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Saturday, October 13, 2007

Suminoya, Sydney

I'm glad I'd printed out a map, because even though I'd heard about Suminoya plenty of times, and its all-you-can-eat Japanese yakiniku, I hadn't realised its location "behind Martin Place" really was behind Martin Place. Not down a side street from within the pedestrian mall, but accessed by a narrow dingy alley off Castlereagh Street that leads you past garbage bins, garage doors, driveways and finally behold, a brightly lit doorway that trumpets Suminoya in both Japanese and roman script.

Edamame soy bean pods

We'd all prepared our stomachs of course. An all-you-can eat Japanese barbecue is not to be taken lightly. Yakiniku means grilled meat. All-you-can-eat, in my dictionary at least, should always be taken literally.

The ground floor dining area is only small (there's another larger dining room downstairs). There are only about eight booth-style tables. What you do notice immediately are the air vents, silver helmets that descend from the ceiling and hang ominously over each table to suck all up the barbecue smoke. They look like they've come straight from outer space. Or from a high-tech hair salon.

Beef sashimi

There's a choice of 46 savoury items on the laminated gourmet buffet menu ($41 for adults, $16 for children). The premium buffet is available for $49/$19 with a few more sashimi options (tuna, salmon, kingfish and squid), eel, salads and lemon sorbet, but the gourmet seems more than sufficient.

With ninety minutes allocated for eating--last orders are taken at the sixty minute mark--we are soon playing tabletop chess as plate upon plate arrives on our table. We tuck into soft tender slices of marbled beef sashimi, plump pods of soybean edamame, bowl upon bowl of various spiced radish, cucumber and cabbage kimchee.


Our griddles are soon groaning with slices of meat, chunks of raw seafood and the occasional vegetable, fussed over with tongs and occasionally prodded by an impatient pair of chopsticks.

Raw beef rib, beef harami and pork loin
We order a mix of beef rib, beef loin, beef harami and beef rib finger, which arrive marinated in a sweetened soy. There are slices of deliciously fatty pork, frozen but quite to cook on a griddle that occasionally erupts into licks of flame.

The pescatorian is happily tending to rings of squid, rounds of scallop, unpeeled prawns and little foil cups filled with marinated fish that is amazingly soft and juicy when cooked. We make a cursory nod to vegetables with orders of salad, the seafood and seaweed salad is dressed with a tasty squigle of wasabi mayonnaise, and the spinach and almond salad is a contrast of soft baby spinach leaves mixed with flakes of tuna and the crunchy of toasted almond flakes.

Seafood and seaweed salad

Spinach and almond salad

Beef intestine

Who would've thought beef tongue had such a following? The menu restricts this option to "one plate per person". We order our maximum quotient. The paper thin slices are gobbled up in a flash. I also enjoy the beef intestine, which is soft and squishy, and yukke, the Japanese version of beef tartare: thin strips of fresh raw beef served with egg yolk, slivers of green onion and a vinaigrette dressing.

Yukke raw beef

It is very smoky. At one point you can barely see your neighbour through the thick plumes and I'm in tears halfway through the evening, my eyes irritated by all the smoke. The eyes do recover (yes, they are rather sensitive and yes, I'm the only one at our table of eight who is reduced to tears), especially by the time dessert rolls round.

Green tea ice cream with red bean, cream and cornflakes

The scoop of matcha green tea ice cream is cold and soothing, made all the more elegant and delicious by the dab of sweetened red bean, a squirt of aerated cream and the Japanese garnish of corn flakes.

Coffee jelly

We mix scoopfuls of the green tea ice cream with spoonfuls of the coffee jelly, a knockout caffeinated wobble that is strong to the point of being bitter. Its topped with a whisper of cream and a puddle of condensed milk, but I'm grateful for the green tea ice cream.

I'm also grateful I don't burst on the way home.

