scallops cooked two ways, one grilled, one crispy and topped with caviar. It looked impressive and we were both at a loss as to how to divide it and spoil its presentation. The crispy one was rather sculpturesque.


The one in the shell less so, but still highly elaborate. Both were enjoyed greatly. I would probably suggest getting a serve each rather than sharing – it’s definitely worth it.

one half of scallops cooked two ways entree

My main was a no-brainer; remember, I was here to get my raw fish craving killed. I decided upon the tuna and salmon sashimi and augmented this with maki – tuna, salmon and oshinko. Um, I think the maki may have been the gut-buster…silly me. After eating the sashimi, I was left wondering why this place wasn’t packed to the gills (ha, fish pun!) – by comparison, Matsu Hashi was a blip on the raw fish radar. Their fish was exquisite.

tuna & salmon sashimi

tuna, oshinko & salmon maki

Tristan chose the most exciting main on the menu – the grilled black cod with yuzu miso. It doesn’t look particularly special but once in your mouth, a completely different story.

grilled black cod with yuzu miso

Ack! Rehearsal time. Tristan told me I could head off while he settled up and thus I headed into the night, towards my personal Bermuda Triangle, that damned Camberwell Junction. The restaurant was pretty quiet the evening we dined though it was Monday. It definitely deserves more patronage as it serves excellent Japanese food as well as drinks. I will be back to make my way through more of their sake and sample their shochu.

Daruma Japanese Kitchen on Urbanspoon

HK: first stop: Japanese food of course!


Grouchy, grouchy, grouchy.

I don’t sleep on planes. I’d love to be able to do so, but I just can’t. Tristan can quite happily but I can’t.

So after arriving in Hong Kong via a few hours in Kuala Lumpur, I was in a foul mood. Also, I hadn’t done any swotting and we were staying in Chungking Mansions. Barring some parts of the Philippines I’ve been in (my mother’s side is three hours’ drive from Manila and it’s…provincial in her parts, to say the least), it is the dodgiest, seediest place I’ve ever been to in my life.

Welcome to Kowloon. My fellow foodie now expat Melburnian friend Alex said “you know how north(ern Melbourne) is cool and gritty? Kowloon is like that, only just gritty.”

An excellent call (yeah, north of the Yarra all the way, sorry folks. South of the Thames as a kid too, booyah!).

I did a search for what was round our parts food-wise and recommended in the Lonely Planet HK guide and an authentic izakaya called Kyozasa came up. Oddly enough, raw fish is one of my comfort foods, so we headed up there. It’s not hard to find, but seeing as I can’t read kanji or hiragana anymore, Tristan and I were a little confused.

Things were most encouraging once we entered. It’s small and full of awesome Japanese knick-knacks which adorn the walls and shelves.

The menu is pretty rad too. I really, really wanted to steal one!

As is usual at izakaya, you just keep ordering dishes and drink to share till you’re sated. One of the more unusual dishes we chose was raw salted cuttlefish. The waitress politely said “it’s law…” and I indicated with a big grin that that was okay!

It tastes like the sea in way similar to fresh oysters, and yet slightly different to any I’ve ever sampled – the saltiness is very subtle and gosh, so very fresh. I probably would have believed them if they’d told me they plucked them right out of the sea just for us.

Look, I know they’re available fecking everywhere, but edamame is mandatory. Addictive little bastards.

Another unusual fancy was grated yam served over raw tuna. The yam was really, really sticky and actually pretty hard to separate. It felt a little like marshmallow on the tongue.

Pretty sure these lamps were out of wartime Japan. I recall seeing similar such ones in the animated tear-jerking film Grave of the Fireflies. Wish I could read what the illuminated sign says!

Again, I know people don’t go to Hong Kong for Japanese cuisine, but holy fuck, this was hands-down the best sashimi platter I’d ever had in my life. There was a larger selection of fish as well as prawns and scallops. Heavenly.

After asking the staff what sake they thought would go nicely with our food and whether or not it was best served hot, we plied ourselves with some flasks of it. To end our evening, I snuck in a cheeky long glass of warm shochu! It made for a pleasant night’s sleep on my first day in Hong Kong.

Where? Kyosaza
Address 20 Ashley Road, Tsim Sha Tsui
phone 2376 1888
MTR Tsim Sha Tsui exit E

(note, sometimes the HK Lonely Planet guide stuffs up what MTR exit you should exit from but I think this might be right)

four gracious plants, fourteen gracious plates

Still in Sydney, and L was insisting I try out one of her Japanese sushi recommendations out Chatswood way. I wasn’t going to argue – I love Japanese food, and it’d been a long time since I got my sushi or sashimi fix.

Sagunja placemat

We had the choice of two places, but I decided that Sagunja would be more than adequate for me. On the placemat, it says sagunja ‘means the four gracious plants (plum, orchid, chrysanthemum and bamboo – that captured the hearts of the noble intellectuals) which are the foundation and true nature of the Eastern fine arts. I found that very poetic but the sushi chef kitty is also pretty cute.

Sagunja is a sushi train restaurant, and for this reason, I was initially worried only because the morsels passing by on the conveyor belt were very likely to induce me to commit the gustatory sin that is indulgence. In fact, L and I amassed fourteen empty plates at the end of our sitting and somewhere around the very tail end of the lunch rush, we were politely asked to vacate! Here are some of the highlights we were able to nom on. Flame-grilled salmon sushi. I liked how small their sushi was generally, as sometimes the glutinous rice is a little too filling for me. The chefs used actual butane cans for flame grilling each piece of sushi before placing them on the belt for consumption.

flame-grilled salmon sushi

I couldn’t go past some of the more traditional items like tuna sushi, salmon sashimi and some intricate variations of California rolls. Again, not too stodgy as they used very small amounts of rice. Kept them light and flavoursome. Next photograph has an example of standard sashimi, but look at the seaweed gently spliced into the sushi, and the colourful take on the California rolls coated in roe.

more Sagunja sushi train items

Lastly, some glazed flame-grilled salmon sushi, flame-grilled scallop sushi, and maki roll topped with seaweed and glass noodles. The texture of the latter was just divine!

Sagunja sushi train

I found the prices very reasonable here and there seemed to be lots of Japanese folks coming in and arranging their own takeaway lunchboxes straight off the train. Despite there being so much staff, it wasn’t always easy to find out what a particular dish was – we did eat a couple that looked good or interesting, but we weren’t fully sure what they were exactly. However, this place easily kicks arse over any sushi train place I’ve ever been to in Melbourne. Everything is so delicately prepared. If you’d like to see more photos of what was eaten, you can find them in my Sydney Flickr set.

Sagunja on Urbanspoon