Take some cubes of fresh sashimi, mix in some slightly spicy mayonnaise, sprinkle with flying fish roe, black sesame seeds and some sprouts and sandwich it all between two blistering, crispy fried wonton skins. This is the sashimi taco, one of the specials which we begin our meal with at Ainoya Japanese Restaurant.
It’s a quaint, cosy little restaurant tucked away on a side street in Milson’s Point, with sake bottles lined up against the wall near the entrance. There is a reasonable-sized sake menu so we choose a sake to go with our meal. We also get to choose our own sake cups from a range of different ones on a platter.
The menu is broken up into entree and main sections, along with sushi, sashimi and salad/side dishes as well. We decide to just order an assortment of dishes to share between us which means we get to taste a little bit of everything.
The seared kingfish is another of the specials for the day and served on a bed of salad leaves and with a zingy eschallot dressing. The fish is thinly sliced and just cooked so that it retains its moisture. With all the shared plates the staff were very accommodating in that they made sure there were enough servings on the plate so that each diner could have one each.
Beef tataki is a generous serving of marinated thinly sliced rare roasted beef sitting in a pool of tangy ponzu sauce. The beef slices are so perfectly round and even have a bit of fat marbled through the beef which makes them extra delicious.
I can’t resist ordering the deep fried school prawns which are a pile of prawns dusted with flour and fried to a crisp. They’re addictive with a squeeze of lemon and I’m sure would go great with an ice cold beer.
We also get a large mixed sashimi plate to share which comes with five different types of fish. The sashimi is arranged beautifully with some lemon slices and grated daikon, and is cool and fresh.
The menu has several types of sushi rolls and one of the ones we order is the the spider roll. Inside the roll is deep fried soft shell crab, cucumber and mayonnaise. I love that some of the pieces have a long, crispy leg sticking out the end which makes for a better crab to rice ratio!
The grilled duck breast catches my eye on the menu. At first, I’m surprised that it’s served cold but after eating it with the ponzu dipping sauce it makes sense for it to be a cold dish. The duck is perfectly cooked and pink inside, and garnished with a mass of curled spring onions.
There are 7 of us dining tonight so after trying 7 different dishes we’re still a little hungry and so we order more food. The salmon wrap maki serves as a good stomach filler from the rice but has a generous filling of prawn, avocado, cucumber and mayonnaise with a slice of raw salmon on top. I love the delicate garnish of spring onions and a single slice of chilli – with the seeds attached to give a not so delicate spicy kick.
A whole grilled squid arrives on our table and we’re quite surprised with the sheer size of the dish. The squid is grilled and served with a sake-soy sauce. Usually I’m a bit hesitant to order squid since it has a tendency to become rubbery but here the squid rings are perfectly tender and delicious. A squiggle of mayonnaise and a “sparkle” of chilli powder (as it says on the menu) provides some added flavours to complement the squid.
The last savoury dish is the tori nanban which is deep fried chicken pieces served with a Japanese sweet-sour sauce and tartar sauce. It’s an interesting combination, with the chicken sitting in the sweet and sour sauce and topped with the Japanese tartar sauce, and while it’s a bit of a strange concoction together it works surprisingly well. The tartar sauce is particularly addictive and I don’t hesitate to slather it over my chicken pieces. While the chicken isn’t particularly crispy and a little oily, the meat is moist and tender inside the deep fried outside.
We all feel like something a little bit sweet to finish off the meal and so some black sesame and green tea ice cream is ordered for dessert. It’s the perfect way to end the meal and afterwards our bellies are full and our tastebuds are satisfied. The parentals are so enamoured with some of the dishes that they even try and recreate some of them at home, which is always a sign of a memorable meal!
34 Burton Street
Kirribilli NSW 2061
Ph: +61 2 9922 1512
Open Tuesday to Sunday from 6pm
From 7th July 2011, Ainoya will open for lunch on Thursdays and Fridays, noon – 3pm