Sunday, 14 July 2013

Yokozuna in Darlinghurst

Yokozuna, situated between two questionable stores on Oxford Street, is a small Japanese restaurant sitting around 24 people. The restaurant is family-run, with the father behind the stoves, and the mother and daughter run the show out front.

The chef, Shintaro Oka, started his culinary training in Japan at 16. Adding to his repertoire, he then travelled through Europe via Russia to learn from different cuisines. In Sydney, chef Oka has worked at Kabuki Shoroku, Ebisu and Yuki's. They are also the former owners of Umaimon.

The regular menu is filled with the standard Japanese dishes you would normally find and does not sound all that enticing. On their Facebook page, they regularly upload pictures of fresh sashimi, so I would head in that direction. There are also some specials on there that you could order that are not on their regular or specials menu.

On their specials menu, I noticed a small section of Japanese items and upon further enquiring, I am told that this section is not the same as the rest of the specials menu in English. I am also told that these items require an acquired taste and that they may not be to my liking. Challenge accepted!

We order the bulk of our dishes from the true specials menu. The dishes are written in Japanese and I could make out some of the characters but the handwriting was atrocious and even the waiter had problems deciphering its meaning.

We started off with two small cold dishes, spicy squid, and a sweet and sour marinated cactus. The squid was thinly sliced and tossed together with some mountain vegetables and preserved vegetables called zha cai in Chinese. The cactus is hard to describe, it is soft because it seems to have been cooked down but the cactus is stringy and still crunchy. The sauce is transparent and slimy.

Next, a sashimi plate that varies depending on the fish of the day. I kept pressing the waiter to describe what the dish was but her vague comments gave nothing away, not even the type of fish, nor the way it would be served.
The grilled pacific saury was served whole, not gutted and bones aplenty. The pacific saury is similar to the taste and texture of mackerel and hokke; it is oily and very fishy. In Japan it is usually served in autumn and the guts, bitter as they are, is left intact.    
Grilled pacific saury
The seafood and vegetable hot pot is good to share; it is filled with prawns, squid, white fish, clams, bean sprouts, cabbage and tungho.  The soup is perfect for a chilly night.
Seafood & vegetable hot pot
I do not know how many times I must have walked pass this restaurant without even realising its existence. The many posters and menus plastered to the glass door front make it blend in with the other   non-sense that line up and down Oxford Street.

Their food is good and their special menu is uniquely Japanese, a much welcomed difference to the teriyaki chicken Japanese restaurants that litter the streets of Sydney. Their service can be slow and you might have to press hard to find out what the Japanese items on the menu are, not to mention the restaurant could use some redecorating but at the end of all that, their food is reminiscent of the small diners you stumble upon in Japan.

Yokozuna on Urbanspoon