There's nothing like a pre-dinner show to whet the appetite.
At Busshari, in Potts Point, it feels like you're entering a cabaret show. We enter the darkened entrance to be seated in a dimly lit room, the ceiling festooned with paper lanterns and the only bright lights directed over the sushi counter, clearly the centre stage.
A row of patrons, mostly young and well-heeled, line the sushi counter, eating and chatting to each other amiably. The sushi chef works silently, slicing sushi with the precision of a loving surgeon.
Our group of eight is seated at an adjacent table, and throughout dinner I can't resist turning around to keep an eye on the sushi chef performance. The blow torching of scampi is a show highlight, but ultimately, the non-stop flow of dishes, from raw seafood to shimmering jewels seemingly plucked from the sea, is unfailingly mesmerising.
Stone chopstick rest
Plum sake $13
We start with drinks, a plum sake tasting higher in alcohol content than the usual umeshu plum wine, but still pleasantly sweet. A triple shot glass sake tasting by others puts a fire in respective bellies, but I'm most impressed by my citrus shochu, a sweet almost sherbetty drink that is served in a gorgeous blue and white glass that reminds me of Morocco.
Sake tasting $15
Ginban, mikotsuru and jokigen
Uchiko yuzu citrus shochu $4
Kingfish carpaccio (fish of the day) $17
Kingfish carpaccio is the first dish to arrive, a pathway of fillet slices with the faintest pink blush. The fish is sweet and firm, refreshed by the trail of accompanying sauces and a quivering blob of yuzu jelly.
Grilled eggplant with miso paste $12
Grilled eggplant is always one of my favourites. The eggplant half is full and round, drizzled generously with two types of miso. The creamy flesh is devoid of any bitterness, and so soft it's almost scoopable. I'm such an eggplant fan I usually end up eating the skin as well.
Soft shell crab karaage (2 crabs) $16
Soft shell crab karaage is another crowd-pleaser. The spider-like tentacles are perfectly crunchy and without oily residue. We douse ours with lemon and dip it into the accompanying saucer of salt and pepper.
Tuna tataki salad $20
Tuna tataki salad is the kind of dish pescatorians must dream about. A long fillet of tuna has been uniformly seared to only a few millimitres deep, the succulent mouthfuls dressed with a towering mountain of greens and the finest shavings of daikon and carrot.
Tasmanian sushi roll $14
Ocean trout, avocado, chives, cucumber and salmon caviar
Sushi rolls arrive next. The Tasmania sushi roll, with its deep pink fillet of ocean trout and spears of cucumber and avocado, has a surprise inclusion of cream cheese, the saltiness enhancing the flavour of the ocean trout. It seems an odd addition at first, but in hindsight, it's not dissimilar to a smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel combination.
Dragon sushi roll $14
Grilled eel, avocado, cucumber, omelet and sweet soy sauce
The Dragon sushi roll is always an impressive sight. Another inside-out roll, the fillets of fatty eel, grilled with a sweet soy marinade until it glistens, is a complement to the clean flavours of avocado, cucumber and tamago omelette.
Prawn tempura (4 pieces) $16
Seasonal vegetable tempura $17
Tempura prawns and assorted vegetables are coated in a light and fluffy crispy fried batter. The vegetable tempura has a particularly interesting selection, including shiitake mushroom, okra and a delicately fanned eggplant.
Chef's selection sashimi plate $29
The Chef's selection sashimi is presented in a beautiful earthenware trough - the heavy and handcrafted tableware is something that stands out with each dish. At first we'd jealously spotted this dish emerging it from the sushi kitchen, marvelling at its lucky recipients, before realising it was actually our own order!
The pillows of fish are fanned and draped seductively over perilla leaves, beside wasabi towers and beneath bouncy coils of carrot and daikon. The raw scallop is fragrantly sweet, the tuna a luscious shade of dark pink.
