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Monday, February 18, 2019

Omakase at Masuya, Sydney

Fatty ootoro northern bluefin tuna at the Masuya omakase in Sydney

Forget degustations. Omakase is the new black for Sydney food obsessives, a thoughtfully curated journey by Japanese chefs based on only the best of what's in season. The sushi omakase at Masuya is one of Sydney's lesser known omakase destinations. Just six seats are available each night for the seafood-driven adventure by sushi chef Toshihiko Oe.

Sushi master Toshihiko Oe presenting his omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Sushi master Toshihiko Oe

Chef Oe has been cooking professionally for close to 30 years, a steady presence behind the sushi bar in Masuya's  basement dining room. While tables may be clustered with chatty patrons, the best seats in the house are the bar stools opposite Chef Oe. Only chilled display cabinet filled with prime seafood separates diners from his gleaming knife, and shy smile.

Hand-written menus for each omakase diner at Masuya in Sydney
Hand-written menus for each omakase diner

Chef Oe's omakase menu - omakase means "I leave it to you" - changes daily. Diners receive a run sheet of the night's offerings and, if they're lucky, an additional copy in Japanese script, each one hand scribed on parchment paper.

Platter of starters at the Masuya omakase in Sydney
Starters: [rear] sea eel kelp roll; herring roe with miso; mushroom shimeji; barramundi miso;
[front] abalone sakamushi; cooked prawn with soy and sugar; John Dory liver; squid shiokara

We kick off with starters, a carefully composed platter of one bite wonders. There's everything from the gently yielding chew of abalone steamed in sake to the sweet flesh of barramundi cooked in miso.

Squid shiokara during the omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Squid shiokara

It's a bit of a fun house for the palate as you move around, in whatever order you please. There's so much to like about the deep intensity of John Dory liver, but maximum flavour - and satisfaction - points go to the squid shiokara, a slippery and sticky tangle of squid strips drenched in its own salted and fermented viscera.

Omakase sushi at Masuya in Sydney
Assorted sashimi: [rear]  Northern bluefin ootoro tuna; cuttlefish; Imperador; mirugai (geoduck); bonito
[middle] torigai (cockle); whiting; tiger prawn; salmon roe; sea urchin
[front] northern blue fin akami tuna; octopus; yellow clam


Assorted sashimi arrives next, an edible artwork showcasing of the range of flavours and textures from the sea. Admire the ruby red purity of akami (red meat) tuna. Relish the gentle pop of salmon roe. Savour the buttery richness of sea urchin.

Ootoro northern bluefin tuna at the Masuya omakase in Sydney
Northern bluefin tuna ootoro

And then there's the insanely marbled fattiness that is ootoro, the intensely fat-ribboned flesh from the tuna belly. You don't want to chew this lusciousness. Just place this on your tongue and feel it melt into a puddle.

Grilled northern bluefin tuna at the Masuya omakase in Sydney
Grilled northern bluefin tuna

While we're languishing over each dish, Chef Oe is working industrially on the next. We move from cold seafood to the aromatic wafts of grilled northern blue fin tuna. The fish is succulent, cooked in a sweet glaze in a magnolia leaf specifically flown over from Japan. Its block shape is mirrored by, yet contrasted against, the humble sweet potato, this one also from Japan, and aged to a staggering level of sweetness.

Swordfish belly nitsuke at the omakase by Masuya in Sydney
Swordfish belly nitsuke

What appears at first to be tofu is actually swordfish belly, a square of melt-in-the-mouth lushness simmered in sake, soy and sugar.

Chef Toshihiko Oe serving wild southern bluefin tuna at his omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Chef Toshihiko serving wild southern bluefin tuna

But my favourite part of omakase is the sushi section. It's a mesmerising show just watching Chef Oe in action, molding and pressing sushi rice into the perfect shaped pillow. Once the freshly sliced fish is draped across the top, each piece is carefully placed on your sushi plate. There's barely a minute or two that transpires between the rice being removed from the pot, and the nigiri sushi hitting your tastebuds.

Akami from wild southern bluefin tuna at the Masuya omakase in Sydney
Akami from wild southern bluefin tuna

Tonight it's all about tuna. We begin with wild southern bluefin tuna, gorging our way through akami (red meat), chutoro (medium fatty) and ootoro (fatty belly) tuna.

Chef Toshihiko Oe slicing wild southern bluefin tuna at his Masuya omakase in Sydney
Slicing wild southern bluefin tuna chutoro 

The southern bluefin tuna has been aged for two weeks, weighing in at about 90 kilograms.

Chef Toshihiko Oe with southern bluefin tuna oottoro at his omakase at Masuya Sydney


Wild southern bluefin ootoro tuna

Chef Toshihiko Oe making cuts into the ootoro tuna at his Sydney omakase at Masuya
Making cuts into the ootoro tuna

Ootoro wild northern bluefin tuna during the omakase at Masuya Sydney
Ootoro wild southern bluefin tuna

Northern bluefin chutoro tuna served at the Masuya omakase in Sydney
Northern bluefin chutoro tuna 

Northern bluefin tuna feels like an escalation of richness in flavour and fattiness.

