OMIGOD it's a water slide!
I am beside myself with excitement. A water slide! With noodles! It's like the kids' bathttime water slide I never had but always coveted.
It's not the only surprise dish we find at Kasumi Izakaya, the Japanese tavern on the northern offshootof Dixon Street mall, not far from the new Mandarin Club. Whilst we wait for the rest of our group to arrive, I'm easily entertained by the collection of laminated menus on our table (four different menus in total).
Roll your own own handrolll sushi $18.20 and
takoyaki Russian roulette $7.80
The roll-your-own handroll sushi sounds like a good game for the kids or the particularly energetic. Takoyaki Russian roulette is an interesting variation on Wagaya's sushi roulette except instead of salmon nigiri and wasabi, it's takoyaki and chilli. The revolving tako platter is a nice touch.
Hot pot varieties including Collagen Beauty and Spicy Tripe & Hormone
On the hot pot menu, spicy tripe and hormone sounds the most intriguing. Collagen beauty is just one dish that is deliberately marketed at women.
Ladies course party plan
The Ladies course party plan must be applauded for its entrepreneurial approach. Collagen beauty soup sits alongside princess petit sushi and sauteed pork with gorgonzola sauce. This menu does 48 hours notice - perhaps one for the next hens' night?
Group banquet options
Desserts for the laaay-dies
The health benefits of CoQ10 are spruiked throughout the menu. The dessert menu presumably aimed at calorie-conscious women has a few interesting options, most notably the tomato compote with yoghurt ice.
Pork skin with spicy shallot sauce
Fat free? It's the last thing on our minds as the G-man and I create our order from the menu. I'm automatically drawn to the mimigar pork skin with spicy shallot sauce. The G-man's eyes light up at the thought. It's not the crispy crackling I'd imagined but actually the gelatinous crunch of compressed layers of pigs ears. Chilli, shallots and a sprinkle of sesame seeds add heat and liveliness.
Salmon skin chips $3.80
"Should we order salmon skin?" G-man grabs my arm in response. I take that as a yes.
The salmon skin chips fulfil all our deep-fried cravings, although these are surprisingly delicate, the curls of salmon skin super thin and super crunchy. Seasoned with flakes of seaweed, they're incredibly more-ish.
Sushi sashimi combo $32.80
A platter of sushi and sashimi restores our sense of dietary virtue. Chunks of fresh salmon, tuna and kingfish cosy up to a whole raw scampi.
Nagashi soumen $16.80
Flowing angel hair flour noodle
Our table is already overflowing when the nagashi soumen arrives. We immediately note the absence of the slide. "The water slide?" we ask. "Is it coming?"
"Oh that one is not as good as this one. Once the noodles slide from the top, then it's finished. This one is much more interesting," he reassures us.
We activate the spa bath by pressing the black button on top. We add the noodles which start to float along with the whirlpool. It's not until later that a waitress tells us we've added too many noodles. Once we remove about half, the noodles swirl around much more freely.
Dipping the noodles in dressing
Oh such fun! Not only do we get food on the move, but we then have to try to catch the noodles with our chopsticks. It's best to work against the current, using the chopsticks as a dam to create a backlog of noodles. Your victorious clump of noodles are then dipped briefly into a dressing of sweetened soy dressing that tastes much like the sauce that accompanies the cold noodle dish zarusoba.
The bath effect is not just for show. Swirling the fresh noodles in the running water rinses them of their light flour dusting creating noodles which are super smooth and slippery.
Wagyu tataki $9.80
Wagyu tataki is one of the few disappointments of the evening, a touch overcooked and a little dry and chewy.
Teriyaki chicken ball with egg yolk $9.80
The teriyaki chicken ball is a generous patty of pan-fried chicken mince patty topped with a raw egg yolk.
The buttery egg yolk adds a rich and sticky sweetness to the cooked teriyaki flavoured chicken.