1 Hosking Place, Sydney
(behind Martin Place, enter from Castlereagh Street)
Tel: +61 (02) 9231 2177

Lunch Monday to Friday 12pm-3pm
Lunch menu

Dinner 7 days 6pm-10.30pm
Dinner menu

Sister restaurants:
Koh-Ya, Shop 1, 9-17 Young St, Neutral Bay
Shop TG8, 8 Quay St, Haymarket
Rengaya, 73 Miller St, North Sydney
Related GrabYourFork posts:
Ramen - Menya, Haymarket
Teppanyaki - Narita Teppanyaki, Haymarket
Yakiniku - Nagoya, Haymarket
12 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 10/13/2007 05:01:00 pm


  • At 10/13/2007 10:00 pm, Blogger red bean said…

    I've been to Koh-Ya, and thing I remember aside from the meat was the chicken ginger rice- with crunchy bits was so delicious. We had every animal organ available. Wasn't sure what I was eating most of the time.

  • At 10/14/2007 7:17 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You take really beautiful photos--something I always struggle with with food. Can I ask what type of equipment you use?

  • At 10/14/2007 11:40 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Red Bean - I've been to Koh-Ya but still haven't gotten around to posting the photos :) We had a jako rice which had salmon, and yes, who doesn't love a delicious morsel of animal organ or two?

    Hi Krista - Thanks. I use a Nikon D70s. My favourite lens is the 50mm 1.4. A little bit of Photoshop always helps too :)

  • At 10/15/2007 7:07 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Helen - I'm so happy you reviewed this place. It's my favourite lunch date place, in fact I'm taking a friend there for her 40th tomorrow. The $20 lunch deal is fabulous - an entree, a main, rice and miso plus an amuse bouche of the salad of the day. Delish. I haven't done the yakiniku (can't be done to advantage at lunchtime) but one day I shall!

    I have a tip for you - Blue Eye Dragon in Pyrmont. I went there on Saturday night and it was fabulous, Taiwanese and almost fine dining but not fine dining prices. Service is lovely and it's such a pretty space. I had tofu stuffed with minced pork and prawns, and my memory keeps returning to it. Hmmm ....

  • At 10/16/2007 12:44 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Alison - I did notice the $20 lunch special on the menu. It sounds like a great deal.

    I've heard lots of good things about Blue Eye Dragon. Yet to get there still. Soon, hopefully! :)

  • At 10/16/2007 12:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    If this is the place I think it is. Its also reachable from Pitt Street.

    Its been awhile but there is an alleyway running down the side of CX computers and a couple of steps up to reach the front door.

    Nothing quite like a good 50mm lense I've found. Love the depth of field.

  • At 10/16/2007 8:30 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    This is actually Korean food, not Japanese. Yukke and almost all of the other dishes can be found in most Korean restaurants, rarely in true Japanese restaurants.

  • At 10/17/2007 1:11 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Andrew - I think you could be right, at least the Suminoya map seems to indicate so. I didn't get a chance to check it though so thought I'd only post the route I know (and which is probably the easiest too).

    Yep the 50mm is great but I've still got lots to learn :)

    Hi Sir Duck-A-Lot - I think a lot of Japanese restaurants in Sydney have Korean menus (esp as many seem to run by Korean kitchen teams too). I wasn't aware that yukke was Korean though. Thanks for the tip.

  • At 10/21/2007 8:05 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    90mins.. ain't enough.. if we go.. because PB eats slowwwwwwwww...!

  • At 10/21/2007 6:07 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Mama Bok - 90min seems quite short but we're usually done within 80min. PB would just have to learn to eat faster :)

  • At 9/30/2009 9:56 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    The korean food doesn't necessarily take away from Suminoya being a true Japanese restaurant. Japanese people love kimchee, yukke and all that jazz anyway! hhahaha.
    It's all very typical of a yakiniku house in Japan : ) ..and korea for that matter..

  • At 10/01/2009 2:04 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - Thanks for your comment and input. I agree, there is a fair bit of commonality between Japanese and Korean cuisine.


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