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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Nippon Club, Sydney (CLOSED)

EDIT: Nippon Club has closed

I feel like I'm in Japan. All around me, the dining room is filled with Japanese businessmen, murmuring softly. Cheesey muzak is being piped through the speakers and behind me the sushi bar is a chaotic assault of souvenir trinkets, Hanshin Tigers baseball flags and towers of lacquered bowls and sushi platters.

Except I'm not in hustle-bustle Tokyo or foodaholic Osaka, but in the basement of Macquarie Street, Sydney in the International Nippon Australia and New Zealand Club.

I'd once spotted two Japanese businessmen emerging onto the street from the staircase down below. Curiously I did peer down the stairs, but presumed it was a club for Japanese ex-pats only. It's not. A registered club, it offers the usual bar and pokies but more importantly, it has an inhouse bistro.

We sign in as temporary members and are waved through the noren curtain to the dining room. The Cheeseman had already done a reconnaissance mission and now we're a hungry group of nine keen to sample the wares, a menu that proudly offers Japanese and Australia cuisine.

Sapporo beer (on tap)

Sapporo beer on tap is a rare thing in Sydney. We order a round, enjoying this crisp light-tasting beer that is clean on the palate.

The menu is long and comprehensive. We order a mix of entrees and mains that arrive in no apparent order around the table. The kitchen seems to be staffed by a sole Japanese chef and we're happy to chat so don't mind the staggered arrival.

Nasu dengaku $11.00
Deep-fried eggplant topped with sweet miso paste

Nasu dengaku is a thick slice of eggplant deep-fried to glorious perfection. I love the way Japanese cook their eggplant, the smoky crisp skin contrasting with the sweet mush of flesh, its surface seared to a salty caramelised sweetness from the basting of miso paste.

Tender pork $12.50
Oven-roasted tender pork with black pepper, soy and ginger sauce

Tender pork is true to its word. It literally falls apart with the prod of a chopstick. It's generous with fat too, thick strips of it languishing alongside the melt-in-the-mouth pork.

Beef tataki $14.00
Seared tenderloin beef slices with Japanese yuzu pepper sauce

Next time I'm going, I'm ordering this. The beef tataki is deliriously good. Thin strips of barely seared beef tenderloin have such magnificent marbling they barely require chewing. The yuzu pepper sauce is fresh and zingy too.

Eel tempura $10.50
Lightly fried eel fillet with sansho pepper and salt

I've ordered the eel tempura, a rich combination that really does work. The crisp shell of batter hides the luscious decadence of fatty eel within. It's the usual unagi, eel fillets cooked in a sweet soy sauce til it turns a dark toffee colour.

Natto $6.00
Fermented soy beans

There's an order of the infamous natto, the fermented soy beans that Japanese hold so close to their heart. Much like Vegemite, it's a love-it-or-hate-it kinda thing. I've tried hard to love it, but I still can't get past the mealy texture, musty smell and those crazy strands of goo that appear when you mix it with chopsticks.

Salmon and avocado small sushi roll $6.00

Sushi rolls are fresh and made to order.

Tuna and avocado small sushi roll $6.00

Mentaiko spaghetti $16.00
Chef's style mentaiko (cod fish roe)
and cream sauce spaghetti, soy flavoured

For mains I have the mentaiko spaghetti, allured by the promise of cod fish roe. The roe is mixed through a light cream sauce. It's not as rich as I'd expected, more like a pasta with an evaporated milk-style sauce that's occasionally fishy.

Rice set $4.00
Rice, miso soup, pickles and side dish

I also have the rice set, figuring that an outlay of four dollars is more than worthwhile for a sample of tofu and their inhouse pickles.

Tuna salad $8.50
Cooked tuna meat and fresh vegetable

The rest of our mains receive thumbs up for the most part. The food is fairly reasonably priced but it's the atmosphere I love best. It's a cheap trip to "Japan" - even the dated wedding reception-style chairs only add to the ambience!

Curry omelet rice $15.00
Chicken flavoured rice wrapped with fried egg and Chef's special sauce

Pork katsu curry and rice $15.50

Unadon $22.00 whole fillet/ $12 half fillet
Grilled eel fillet on rice bowl with special sauce

Teriyaki chicken (250g) $19.50
Grilled chicken with special teriyaki sauce

Basil lamb $24.50
Grilled rack lamb with black citrus sauce, basil flavoured

View Larger Map

International Nippon Australia and New Zealand Club CLOSED
229-231 Macquarie Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9232 2688

Opening hours
Lunch Monday to Friday 12.00pm-2.30pm
Dinner Monday to Friday 6.00pm-9.00pm
Club open Monday to Friday 11.00am-11.00pm

Normal club rules apply. Temporary guests must live more than 5km away or be signed in by a member. Otherwise annual membership costs $10.