Deep-fried flounder $25
The deep-fried flounder immediately reminds me of the snapper I'd seen demonstrated at Ocean Room. Everyone else leaps on the battered fish fillets but I'm most looking forward to eating the deep-fried bones. There's a satisfying snap as you break off a section of the tail, the skeleton cooked so the entire thing is like a deep-fried chip. It's also amazing to watch the remains of the fish disappear from the plate and into our bellies - until only the hard skull of the head remains.
Patrons at the sushi counter
We must be the hungriest diners in the establishment as we're still ready to order more food. We note that the tables around us seem to be eating much less than us, but that doesn't stop us ordering more with gusto.
Karaage chicken on harusame noodle nest $15
Deep-fried chicken marinated in garlic, ginger and soy
served with roasted spring onion sauce
Karaage chicken is disappointingly served off the bone, a thigh fillet marinated and deep-fried. It comes on a forest of deep-fried vermicelli noodles, and whilst the chicken is tasty, secretly I pine for the pile of messy finger-licking chicken bones.
California sushi roll $14
King prawn, avocado, cucumber, Japanese mayonnaise and red tobiko
California sushi is plump with King prawn, avocado and cucumber, creamy with sweet Japanese mayonnaise and covered in a sparkle of red tobiko that squeak on the teeth.
Chef's selection sushi plate $28
The Chef's selection sushi plate arrives on earthenware cleverly crafted to resemble a length of tree. I'm lucky enough to score the uni nigiri, a quivering mass of buttery sea urchin roe on a pillow of rice. I'm impressed too by the sushi rice, which has just enough vinegar to give it flavour, with a texture that is sticky without being soggy.
Rainbow sushi roll $15
Tuna, king fish, ocean trout, king prawn, cucumber and avocado
Rainbow sushi roll is a kaleidoscope of colours. The fillets of tuna, king fish, ocean trout and king prawn are curled around the sushi rolls effortlessly and with elegance.
Seafood sizzling tobanyaki $29
Assorted seafood and vegetables with ponzu and soy
More food? Of course there was.
Tobanyaki means to cook on a ceramic plate, much like a sizzling dish but with the action at your table. The square clay burners have plenty of appeal, the charred and war-ravaged version holding our seafood dish even more so. The seafood sizzling dish offers fillets of tuna which alas, I find a touch overcooked and dry, possibly an error on our part than the kitchen.
Premium wagyu sirloin sizzling tobanyaki $39
Pure bred Wagyu, marble score +6 with vegetables with ponzu and sweet soy
Much more exciting is the premium wagyu sirloin. The thick chunks of fat-ribboned flesh are melt-in-the-mouth tender. Even the ones that linger on til the end, cooked to a well-done state, are still soft and juicy. There's also a welcome spectacle of cooking at the table too, along with the always-impressive presence of fire.
Sesame tart $7.50
We order almost one of everything. I'd been intrigued to try the sesame tart, but upon tasting it doesn't have the strong black sesame flavour I'd hoped for, overshadowed by the layer of toasted sesame seeds on top.
Mont Blanc aux Marrons $9
Chestnut puree with vanilla mousse
Mont Blanc aux Marrons is easily the most visually impressive. A beehive of piped chestnut puree hides an interior of fluffy vanilla mousse that tastes a little alcholic. The chestnut is sweet and intense.
Pumpkin mousse brulee $7.50
Pumpkin mousse brulee had also piqued our interest. It arrives in a small pot covered in a thin shell of caramelised toffee. The mousse has a subtle pumpkin flavour, a variation that works surprisingly well.
Black sesame ice cream $6.50
Plum wine sorbet is light and refreshing and we revel in the incredible silkiness of green tea and black sesame ice cream. Little cubes of mochi, cool and pleasantly squidgy, are a welcome addition on each dessert plate.
Green tea ice cream $6.50
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Busshari Authentic Japanese Restaurant
119 Macleay Street, Potts Point, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9357 4555
Dinner Monday to Saturday 6pm-11pm
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1/05/2010 03:19:00 a.m.