It was my birthday earlier this week, and knowing my love of Japanese food all too well, Sir D treated me to dinner at Yoshii in The Rocks. Clearly Monday nights are not their busiest, as we were the only two people in the restaurant the whole time! But this just made it a little bit more special, with excellent service and little gifts from the sushi chef such as the carrot butterfly sitting on top of a lump of wasabi – “For the photos”, he said.
We started by ordering some sake which came in a cool little pouring box. The sake is poured out of a small hole in the corner of the box without having to lift the lid because inside the box are indentations for the liquid to flow through. Sir D was quite fascinated by this contraption the whole night.
At Yoshii there is the option of selecting from two tasting menus (Yoshii course for $140 or Saqura course for $130) or choosing from the a la carte menu from Monday to Thursday. We went all out and went with one of each of the tasting menus so we could sample as much of the food as possible.
Both tasting menus begin with a chawanmushi, or egg custard, which is served in a small tea cup with mushroom foam on the surface. The cup is heady with the aroma of truffle oil, and cutting through the light as air mushroom foam reveals a smooth and silky egg custard. Despite the delicate texture of the dish, it is packed with umami from the mushrooms and the dashi stock in the egg custard and a sign of more deliciousness to come.
The next course on both menus is a plate of four appetisers. All of them looked equally delicious so the problem was deciding where to start!
The cold somen noodles are first up, curled inside a small shot glass and topped with a tomato sorbet. The sorbet is more like a granita to me, with shards of tangy tomato flavoured ice lending a refreshing flavour to the noodles. Duck breast ham are two thin slices of pink duck breast flavoured with miso vinegar which is surprisingly sharp and acidic. The oven baked oyster is covered in a blanket of golden puff pastry, and cracking it open reveals a perfectly steamed oyster with a simple ginger and shallot sauce. The spring roll is almost like a dessert. While we can see the foie gras in the filling of the spring roll, the predominant flavour is of stewed apples and I could imagine myself eating this with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
We move onto the more substantial dishes, beginning with the aburi ocean trout from the Yoshii course menu. Instead of several thin slices of ocean trout as I was expecting, a large slice of ocean trout appears on the plate with its surface blowtorched. Around it is a garden of broccolini florets, slices of radish and shimeji mushrooms. The ocean trout is thin enough to be slightly cooked from the blowtorching, but also thick enough to retain some raw fish texture on the bottom. It’s a perfect contrast between the cooked and raw fish textures and is paired with a creamy sakekasu dressing, made from the residual precipitate of sake production.
The Saqura course offers a different fish dish, with four slices of Hiramasa kingfish sashimi draped on the plate with some lip-smacking wasabi oil, pink peppercorns and bright green herb oil dotted around the edge. The flavours in this dish are quite mild, and I am pleased to find that the wasabi oil doesn’t dominate the sweet flavour of the kingfish.
Both the Yoshii and Saqura courses include the butter poached snapper dish. The fish is brought out in two ornate, colourful bowls and when the lids are lifted, a rich, buttery fragrance wafts up to our noses. Even though the fish is poached in butter, it is ever so light and delicate with a zingy and slightly spicy yuzukosho dressing. Underneath the piece of fish are cucumber strands and spheres of zucchini which provide variation in the texture without overpowering the subtle flavour of the fish.
The Saqura course offers a piece of ocean perch marinated in white miso. The fish arrives on the plate still wrapped in a leaf with glowing embers that were still yet to die out from the cooking process. It is quite a spectacle when the leaf is lifted, with the embers blowing away and a stark white piece of perfectly cooked fish is revealed. The marinated fish tastes both sweet and salty, with some nice smoky flavours around the edges from the caramelisation of the marinade. It’s one of my favourite Japanese dishes and this version doesn’t disappoint.
Luckily both menus included this dish otherwise I’m sure we would have been fighting over it! The smoked wagyu beef is artfully presented on the plate with edamame beans, shaved daikon and pink peppercorns. Aside from being pink and rare in the centre and meltingly soft, the beef has quite a strong smoky flavour which is complemented well by the soy and mustard seed sauce. This dish is served with a small bowl of rice but really I prefer to just eat the beef all on its own.
A palate cleanser of sparkling wine and ginger granita is served before the next course and reminds us both of a not-so-sweet version of ginger beer.
An assortment of nigiri sushi was placed on the table, each one super fresh and perfectly crafted. I loved that there were tiny specks of wasabi, sesame seeds, daikon or whatever condiment the chef deemed suitable for that piece of sushi already placed on top, negating the need for any additional flavourings.
Onto the desserts! We were each allowed to choose a dessert from the a la carte menu and I selected the sake flavoured bavarois. I was concerned that it might be very strong on the alcohol flavour but it is very subtly flavoured with sake, and still retains the sweetness and creaminess characteristic of a bavarois. The sake jelly on top provides the strongest sake hit, but when combined with some of the bavarois and the fruit it is a well-balanced dessert.
“Unfortunately the chocolate cake is unavailable tonight, but we do have a tempura chocolate dessert.” Tempura chocolate you say? Even better! A stick of dark chocolate has been deep fried with a knobbly tempura batter and with each bite more melted chocolate oozes out. The ice creams are nice but it’s the chocolate that has me swooning and I probably should have taken a photo of the chocolate innards to show you but I was too busy eating lol.
Even though we had eaten multiple courses, all the food was so light that for once I didn’t feel like I was about to enter into a food coma. The food at Yoshii definitely showed off the subtle flavours and delicate textures of Japanese food and will be a meal that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.
115 Harrington street
Sydney NSW 2000
Ph: +61 2 9247 2566
Lunch: Monday to Saturday, noon to 3pm
Dinner: 7 days from 6pm