Sushi Samurai in Neutral Bay used to be one of my local favourites for Japanese food, but since new Japanese restaurants started opening up around the area, it seems to have fallen off my radar. I’m glad it was brought to my attention again though by Washoku Lovers, because even though it now has a new name and a new fancy touch-screen ordering system, the food is still just as good – I know because I wrote a blog post about it about 5 years ago! (excuse the crappy photos)
In true izakaya style, we kick start our meal with alcohol. Sake is our choice of drink tonight, and we’re presented with three different sakes to sample before making a choice. Each has its own distinct flavour, with the Otokoyama being quite dry and the Urakasumi being sweeter.
Izakaya Samurai also offers different specials on different nights of the week. Dining between 5.30pm and 7pm on a Monday night means you can get a sushi and sashimi combo for half price.
The combo has some fresh salmon, tuna and kingfish sashimi, along with a neat row of nigiri and salmon and avocado rolls.
There’s a good selection of fish on the plate, including plump scallops, cuttlefish and ikura salmon roe which pop in the mouth.
We’re treated to more sushi in the form of aburi salmon, with zig-zags of spicy mayonnaise. This is hot! I mean yes, my chilli tolerance is pretty pitiful but after one piece I had to stop and eat something else. It’s definitely one of those ‘so hot but so good’ kind of dishes though, because I really wanted to keep eating it.
The next dish sounds and looks a little pedestrian but it packs a punch in flavour. The salmon and enoki mushrooms are grilled in a foil packet in Samurai Special sauce. The packet is opened at the table, releasing the steam and the accompanying aromas from the fish and mushrooms. The contents are perfectly cooked, with the fish flaking away easily and the sauce providing a hit of umami from the miso and a bit of sweetness from mirin.
We’re getting stuffed to the brim but then a large seafood hotpot is brought out, packed with mussels, scallops, fish and vegetables. The soup base is a spicy miso soup which is perfect for cold nights and for flavouring all the vegies.
While we’re eating, we browse through their touch-screen menu and there are so many other things we want to try, we decide to return with a bunch of friends a couple of weeks later.
A staple order for us at Japanese izakayas is nasu dengaku, or grilled eggplant with miso. The eggplant here is grilled until tender, and smothered with a sweet miso paste. There’s quite a generous serving too – we get a huge half eggplant and there’s more than enough for everyone.
Avocado tempura catches the eye of our resident avocado lover Neko-chu. The avocado wedges arrive lovingly deep-fried in a light tempura batter. There’s a small dish of salt for dipping but I find it doesn’t really need it, with the creamy avocado and crispy batter contrasting nicely against each other.
The rainbow roll is a crowd pleaser, with a little bit of everything including tuna, salmon, prawn and avocado.
The great thing about the touch-screen ordering menu is that we can order little bits at a time, and just graze on the food as it arrives. As we browse through the menu, I spot a dish that looks like grilled cheese. It turns out to be mochi rice cakes in a cheesy bechamel-style sauce spiked with spicy mentaiko – chewy, stretchy and cheesy all at the same time.
Queen Chu and I both love mochi, so more rice cakes are in order. These ones are toasted on the grill until browned and slightly smoky, and then wrapped in a blanket of crisp nori seaweed.
We have a hankering for more sushi so we get a round of aburi salmon and aburi scallop nigiri. Each piece of sushi is seared with mayonnaise and soy sauce, which adds a slight charcoal flavour to it.
To round off the savouries, we get a beef hot pot to warm our souls with a sweet broth, loads of vegetables and thinly sliced beef.
There’s always room for dessert, and so we order a selection to share. Sir D remembers the green tea tiramisu fondly from the Sushi Samurai days, so we order it for nostalgic reasons. It’s not quite as good as he remembers, but I still rate it with the green tea sponge and creamy mascarpone.
Daifuku is a glutinous rice cake stuffed with a filling, and when it’s filled with ice cream it’s even better. The rice cake dough is rolled to a thin wrapper and draped over a scoop of vanilla ice cream, making it a small treat for those wanting to end on a sweet note.
But for those who have a bigger sweet tooth, the Tokyo tower parfait is right up your alley. It’s a tall glass filled with matcha ice cream, vanilla ice cream, cornflakes, red beans, mochi balls, mini oreos, strawberries and chocolate wafer sticks! Happiness in a glass :)
If you’re a Washoku Lovers member, don’t forget to show your card! Members get a Suntory Malt’s Tap Beer for $5 instead of＄8.80, a small glass of Japanese Sake Ippin for $5 instead of $9.50, or 1 free soft drink. If you love Japanese food and you’re not a member yet, sign up for free to get special deals at Japanese restaurants all around Sydney.
*Penguin says Feed Me was provided complimentary dishes (indicated by an asterisk) courtesy of SD Marketing and Izakaya Samurai. All other items were independently paid for.
Shop 3, 197 Military Rd
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Ph: +61 2 9953 4059
Open 7 days, lunch from 12 noon and dinner from 5.30pm