Related GrabYourFork posts:
Community Clubs - Polish Club, Ashfield
Community Clubs - Portugal Club, Marrickville
17 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 12/07/2008 11:04:00 pm


  • At 12/08/2008 3:47 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I love Mentaiko spaghetti!

    I buy a mix in a packet and add my own spaghetti, it's delicious. Was this one spicy or mild? The kind I like is a little bit spicy.

  • At 12/08/2008 9:39 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Nice find Helen, didn't know this places existed!

    I still can't get around to liking Natto. I had it from a vending machine in Japan , and the musty gooeyness puts me off! Maybe I will develop a tolerance to it, I did it eventually with bitter melon.

  • At 12/08/2008 9:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    How many people dining Helen? What a feast!

    Seriously, I didn't realise that was down there, can't wait to check it out. Thanks for the tip off! :)

  • At 12/08/2008 10:54 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You should have done the money shot with the natto to fully illustrate it's gooey stringy snottiness.

    Your post is making me pine for Japan and all the fun we had.

    Is it too soon to plan another trip?

  • At 12/08/2008 1:12 pm, Blogger Simon Leong said…

    That's great you checked out the nippon club. i work just down the road so haven't considered it for lunch birthdays before but i think i will now.

    Simon :-)

  • At 12/08/2008 6:11 pm, Blogger K said…

    wow! i went to the Nippon club some time last year but it didnt seem like they had such a large variety back then. It looks like it's time I go back for a second visit hehehe

  • At 12/08/2008 6:40 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Ooohh I read aobut this in Good Living and wanted to try! Thanks for bumping it up the list yummmmmmm tender pork and beef tataki ^^!

    What is the eel tempuara like? Have not tried that before, seems very interesting :)

  • At 12/08/2008 6:52 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Thanks for posting this. Looks great! Does it require booking? And is it easy to get 'temporary membership'? Thanks!

  • At 12/08/2008 10:13 pm, Blogger Miss Honey said…

    I've never been a natto lover, at least I know I'm not the only one lol

  • At 12/08/2008 11:30 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Angeline - It wasn't particularly spicy but mentaiko in a packet? Hmm... I might have to try that!

    Hi Howard - Wow, natto from a vending machine? I tried it a couple of times with breakfast but couldn't like it. And I love bitter melon now but hated it as a kid :) Maybe natto will be the same!

    Hi Christie - There were 9 of us so we managed to cover a fair proportion of the menu. Hope you enjoy it. It's a great hideaway.

    Hi Veruca Salt - lol. I know, I miss Japan as well. I so need to go there with empty suitcases!

    Hi Simon - We were there for dinner so I'm not sure how busy it gets at lunchtime. There's a private dining romm too. Happy lunching!

    Hi K - There were heaps of options - the hardest thing was choosing what to have. Hope you enjoy your next meal.

    Hi Ffichiban - The eel tempura was great. Soft sweet and delicious :)

    Hi Anon - We did make a booking but were a large group. When eating at restaurants, I always book unless I'm willing to risk being disappointed.

    Temporary membership is easy. You just sign a slip with your name and address.

    Hi Miss Honey - I really want to like it, but I'm just not there yet. Maybe someday?

  • At 12/09/2008 1:55 am, Blogger Fie Werley said…

    All that food looks delicious! :)

  • At 12/09/2008 10:39 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Urban Explorette - It was! We really are so lucky in Sydney :)

  • At 7/26/2009 6:59 pm, Blogger Kieran_Mark said…

    The "mentaiko in a packet" is something similar to furikake for rice... it's made especially for Mentaiko Spaghetti and is sold everywhere in Japanese supermarkets... as for REAL mentaiko ~ that's something you buy from the refrigerated section of your supermarket... next to the Tarako... Gotta try it fresh ! Scoop it over the spaghetti and mix.. or just eat it on rice or in onigiri.. Yummy stuff.. carcenogenic so go easy on the stuff !!!

  • At 7/26/2009 7:02 pm, Blogger Kieran_Mark said…

    PS... I set up a little club in Sydney for Japan lovers and expats ... we meet every 2 weeks, sometimes more often... usually go to restaurants, pubs, karaoke... maybe we'll go here one day... Join up for free.. meet lots of Japanese people and japanese lovers and learners... did I mention it's free !!! ???

  • At 7/27/2009 1:02 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Kieran - Now that I've had it, I have noticed packet mentaiko for sale in Japanese grocery stores. I'm intrigued to try the fresh version.

    And thanks for the info on your Japanese meet-up group :)

  • At 6/20/2011 11:51 am, Blogger benharrisroxas said…

    Thanks for this great review Helen. Have you been back since?

  • At 6/23/2011 3:29 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Ben - Hallo, long time no see! Unfortunately I haven't been back since - too many restaurants, not enough time!


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