Sushi train or a la carte menu? If you place yourself carefully at Ashin Japanese Restaurant, you can manage both, nabbing a table that's big enough to accommodate all your ordered dishes as well as staying within reach of the sushi plate conveyor belt.
Ashin has been open for over three years now but is easy to miss on the northern end of Beamish Street. It's a modern-looking dining room awash with chocolate browns and dark timber furniture. On a Friday night the place is busy with a stream of locals arriving in pairs or small groups, congregating either at tables or taking up stools at the sushi bar.
Sushi and sashimi sailing boat $39.70
10 nigiri sushi, 12 pieces fresh sashimi and 4 pieces mini rolls
We sit down and immediately order the biggest sushi and sashimi plate available, a 26-piece bonanza that arrives with a bonus nigiri sushi. We don't complain. It's on our table within five minutes, presented not on the wooden boat that we'd hoped for, but on a simple rectangular white platter.
Salmon nigiri sushi
There's all kinds of seafood deliciousness here, from soft and fatty slices of raw salmon to the sweetness of cooked prawn.
Tinned tuna, sweet corn and cucumber mini inside out rolls
Mini uramaki, or inside out rolls, hold a filling of seasoned cooked tuna with sweet corn and cucumber.
Tuna nigiri sushi
The tuna has a reassuring deep red colour, and is firm to the bite.
Our twelve pieces of sashimi net us fat slices of salmon, tuna and kingfish.
Raw scampi nigiri sushi
The raw scampi nigiri sushi takes pride of place, highlighted by the scampi head in the middle of the platter. The flesh has a glassy sheen and is delicately sweet.
Raw scallop nigiri sushi
We also relish the raw scallop nigiri, sliced in half and draped over a compact bed of sticky sushi rice.
Pork katsu don $11.80
The a la carte menu has a little bit of everything, running from gyoza, takoyaki octopus balls and karaage fried chicken to udon noodle soups, Japanese curries and seafood nabe hot pots. A couple of Korean dishes also sneak in, like hoi dup bap, a kind of sashimi bibimbap with raw salmon and shredded vegetables on rice, and al bap, substituting the salmon sashimi with tobiko flying fish roe.
The wet night calls for comfort food and we head straight for the pork katsu don, a panko-crumbed pork cutlet on rice covered with egg, sauteed onions and a sweet and salty sauce made from dashi, soy sauce and mirin. Strips of nori seaweed give an umami lift. Pickled ginger shreds provide palate cleansing refreshment and crunch. A bowl of miso soup makes this a complete meal on its own.
Beef yaki soba $15.50
Plumes of steam surround the arrive of our beef yaki soba. A stir fry of chewy soba noodles contrasts against the crunch of fresh cabbage, shredded carrot and bean sprouts. Across the top is the crowning glory of beef slices, piping hot and tender marinated in a teriyaki sauce.
The non-stop army of sushi plates is too hard to resist. It's a mesmerising catwalk of temptation.
We notice, too, that they cheekily add bottles of alcohol onto the sushi train.
Korean black raspberry wine
Soft shell crab sushi $4.50
The sushi plate pricing ranges from $3 to $5.50, distinguished by the colour of plate. A pictorial menu allows you to order as you please, or you can help yourself as sushi plates are placed onto the revolving sushi train.
The soft shell crab sushi yields an impressive tangle of deep fried crustacean. The inclusion of a fresh strawberry within the roll is a little disconcerting at first, but it works surprisingly well, especially against the briny pop of ikura flying fish roe.
Raw scallop nigiri sushi $4.50
We'd fought over the raw scallop nigiri sushi on our sushi platter. An additional plate quickly makes amends. The raw scallop is markedly fresh and sweet.
Spicy prawn box sushi $4.50
We finish with box sushi, compressed blocks of sushi rice topped here with spicy prawn, cheese and chilli sauce and blow torched to a smoky crisp. It's a winning finale to the evening.
Total damage? About $28 per head. I was tempted to grab another plate of raw scallop sushi for dessert.
Ashin Japanese Restaurant
161 Beamish Street, Campsie, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9787 2800
Daily 11.30am-3pm, 5pm-10pm
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4/08/2015 02:17:00 am