Ootoro and chutoro from northern bluefin tuna at the Masuya Sydney omakase
Ootoro and chutoro from northern bluefin tuna

The northern bluefin tuna ootoro is particularly impressive with its visibly complex marbling.

Chef Toshihiko Oe serving ootoro northern bluefin tuna at his omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Chef Toshihiko serving ootoro northern bluefin tuna

Ootoro northern bluefin tuna at the Masuya Sydney omakase
Ootoro northern bluefin tuna 

Grilled ootoro northern bluefin tuna at the Masuya Sydney omakase
Ootoro aburi northern bluefin tuna 

Ootoro aburi, grilled over charcoal, is like a buttery tuna steak. Its smoky charred surface only further emphasises its fatty decadence within.

Chef Toshihiko Oe serving uni sea urchin roe sushi during his omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Chef Toshihiko serving uni sea urchin roe sushi

Uni sea urchin roe sushi at the Masuya Sydney omakase
Uni sea urchin roe sushi 

A petal of ultra fresh uni sea urchin roe is so dramatically briny you would swear it had just been harvested. It's a magical collision of brine and butter, packed into a velvety soft petal of perfection.

Anago sea eel sushi at the Masuya Sydney omakase
Sea eel sushi

Buttery richness gives way to the gentle sweetness of anago sea eel, the more refined cousin of unagi freshwater eel.

Chef Toshihiko Oe with tamagoyaki rolled omelette and tamago grilled omelette at his omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Chef Toshihiko with tamagoyaki rolled omelette and tamago grilled omelette

Most sushi omakase offerings will include a square of tamago grilled omelette. Unlike tamagoyaki - the rolled egg omelette made in a rectangular frypan - tamago has the texture and lightness of a sponge cake, even though it contains no flour. What it does have is whitefish and Japanese mountain yam, or yamaimo.

Egg omelette served at the omakase by Masuya Sydney
Egg omelette

The tamago is a treat worth savouring, its golden crust shielding a cloud-like sponge. It's the kind of dessert I like to peel apart layer by layer, but hey, I'm weird like that.

Red miso soup served at the omakase by Masuya Sydney
Red miso soup

Red miso soup provides a revitalising end to our savoury courses, an umami-packed broth swimming with neatly trimmed enoki mushrooms and finely sliced chives.

Chef Toshihiko Oe serving dango for dessert during his omakase at Masuya in Sydney
Chef Toshihiko serving dessert

Dango grilled mochi balls served at the omakase by Masuya Sydney
Dango grilled mochi balls topped with red bean paste, matcha powder and sweet soy

Dessert? Of course there is. We end with a trio of dango, sweet Japanese dumplings made from mochiko rice flour. They vary in sweetness, from the slight bitterness of matcha green tea powder, to the glassy glaze of sweet soy, to a smooth and silky puree of anko sweet red bean paste.

The omakase by Chef Oe at Masuya starts at $120. Bookings are essential. 

Entrance to Masuya Japanese seafood restaurant on O'Connell Street in Sydney


Masuya Japanese Seafood Restaurant Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Masuya Japanese Seafood Restaurant
Basement level, 12-14 O'Connell Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9235 2717

Opening hours
Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm-2.30pm
Dinner Mon to Saturday 6pm-10pm (omakase must be booked in advance)


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2 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 2/18/2019 08:48:00 pm


Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Michelin-awarded Go-Benz and self-serve Super Dim Sum in Phuket, Thailand

Self serve dim sum at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand

So your next Thailand trip involves you arriving late in Phuket and leaving the next morning? This post has your stomach covered. Two amazing meals. Unlike anything you've ever had. For cheap. We're talking late night comfort food (with Michelin Guide kudos) and a choose-your-own dim sum adventure. Strap in.

Our Thailand trip last November kicked off with a late night touchdown in Phuket. We checked in, dumped our bags and headed straight back out to Go-Benz Phuket.


Go-Benz Phuket
Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand recommended pork with broth, rice and noodles at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Michelin Guide recommended pork with broth, rice and noodles 

Go-Benz isn't fancy. But it's not supposed to be. This massive roadside restaurant in the heart of Phuket Old Town is famous for its dry congee. Say what? Basically it means a bowl of rice topped with fixings served with soup on the side.

Go-Benz has such a reputation they were recently awarded a Michelin Guide Bib Gourmand, recognising its "simple yet skillful cooking for under £28 or €40".

When they open at dinner time, queues tend to snake around the block. It's said the best time to arrive is after 10pm, when you're more likely to score a table immediately.

Open kitchen action at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Open kitchen action

The open kitchen is worth a look, both to work out what to order as well as a way to whet your appetite. Witness organised chaos as dishes are churned out at a furious pace. Tongs are skittering noodles are plunged into stock and every minute there's another waterfall of soup being ladled into a bowl.

