Japanese has to be one of my favourite cuisines. What’s not to love about delicious ramen, fresh sushi and sashimi, crisp tempura, slippery udon, or their general love of deep fried food and a slathering of mayonnaise onto anything and everything. Japanese food is not just a feast for the tastebuds, but a feast for the eyes.
One of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Sydney is Samurai Japanese Cafe, in my very own suburb of Balmain. Coming here without a reservation is a lottery, with the tiny restaurant booked out most nights. It’s a popular place for locals, but people also come from afar for Samurai’s delights. Friends of mine will regularly do the 1.5 hour hike from the Central Coast just for dinner, before driving home again.I’ve been here on countless occasions now, and have some very firm favourites that never fail to impress and satisfy. I cannot go past the crispy salmon rolls – a fresh, salmon roll, drizzled with a mild wasabi mayonnaise and topped with crunchy, fried noodles. It’s a fantastic mix of textures.
The nasumiso entree is a serving of juicy eggplant, stir-fried with a sweet sauce. Sometimes I find the sauce a little too cloyingly sweet, but I love eggplant so much that I will still polish this off.Teriyaki chicken is always a hit, especially with children. The tender chicken pieces are fried to a lovely golden crisp, before being tossed in a sweet teriyaki sauce.
The beef and asparagus may not have a particularly creative name, but it’s one of our regular highlights. The slices of caramelised beef are wrapped around tender, steamed asparagus, artfully arranged and presented in a square stack, and served with sweeter-style sauce and wasabi mayo. When the sauce and mayo is combined, its creaminess just lovingly coats your tongue. It’s so good that, sometimes when we’ve finished the beef and asparagus, we’ve asked for a bowl of rice just so that we can savour all that delicious sauce.
Other dishes that I would recommend are the tender scotch fillet pieces in the kakuni, the incredibly light agedashi tofu, and the crisp, pan-fried ebi gyoza that are soft and juicy.
The desserts are also worth exploring if you aren’t already stuffed to the gills. From time to time, they have a special dessert roll, that looks like a sushi roll but is actually a soft sponge filled with wasabi, red bean and vanilla ice cream, and frozen strawberries. Very inventive!Samurai is a fantastic local eatery, which will become one of your firm favourites. The service is polite and friendly (always the Japanese way!), and although it’s not a cheap and cheerful joint, it’s not over the top expensive either. Just be sure to book before you go so you aren’t disappointed with being turned away.