Steamed eggplant with sweet miso $7.50
Steamed eggplant with sweet miso is simple but tasty. It's helpfully pre-carved so you can lift chunks of the flesh straight out, coated with a generous drizzle of sticky sweet miso. The eggplant is so tender and sweet, I end up eating the skin anyway.
Potato cheese, sticky rice style $6.80
Potato cheese, sticky rice style was another dish that had the hearts of the G-man and I all in a flutter. They take some time to arrive, but when they do, we are swooning over the golden orbs with little hats of butter that are already melting seductively.
Helloooooo happiness! The balls are amazingly chewy, like the lovechild of a potato gnocchi and a mochi cake. The crispy skin on the outside gives way to the joy of starch and a gooey middle of molten cheese. It's the ultimate comfort food that you want to hug because it hugs you right back.
Cook your own bean curd with CoQ10 $16.80
Our feast for our group of six continues with the cook-your-own bean curd, lauded in the menu for its presence of CoQ10:
CoQ10 which is necessary for beauty and health maintaining fomr skin, hair and internal organs to be healthy. It is also becomes a most excellent effect if eating with soy's isoflavone included in the bean curd. Soybean's isoflavone does the same function as the female hormone that makes up the body to be feminine, the beautification and skin whitening, improves the moisture retentions, and the breast augmentation is more effective.
Bringing the soy bean milk to boil
A pot filled with soy milk is placed on a portable gas on your table. We're instructed to allow it to boil for five minute before adding the cup of nigari provided. The nigari, or magnesium chloride, helps to coagulate the soy bean into tofu solids.
Soy bean curds after adding the nigari
We're not provided with a lot of instructions, and end up with tofu that is a little bubbly and probably overcooked. Internet searches since show we should've allowed the soy milk to cool slightly (about 70C-80C), then turned the heat off before adding the nigari with a gentle stir. It should then be left still for 5 minutes or so.
Nevertheless the concept of making your own tofu at the table has plenty of novelty factor. We're provided with saucers of soy dressing to accompany the mild-flavoured tofu. We're also provided with a plate of raw fish and vegetables to cook in the remaining stock.
Salmon, tuna, kingfish, cabbage and bean sprouts
Cooking the salmon, tuna, kingfish, cabbage and bean sprouts
The last dish that arrives is the one we'd be waiting all night for. It's the dish that had brought us to Kasumi in the first place: monjayaki.
Monjayaki is similar to okonomiyaki but is made with a batter that is runnier in consistency. It's a specialty of Tokyo and one that has the G-man particularly excited, as it's the first time he's seen it in Sydney.
The batter for monjayaki is a simple mix of water and flour (at a ratio of about 17 to 1) with a small amount of Worcestershire sauce.
Pouring the monjayaki batter onto the grill
The batter is mixed through with cabbage, shallots, squid and flying fish roe, then poured onto a heated grill plate on a portable gas cooker.
Monjayaki slowly cooking
It takes some time for the batter to cook, but when it finally does, we're rewarded with a sticky stretchy glutinous goo that is a little crisp on the bottom. We eat it straight off the pan with the mini silver spatulas provided.
Digging into the monjayaki
Red eye $7.50, grape chu-hi $6.50 and calpis chu-hi $6.50
There's a reasonably good selection of beers, sake and spirits. Chu-hi is a mixer made with shochu, the Japanese spirit made from rice, barley or sweet potato. The G-man goes for the Red eye cocktail which we find out is tomato juice mixed with beer. The tomato juice takes the edge off the beer, adding a slight salty sweetness. He loves it.
Our table of six eats and drinks its fill for just under $35 a head. Great value and lots of fun - but next time I'm insisting on the water slide.
PS. Don't forget you only have two days left to enter the O-mochi mooncake giveaway. Hurry, entries close at 5pm AEST this Wednesday 23 Sep 2009. Enter now!
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9/21/2009 12:34:00 a.m.