Dry boiled rice with pork and soup at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Dry boiled rice with pork and soup 60 THB (about AU$2.65)

The dry congee comes with all kinds of porky goodness. That includes a pork mince meatball, pork intestines, pork liver, crunchy roast pork and a tumble of deep-fried shallots. Some people like to pour all the soup straight into their bowl. I prefer to go the other way, dipping spoonfuls of rice into the soup.

Crispy pork at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Crispy pork 120 THB (about AU$5.30)

The crispy pork is so good you'll want to splurge on a whole plate of it. Do it. The ribbons of fat are cooked to a melting softness, just enough to lubricate the tender flesh crowned with a tile of crunchy crackling.

Rice noodle rolls and pork organ soup at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Rice noodle rolls 60 THB (about AU$2.65)
Pork organ soup 60 THB (about AU$2.65)

The pork soup might seem like a support act but you soon realise it's the secret star of the show. It's the foundation of every dish, its sweet and peppery porkiness proving more and more addictive with every spoonful. It's the base for pork and kuay jub noodles, scrolls of silky rice noodles that furl up on themselves, as well as the pork organ soup, an offal lover's dream. The huge hunks of pork  blood are particularly nourishing.

Dry boiled rice with pork and soup and boiled pork ribs at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Dry boiled rice with pork and soup 60 THB (about AU$2.65)
Boiled pork ribs 60 THB (about AU$2.65)

And for those who love meat on the bone, get the boiled pork rib soup. There's plenty of flesh on those bones.

Dining space at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Go-Benz dining space

Roadside dining at Go-Benz in Phuket Thailand
Roadside dining

Fresh jackfruit in Phuket Thailand
Fresh jackfruit

And on your way back to the hotel, stop by the late night trading fruit stall for your Vitamin C needs.

Longans and tropical fruit at a night fruit stall in Phuket Thailand
Longans - and our green mango being peeled and cut for free

We went crazy over wax jambus, pomelo and green mangoes (AU$3.20 per kilo!). Another tip: fruit shops in Thailand will usually peel and cut your fruit for free. Talk about service!

Super Dim Sum

Dining area at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Dining area 

Early start? How about dim sum? But not as you know it.

Self serve dim sum plates at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Self-serve dim sum plates 30baht (about AU$1.30) each

Super Dim Sum combines self-service gluttony with a la minute luxury. That means you get to choose whichever dishes you want, and have them steamed to order.

Dumpling baskets at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Dumpling baskets 30 THB (about AU$1.30) each

Buns and dumplings are already stacked into steamer baskets.

Thai Chinese dim sum at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
So. Many. Choices.

In the chiller cabinet you'll find a dizzying array of mini metal plates holding everything from sweet corn to prawns to mushrooms to fish balls.

Choose your own breakfast dumplings at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Load up your breakfast tray

Choose whatever you like and transfer them to a tray. Every tray and steamer basket is the same price: 30 THB or about AU$1.30 each.

Steaming bamboo baskets at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Towers of steaming bamboo baskets

When you hand over your tray to the kitchen, each metal plate is placed into a steamer basket. All the baskets are then stacked into a tower and tagged with your docket. Needless to say, efficiency and speed are paramount here.

Bak kut teh station at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Bak kut teh station with choose-your-own fixings

While you're waiting for your bamboo baskets to cook, you can stop by the bak kut teh station. Here you can point at whatever ingredients you'd like added to your bak kut teh, a dish that translates to meat bone tea.

Bak kut teh pork bone tea at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Bak kut teh or meat bone tea 120 THB (about AU$5.30)

It's one of my favourite soups, sweet and strong with Chinese herbs and spices. Ours is packed with mushroom, bean curd skin and red dates.

Thai sock coffee with ice at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Thai iced sock coffees 20 THB (about AU$0.85)

And as the humidity starts to hit, order a Thai coffee - brewed the traditional way with a stocking - cooled down with a little condensed milk and a lot of ice.

Dumplings, dim sum and bak kut teh for breakfast at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Dumplings, dim sum and bak kut teh for breakfast

It's not until our bamboo baskets arrive that it starts to dawn on us exactly how much we have ordered. Our individual orders combine to teetering skyscrapers. And our order keeps coming. We end up sharing our dishes between the four of us. It's crazy fun.

Pandan custard buns at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand
Pandan custard buns

And the highlight? These pandan custard buns. The custard is intensely fragrant with pandan. The bun is warm, soft and fluffy.

Stomachs lined, we head off to our next stop: Khao Lak (post to come).

Thai dumpling plates for breakfast at Super Dim Sum in Phuket Thailand


Go-Benz Phuket
163 Patiphat Road (corner of Krabi Road), Phuket Town, Phuket, Thailand
Tel: +66 (090) 702 2259
Open daily 7pm-2am 


Super Dimsum 
Sa Khu, Thalang District, Phuket 83110 Thailand
Tel: +66 (081) 326 3788
Open daily 5.30am-12pm


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3 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 1/30/2019 10:24:00 pm



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