Monday, July 30, 2012

Revisit your favourites: Izakaya Fujiyama

Recently there has been a lot of publicity around the restaurant industry and the difficult period restaurateurs currently face. There really is no better time than the present to get out and into your favourite restaurants to support them. Not only is it the owners’ livelihoods that could be lost, it’s essentially our collective eating-out livelihoods too.

The combination of a prolonged economic “recession” and the more cautious consumer discretionary spending habits associated with it; the MasterChef effect; rising living costs; a changing consumer and diner; and quite honestly some overambitious plans should not herald any end to the vibrant dining scene we have in Sydney. The current state of flux is an evolution of the industry that will take its course – if not tomorrow, next month or next year.

Asazuke - salt pickled mixed vegetables from Izakaya Fujiyama, Waterloo Street, Surry Hills
Izakaya Fuijiyama in Surry Hills is one of my favourites. It recently celebrated its first year anniversary and its menu has expanded and matured along the way.

It’s a great drinking and eating venue on the quieter side of Surry Hills and has really developed a niche in its sake range. All I know is that I picked sake #77 (name forgotten, but lovely and dry) and there were more than 77 on the list.

We started on Japanese pickles which have more of a salty aspect compared to various other Asian and non-Asian pickles, which often have more sweet and sour elements. But all the better to drink with, which is the precise idea of an izakaya.

This bowl was predominantly juicy Chinese cabbage and cucumber, with some grated carrot gracing the salty jumble.

Orion beer
It was my first time seeing Orion beer, ordered from the extensive drink specials menu. An easy-drinking beer from Japan’s Okinawa, it’s touted as an American style beer; and not half bad.

Three bean salad with sesame dressing
It is all too easy to get carried away with the exciting proteins and deep fry action on the menu so I make a conscious effort to order vegetables.

A vision of green, the three bean salad is worlds away from the tinned stuff, featuring snow peas, green beans and sugar snap peas all in fantastic states of crisp freshness. The nutty sesame dressing was pretty full on, adding serious weight to a bowl of greens.

Kingfish nuta with tortilla
One of my favourite dishes from every visit has been the kingfish nuta, which has evolved with the restaurant to its present spicy form served on a plate.

Our fears that there weren’t enough deep fried tortilla segments were unfounded, especially when the raw, miso-dressed kingfish is best piled on liberally.

I have to say I prefer the non-spicy version, but this one packs a flavour punch that makes one glad they drink beer.

Sashimi platter
It’s impressive that Izakaya Fujiyama does the quality of sashimi and sushi that it does, as your average izakaya in Japan is unlikely to dabble in raw fish at all.

The platter of ten generous pieces features five impeccable varieties, presented so alluringly that sharing amongst three is a slight problem.

Sashimi platter
The tuna was lean and light, while the kingfish got my vote of the platter. The skin-on bonito didn’t have any overriding fishiness while the finely-scored squid makes for a pretty sight aside the creamy salmon belly.

Kenji's fried chicken
As much as I try to resist fried chicken, it’s near impossible. Chef Kenji Maenaka’s fried karage chicken is as juicy as you’ll get; the thigh chunks covered in a golden batter that’s enhanced ten-fold with creamy Japanese mayonnaise and a squeeze of lemon juice.

Crispy pork belly
The crispy pork belly off the food specials menu arrived as three strips: perfect for sharing among three but a little difficult to handle with chopsticks.

The blistered, burnished skin wasn’t quite at crackling state, but close, lined with a layer of fat and fall-apart soft cross-sections of meat.

The lemon was a lifesaver of the dish; being rather crucial in cutting through the fatty mouthfuls and overall richness while the paste-like yuzu pepper added a zingy kick.

Teriyaki beef kalbi
The teriyaki beef short rib is an epic-looking dish that chopsticks, again, struggle with – although I have no issue with picking up and gnawing off bones.

The multiple dips into teriyaki sauce while being grilled probably have a lot to do with the appetising caramelised edges of the beef rib, which was succulent and still a little pink in the middle.

It’s quite the rich serving so the green chilli relish went some way in ensuring that beef overload didn’t hit too soon – though it definitely has some punch of its own.

Vanilla ice cream with Japanese vinegar
Depending on your food choices at Izakaya Fujiyama, you may or may not end up gorged and unable to contemplate dessert – as I was. However, it didn’t stop me from having a taste of the vanilla ice cream with a curious Japanese vinegar sauce.

A little like a caramelised balsamic vinegar, it wasn’t overly weird as it may have sounded initially but it also probably won’t make my list of favourite ice cream toppings.

It was another thoroughly enjoyable evening of food and drinks at Izakaya Fuijiyama and I definitely don’t want it to be my last, so I’ll be making sure to revisit this and my other Sydney favourites soon.

Izakaya Fujiyama on Urbanspoon

9 comments:

john@heneedsfood said...

I'm definitely one for supporting my local restaurants and if I was a Surry Hills local, I'm sure I'de be frequenting Izakaya Fujiyama. The food always looks great there as I've only been through other peoples blogs. I'll get there one day.

Mary @ beyondjelly said...

Good point re: visit your favourites... I always think it's a little ridiculous how few places I return to that I really like.

Tina @ bitemeshowme said...

I think you're right. Now is the perfect chance for us all to go and support those places we love most, for who knows what will ever happen to them like the sad stories of those that shut their doors. Shamefully I've not been to Izakaya Fujiyama, though it is definitely on my huge places of to go restaurants.

gaby @ lateraleating said...

You've got me salivating over my keyboard. I haven't found many great Japanese restaurants in Sydney, this one looks like one worth trying.

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

I think it's a particularly hard few weeks for restaurants with the Olympics on too.

excusemewaiter said...

I need to try that juicy Kenji's fried chicken! Also that vanilla icecream with vinegar looks very interesting...

Tina said...

Hi John - I think it's a must-visit, though hopefully they're doing OK, especially post a recent award win.

Hi Mary - Totally agreed. I started revisiting a bit more a couple of months ago, and realised its pretty silly not to.

Hi Tina - Yup, now's as good a time as any!

Hi Gaby - Yeah, it's definitely not your average casual Japanese place :)

Hi Lorraine - I admit that given the timing of the London games, the Olympics haven't altered my routines at all!

Hi excusemewaiter - I'd definitely recommend that and the beef shortrib. And the kingfish nuta...

SarahKate (Mi Casa-Su Casa) said...

I just LOVE Izakaya Fujiyama. There's no better way to spend a Saturday night in Sydney than propped up at the bar, sipping sake and watching the sushi chef do his work.

Tina said...

Hi SarahKate - Sounds like a grand Saturdat night out to me!

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