Ramune Japanese lemonade $4.20
The steps down to Mizuya reveal a greater space than you'd first imagine, a cavernous area that is split up into booth seating and private rooms, seating up to 600 people in total. The booths are like tall wooden stalls, offering bench seating and privacy - the 24 private rooms usually need to be booked in advance (particularly on weekends) and offer the additional attraction of karaoke.
Jessie Chau, co-owner, says she and her husband realised that whilst karaoke was popular, the food menu was always lacklustre - the marriage of karaoke and the speed and flexibility of touch-screen menus seemed ideal.
Pisces cocktail $5.80
Homemade passionfruit syrup mixed with Calpico water
The drinks menu offers a range of beers, wine and cocktails as well as non-alcoholic options, like Calpis (a flavoured Yakult-like drink), Japanese lemonade, green tea and mocktails.
Lotus root chips $4.80
Tonight I'm dining with Jessie, her PR agent and a couple of other guests. We start with snacks in the booth area - a platter of lotus root chips is a little more chewy than crunchy but chilli garlic edamame is salty, sweet and deliciously addictive.
Chilli garlic edamame $4.80
Mizuya braised duck breast on crispy wontons (Chef's special)
The head chef in the kitchen comes from a fine dining background, Jessie explains, and advance group bookings can include specially made dishes. We're each served a trio of canapes, each presented on a deep-fried gow gee skin.
Roast duck breast
is plump and tender, served with a slick of hoisin and fine shreds of cucumber and a dice of green shallot.
Spicy soft shell crab on crispy wontons (Chef's special)
Spicy soft shell crab
is fried-on-fried action, a tangle of lightly battered crustacean with chilli sauce.
Creamy miso cheese scallop on crispy wontons (Chef's special)
The creamy miso cheese scallop
is succulent, although its delicate flavour is a little overwhelmed by the miso and the large expanse of deep-fried cracker.
Ox tongue kushiyaki $5.80 (2 skewers)
We adjourn to a private room next, a giant video screen playing non-stop Korean music clips which we put on mute. We order through the touch screen menu, and our food arrives against a backdrop of synchronised pop group moves.
Kushiyaki means "food on a stick cooked over an open flame". The ox tongue has always been one of my favourites, and whilst the meat is a touch bouncy, the caramelisation adds a hint of sweetness.
Spider roll $13.80
A menacing-looking crab leg pokes out from the spider roll, a sushi roll filled with soft shell crab and snow pea sprouts and dusted with chilli powder.
BBQ tuna cheek $12.80
The offer of tuna cheek
is too good to resist and I order this one too. I'm surprised by its fleshiness, the substantial chunks of meat cooked in a sweet and almost sticky soy sauce.
Grilled ox tongue $12.80 (2 serves pictured)
"If you like ox tongue, you must order it grilled", says Jessie. I follow her instructions and am glad I did. The grilled ox tongue is a thicker cut than the kushiyaki, enabling greater tenderness. A garnish of garlic chips goes well with the strong flavour of the ox tongue, and a side salad of lettuce and tomato offers some palate-cleansing relief.
Assorted sashimi $12.80
Assorted sashimi is a trio of kingfish, tuna and salmon, the slices are firm and fresh and sliced well.
Seared tuna $12.00
The presentation of the seared tuna is exquisite, petite scrolls that melt in the mouth, with a subtle crunch of black sesame seeds.
Camembert cheese kushiage $4.80 (2 skewers)
I only have to mention the words "deep-fried cheese" before the Iceman is leaning forward to press "order" on the screen. Camembert cheese kushiage is everything you could hope for, a panko crumb shell holding back a triangular wedge of deep-fried runny Camembert cheese.
Cheese potato mochi $5.80
Starch lovers will rejoice in the cheese potato mochi
, deep-fried glutinous discs that taste like the love child between mashed potato and a glutinous rice dumpling. Filled with cheese. The skin on the outside is satisfyingly tacky too.
Tofu and seaweed salad $6.80
The gluttony of deep-fried food calls for some counterbalance with tofu. The tofu here is all home made on the premises, and whilst I find the tofu and seaweed salad a little too cold and messy with soy, I revel in the simpler home made tofu which comes with dried bonito shavings and fine strips of seaweed salad.
Mizuya home made tofu $5.80
Chicken and prawn chawanmushi $4.80
The elegant wobble of chicken and prawn chawanmushi is delicately sweet, its silky smoothness gliding effortlessly down the throat. Hidden in the soft steamed custard are morsels of chicken, prawn and fragrant mushroom.
Scampi sashimi $9.80 (2 serves pictured)
Scampi sashimi is a lively wakening to the tastebuds, although the creamy pearlescent flesh isn't as sweet as I'd secretly hoped.
Grilled miso onigiri $3.80
We try the grilled miso onigiri out of curiosity, a triangle of rice basted with a dab of miso and then grilled. Whilst pretty in appearance, it's not terribly exciting flavour-wise.
Japanese cheese cake $6.50
We share dessert, our stomachs distended with pain, but I am determined to plough on in the name of research. I'm impressed by the visual spectacular that is the Japanese cheesecake, an intricate design of chocolate squiggles filled with strawberry sauce and garnished with a strawberry fan, whirl of cream and a lattice scroll of toffee.
"Is this just for us, or is this dessert always served like this?" I ask with incredulity.
Jessie laughs and reassures me it's the same plating for everyone. I'm staggered that so much effort is put into a dessert that only costs $6.50.
The Japanese cheesecake is light and fluffy, airy mouthfuls that have only a faint taste of cream cheese. The toffee scroll is too much fun to eat too.
Green tea creme brulee $6.50
Green tea creme brulee is a generous portion, an oval ramekin holding a smooth green tea custard beneath a thin layer of toffee.
Geen tea shiratama sundae $4.50
Green tea shiratama sundae is incredible value too - a tall parfait glass holding a mountain of green tea soft serve ice cream, sweet red beans, a wafer and chewy balls made from glutinous rice.
We are full and spent. All we need is a touch screen button for someone to roll us home.
Grab Your Fork and Iceman dined as guests of Mizuya.
Basement level, 614 George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9266 0866
Open 7 days 11.30 - midnight
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