I’ve always been fascinated by fusion food and how you can take two seemingly distant cuisines and merge them together into one. Japaz is a place that cleverly fuses Spanish and Japanese cuisines by creating small tapas or izakaya style dishes using both Japanese and Spanish ingredients and techniques. Tonight we’re dining at the SIFF Drink and Dine event held at Japaz (at a discounted rate thanks to a hungry.digital.elf!)
It seems like we were not the only ones to take up the offer since we see other tables taking photos of their food too, including the awesome Mademoiselle Delicièuse and Monsieur Poisson from spoon, fork and chopsticks. The dinner consists of eight courses paired with matching sake. As soon as we’re seated, we’re given the first sake of the night which is served as a sangria with lemonade and little cubes of apple and orange.
The cloudy sake sangria is paired with the first course of the night, a gaspacho with soumen noodles. The dish is cool and refreshing, with the acidity of the gaspacho and soft slipperyness of the soumen noodles. There are a few drops of herb oil on top of the gaspacho as well as a clove of black garlic, which is surprisingly mild and doesn’t have the bite of normal garlic.
The next course is one that I had been looking forward to ever since I saw the menu. A mound of lobster sashimi is topped with a crushed Spanish Gordal olives, onion and shallots with a tomato seed dressing. The lobster sashimi has a delicately sweet flavour and the other elements of the dish do not overpower it at all, and instead provide a nice crunchy textural contrast against the soft sashimi.
My favourite dish of the night is the pate de foie gras which is silky smooth but rich in flavour. A thick slice of the pate sits on top of the bread rubbed with tomato, which is buttery and super crunchy and is the perfect base to go with the pate. Underneath are cubes of roasted beetroot and orange segments, and a pod of broad beans sits to the side. The dish is dressed with a 12 year Spanish muscatel vinegar which the chef gets specially imported. It doesn’t have the usual harshness of vinegar, instead having a subtler acidic taste that reminds me of citrus fruit.
We now move onto the more heavy meat dishes, with the twice cooked pork belly arriving on our table. Though it’s sad that there’s no crackling on the pork belly, this is made up for by having jamon and truffle sandwiched between the two chunks of pork belly. The melon sauce is a nice sweet counterpoint to the saltiness of the pork belly and the jamon and I am surprised at how well the pork and melon combination work together.
I love duck so I was looking forward to the next course as well, but the ginger miso sauce was far too gingery for my liking! It was a bit of a shame since the rest of the dish was fantastic with the grilled red capsicum and soft eggplant sitting underneath the slices of tender duck breast.
The three thick slices of wagyu beef on the next dish were awesomely juicy and tender and were accompanied by a sweet Pedro Ximenez sauce. There was a strange, spicy and sour mound of vegetables underneath the beef which we couldn’t quite figure out – we asked a few waitresses and got varied answers from ponzu to shredded daikon. In the end I think it was shredded daikon with chilli mixed with some ponzu sauce which was a flavour combination that didn’t work for me. I left most of the daikon behind but had no problems in finishing the wagyu at all!
We’re nearing the end of the meal as the cheese course is the next to arrive on our table. The Cabra Rulo goat’s cheese has been grilled until melty and reminds me of the Fromager des Clarines which is placed into the oven with garlic and rosemary to become all gooey and melty. Sir D who is not a fan of goat’s cheese sticks with the aged Manchego which is a hard, mild sheep’s milk cheese. Some slices of pear and dates are artfully presented on the plate alongside the cheese.
To finish off a great meal, we have a crowd pleaser dessert of liquid biscuit, strawberry salad, strawberry coulis and brandy ice cream. The bottom of the martini glass contains the liquid biscuit which does have a grainy texture not unlike a biscuit. On top of the liquid biscuit is the strawberry salad and strawberry coulis, and a quenelle of brandy ice cream sits in a pool of the coulis. We’re instructed to eat a bit of each component in one mouthful and though it looks like a liquid dessert, there are surprising differences in texture between the liquid biscuit, the coulis and the ice cream.
The SIFF dinner was a great opportunity to sample some of Japaz’s Spanish-Japanese creations as well as taste a range of sakes. Special thanks to Chef Hiro who allowed us to attend the dinner at a discounted price and for coming around to chat with us afterwards. If you’re intrigued by Spanish-Japanese fusion cuisine, be sure to check out Japaz!
The Spain meets Japan with Izakaya Dining event at Japaz was held as part of the Sydney International Food Festival, 2010.
165 Wycombe Road
Ph: +61 2 9904 4688
Open Monday to Saturday, 6pm to late