Four words that will make anyone smile: All. You. Can. Eat.
Every year I say that I have outgrown the ignominious lust for outright gluttony. And yet still, there's a delicious little thrill at the prospect of a limitless buffet, as though a personal best is beckoning to be broken.
Kansai all you can eat menu
There are only three of us this evening, although we plan to attack with the cumulative appetite of many more. Kansai, tucked away in the corner of the Hunter Connection basement, does a roaring trade in sushi for the lunchtime crowds. By night, it's a scene of unrepentant consumption, although perhaps, in hindsight, this may have been just our table.
Pouring soy sauce
We squeeze ourselves into the tightly packed dining room, harried staff thrusting laminated but worn menus in our direction. We already know what we're having, of course, discarding the a la carte menu along with our self-respect and any semblance of a waistline.
We rattle off an insane number of dishes to our waiter, pointing at each picture to make sure there is no confusion. Three each of everything, we may as well have instructed. Perhaps a double chin too.
The food arrives thick and fast and in no particular order. Let's make no mistake - this is not about quality. It is a mandated calorific free-for-all dipped in wasabi and soy.
We plot our way through the usual suspects, starting with a platter of nigiri sushi and adjourning to pan-fried gyoza (a little heavy) and skewers of yakitori that err on the cloying side of sweet.
Karaage chicken is probably the most disappointing, more greasy batter than chicken, and whilst the pork tonkatsu is tender, its panko crumb coating is a little leathery.
Redemption is found in the sushi rolls, wheels of nori-wrapped rice that arrive draped with extra seafood and shards of crisp seaweed. The dragon roll holds a tempura prawn in its middle, succulent slices of sweet and fatty eel reclining elegantly on top.
We find a core of salmon and avocado inside the rainbow rolls, the rainbow itself coming from the alternate arrangement of prawn, tuna and salmon on top, each daubed with mayonnaise.
Spider rolls offer potential, with their tangled deep-fried mass of soft shell crab in the middle, but a heavy hand of Thai chilli sauce and mayonnaise leaves any delicacy by the wayside.
Kansai sushi bar
Sashimi salad order #1
I do like my salad, convinced that its consumption will somehow counteract every fatty mouthful before it. Sashimi salad is a hastily cobbled combination of raw fish served on a bed of raw cabbage, carrot, avocado and cucumber doused with dressing and sprinkled with sesame seeds and seaweed.
Sashimi salad order #2
Our second order is a different take, with uneven cubes of tuna served with tobiko flying fish roe.
Soft shell crab handroll
The entire handroll menu is available too and Billy and I both choose the soft shell crab handroll which is all kinds of satisfying salty crunch. John's scampi is less of a winner, a little lost in the thick wad of batter. The sushi rice is reassuringly sticky - not too wet or dry.
Prawn tempura are surprisingly good, the batter light and airy, and the tails so crisp you can eat them whole.
Dragon roll order #2
A second order of dragon rolls seems to omit the prawn from our initial offering.
We plough on through a serving of pork kimchi that has more of that odd Thai sweet chilli sauce flavour, before finishing with a final order of baby octopus that is more of an overgrown teenager, and disappointingly chewy.
For $28 however, this is still dinner for a steal.
Can an evening end without dessert? Of course not.
Like the non-stop jaw of competitive eater, Takeru Kobayashi, we continue our Pac Mac eating quest with a short walk to House.
Bread and ice cream $5
House, the latest eatery opened by Sujet Saenkhan of Spice I Am, specialises in the street food of the Isaan region, in north east Thailand.
There's not much on the dessert menu here but we find bread and ice cream, a soft sweet bun wrapped around a scoop of pandan ice cream that perches precariously on a square sauce bowl.
Kati num kang dai $5
Kati num kang dai is a like a Thai version of ice kacang, a jumble of cooked taro, ruby chestnut and pandan noodles hidden beneath a mountain of shaved ice drizzled with palm sugar syrup.
And yes we ordered two.
Better than sex $15
We finish with the BTS, short for Better Than Sex which is apparently an appropriate moniker for this House specialty dessert. It's a thick slice of fluffy eggy brioche that holds a scoop of pandan ice cream, toasted black and white sesame seeds and a river of palm sugar syrup. It's intriguing if pricey at $15 per serve.
All you can eat? We're lucky we didn't explode.
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202 Elizabeth Street, Surry Hills, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9280 0364
Open 7 days 12noon - 2am
View Larger Map
Shop B1, Hunter Connection basement level
7-13 Hunter Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9231 5544
Lunch Monday to Friday from 11am
Dinner Monday to Saturday 5pm-10pm
All-you-can-eat available at dinner only
$28 per person excluding sashimi and hotpot
$38 per person with sashimi and hotpot
[prices correct as at September 2010]
FREEBIE FRIDAY WINNER
Congratulations to Sarah C - you have won two tickets to see Rene Redzepi at the Sydney Opera House this Friday, 1 October 2010.
Missed out this time? Don't forget to enter the Freebie Friday competitions still open:
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9/28/2010 02:55:00 a.m.