There are so many good Japanese restaurants on the north side of the Bridge and around the CBD, that I rarely feel the need to venture further for Japanese food. So it takes a special restaurant to warrant a trip beyond my usual sphere of comfort and convenience, but it certainly pays off when you’re visiting a restaurant like Ume.
Ume is tucked away in a leafy section of Bourke St, Surry Hills, which makes it a quiet and peaceful location for dinner. The restaurant is simply decorated, with a plum blossom painting on one wall that references the restaurant’s name, “ume”, meaning “plum” in Japanese. Head Chef Kerby Craig, who trained under Tetsuya Wakuda before opening Koi in Woolwich and then Ume in Surry Hills, has created a menu that focuses on Japanese food with traditional and modern elements using local and sustainable ingredients. Every day except for Saturday, diners can choose from a 5-course ($67) or 7-course ($87) degustation menu, or opt to go a la carte. Saturday is limited to degustation only.
We decide to go a la carte mainly because of the ama ebi dish which is not on the degustation menu. I fell in love with ama ebi (deep sea prawns) when I was in Japan and I rarely see it on menus here in Sydney, so I had to order it. The sweetness of the raw prawns pair well with the crunchy walnuts, seaweed and the subtle tartness of the preserved lemon. After tasting this dish, I knew that the rest of the meal was going to be a treat.
Scallops are another favourite of mine, so we also ordered the seared Hokkaido scallop. Each scallop had been sliced and arranged in a pretty flower shape, and you can see that the edges of each piece of scallop had been seared. The combination of the soy sauce, nutty brown butter and bursts of zingy finger lime were a nice light dressing for the scallop, and the dulse was an interesting addition of edible red algae.
Ok so let’s be honest… The main reason why we ordered the kakuni (braised pork belly) was because of the crackling! Luckily there was plenty of it, and it was super crispy too! The braised pork belly was also meltingly soft with a delicious umami-flavoured dashi glaze. The fattiness of the pork belly was offset by the pickled cabbage and broccolini puree.
The roasted barramundi was cooked perfectly, with a nutty brown butter flavour on the surface. Accompanying the fish were roasted jerusalem artichoke hearts, crispy wakame seaweed, vibrant green sea herbs and a tangy soy and yuzu dressing which really complemented all the elements on the plate.
We finished off with an amazing roasted wagyu beef, which came pre-sliced for easy eating. The meat was nice and charred on the outside but had a lovely pink centre. The wagyu was served with grilled zucchini, a ponzu sauce and crispy rice wafers. The house made yuzu kosho was a nice condiment that went with the beef, made from fermented chillies, yuzu peel and salt, which gave it quite a unique flavour backed by a spicy kick, and wasn’t unlike eating mustard with beef.
We were too full for dessert but I was blown away by the dishes at Ume which were refined and executed exceptionally well. I loved how there were both traditional and modern elements of Japanese cuisine on all the dishes, and each plate arrived on our table like a work of art. It’s great value as well with our bill coming to around $70pp, particularl considering the fact that it’s hatted and the amazing quality of food. Definitely a place I would travel to again for Japanese food!
478 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
Ph: +61 2 9380 7333
Lunch: Friday and Saturday, noon to 2.30pm
Dinner: Tuesday to Saturday, 6pm to 10pm