I'm glad I'd printed out a map, because even though I'd heard about Suminoya plenty of times, and its all-you-can-eat Japanese yakiniku, I hadn't realised its location "behind Martin Place" really was behind Martin Place. Not down a side street from within the pedestrian mall, but accessed by a narrow dingy alley off Castlereagh Street that leads you past garbage bins, garage doors, driveways and finally behold, a brightly lit doorway that trumpets Suminoya in both Japanese and roman script.
Edamame soy bean pods
We'd all prepared our stomachs of course. An all-you-can eat Japanese barbecue is not to be taken lightly. Yakiniku means grilled meat. All-you-can-eat, in my dictionary at least, should always be taken literally.
The ground floor dining area is only small (there's another larger dining room downstairs). There are only about eight booth-style tables. What you do notice immediately are the air vents, silver helmets that descend from the ceiling and hang ominously over each table to suck all up the barbecue smoke. They look like they've come straight from outer space. Or from a high-tech hair salon.
There's a choice of 46 savoury items on the laminated gourmet buffet menu ($41 for adults, $16 for children). The premium buffet is available for $49/$19 with a few more sashimi options (tuna, salmon, kingfish and squid), eel, salads and lemon sorbet, but the gourmet seems more than sufficient.
With ninety minutes allocated for eating--last orders are taken at the sixty minute mark--we are soon playing tabletop chess as plate upon plate arrives on our table. We tuck into soft tender slices of marbled beef sashimi, plump pods of soybean edamame, bowl upon bowl of various spiced radish, cucumber and cabbage kimchee.
Our griddles are soon groaning with slices of meat, chunks of raw seafood and the occasional vegetable, fussed over with tongs and occasionally prodded by an impatient pair of chopsticks.
Raw beef rib, beef harami and pork loin
We order a mix of beef rib, beef loin, beef harami and beef rib finger, which arrive marinated in a sweetened soy. There are slices of deliciously fatty pork, frozen but quite to cook on a griddle that occasionally erupts into licks of flame.
The pescatorian is happily tending to rings of squid, rounds of scallop, unpeeled prawns and little foil cups filled with marinated fish that is amazingly soft and juicy when cooked. We make a cursory nod to vegetables with orders of salad, the seafood and seaweed salad is dressed with a tasty squigle of wasabi mayonnaise, and the spinach and almond salad is a contrast of soft baby spinach leaves mixed with flakes of tuna and the crunchy of toasted almond flakes.
Seafood and seaweed salad
Spinach and almond salad
Who would've thought beef tongue had such a following? The menu restricts this option to "one plate per person". We order our maximum quotient. The paper thin slices are gobbled up in a flash. I also enjoy the beef intestine, which is soft and squishy, and yukke, the Japanese version of beef tartare: thin strips of fresh raw beef served with egg yolk, slivers of green onion and a vinaigrette dressing.
Yukke raw beef
It is very smoky. At one point you can barely see your neighbour through the thick plumes and I'm in tears halfway through the evening, my eyes irritated by all the smoke. The eyes do recover (yes, they are rather sensitive and yes, I'm the only one at our table of eight who is reduced to tears), especially by the time dessert rolls round.
Green tea ice cream with red bean, cream and cornflakes
The scoop of matcha green tea ice cream is cold and soothing, made all the more elegant and delicious by the dab of sweetened red bean, a squirt of aerated cream and the Japanese garnish of corn flakes.
We mix scoopfuls of the green tea ice cream with spoonfuls of the coffee jelly, a knockout caffeinated wobble that is strong to the point of being bitter. Its topped with a whisper of cream and a puddle of condensed milk, but I'm grateful for the green tea ice cream.
I'm also grateful I don't burst on the way home.
1 Hosking Place, Sydney
(behind Martin Place, enter from Castlereagh Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9231 2177
Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm-3pm
Dinner 7 days 6pm-10.30pm
Gourmet buffet $41 adult / $16 children
Premium buffet $49 adult / $19 children
(includes more sashimi, salads, unagi and lemon sorbet)
Add $2 charge per bbq mesh (including first one)
All-you-can eat for 90 minutes only
Koh-Ya, Shop 1, 9-17 Young St, Neutral Bay
Menya, Shop TG8, 8 Quay St, Haymarket
Rengaya, 73 Miller St, North Sydney
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Yakiniku - Nagoya, Haymarket
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10/13/2007 05:01:00 p.m.