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Saturday, March 07, 2009

Nakashima Japanese Restaurant, The Rocks, Sydney

tataki at nakashima the rocks
Tataki $7.90
Thinly sliced slightly cooked raw beef with vinegar sauce

I kept hearing about Nakashima and its hidden location down an alleyway in The Rocks, and still I would wonder why I had never stumbled across it in all my travels. As I follow Billy up Argyle Street, in search of dinner after the March into Merivale launch party, he makes a sharp left just before the overpass and proceeds up some stone steps. The restaurant isn't visible from the Argyle Street, but as we come around the bend, there it is. Finally. We meet.

nakashima the rocks

There's an intimate and cosy feel to Nakashima, a small restaurant with tables inside a sparsely deorated dining room, or outside under cover of a huge white canopy shade that's walled with clear plastic sheeting.

fried chicken at nakashima the rocks
Vinegared fried chicken $15.50

Our first dish of the tataki, thin slices of seared beef served with vinegar dressing, is disappointing with its tough and unwielding chewiness. Much more satisfying is the vinegared fried chicken which is tender and juicy, the bubbled and knobbly batter indeed flavoured with vinegar, although only subtly so.

fried eggplant at nakashima the rocks
Shigiyaki $7.50
Deep-fried eggplant with sweet bean paste

Shigiyaki is another highlight. Thin wedges of eggplant are deep-fried and then basted with a sweet and salty miso paste that's been caramelised under a grill. The eggplant is soft and yielding, creamy and smooth beneath the bean paste, a sprinkle of sesame seeds adding crunch and a handful of shallots offering a lively countenance.

pork maki at nakashima the rocks
Pork maki $8.40
Sliced pork rolled around shallots and pan-fried with sweet sauce

We order the pork maki on Billy's recommendation. It's a dish I haven't seen before; thin slices of pork wrapped around stalks of shallots and then pan-fried until golden on the outside. The pork appears to have been tenderised and softened, the meat pairing well with the sweet spring onions.

sweet red beans and rice cake at nakashima the rocks
Sweet red beans and rice cake $6.00

For dessert I couldn't go past the sweet red beans and rice cake. Given the option of hot or cold, I chose hot. The red bean soup reminds me of the Chinese dessert version although this one is like the concentrated version, resplendent with red beans and overwhelmingly sweet. Two mochi rice cakes are stretchy chewy balls of starch satisfaction. I'd recommend having this dessert cold, presuming its sweetness will be less intense.

cream amnitsu at nakashima the rocks
Cream anmitsu $7.00

Billy has the cream anmitsu, explained by the waitress as "fruit salad with red bean paste and ice cream", and suggestion to which I'd immediately lost interest. Had she explained it was a Japanese-style fruit salad with agar jelly, I might have shown more enthusiasm!

Anmitsu, I've discovered, is a traditional Japanese dessert that includes agar jelly, peaches, pineapple and red bean paste. Served with a scoop of ice cream and a generous piping of fake whipped cream, it's a light and refreshing dessert, the sweetness of the red bean complementing the coolness of agar and creaminess of the ice cream.

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Nakashima Japanese Restaurant
7 Cambridge St, The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9241 1364

Opening hours
Lunch - Monday to Friday 12pm - 2.30pm
Dinner - Tuesday to Saturday 6pm - 9.30pm

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The Rocks -- Australian Heritage Hotel (Nov08) and (Apr08)
The Rocks -- Guylian Belgian Chocolate Cafe
The Rocks -- Shangri-La Hotel Cafe Mix
10 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 3/07/2009 11:10:00 pm


  • At 3/08/2009 12:25 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hahha you guuyyss! Should had stayed at the party and ate moooree :P but at least this way I got to see this place hee hee. The pork maki looks interesting and tasty mmm

  • At 3/08/2009 7:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    That miso eggplant sounds terrific. It's a shame about the description of the dessert. Those agar fruit salads can be quite nice.

  • At 3/08/2009 9:08 am, Blogger Y said…

    It's all in the wording, isn't it. Although, with peaches, pineapple AND red bean paste, I think I still wouldn't have been interested! :P

    That pork looks delicious!

  • At 3/08/2009 10:17 am, Blogger K said…

    this place seems to serve really authentic Japanese cuisine! I LOVE IT

  • At 3/08/2009 2:03 pm, Blogger lifeis2munch said…

    i really love this place! i haven't been there in years though, but after your post, definitely I will go next time I'm in town. Did you try the sukiyaki? I always got that when I went years ago...

  • At 3/08/2009 2:45 pm, Blogger Ben said…

    Yeah I go to this plaste from time to time when I'm in the mood for some good value Japanese. Some really good dishes on their menu.

  • At 3/08/2009 10:57 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You should really try the Japanese bbq at this place called Sakae Yakiniku House! Its in Eastwood on Hillview Rd. The quality of the meat is fantastic!

  • At 3/08/2009 11:21 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi FFichiban - lol. It was crazy packed in there and it was a relief just to get some fresh air. Glad you guys stayed so I could spy the desserts though!

    Hi Arwen - The agar was a tad gritty on the tongue but I agree, a menu is all about the sugggestive wording :)

    Hi Y - I was picturing watermelon and rockmelon so I was really surprised when Billy's dessert arrived. Mine was a tad too sweet whereas his was quite refreshing and a nice end to the meal. The pork was an interesting combo, and surprisingly tender too.

    Hi K - It was my first time here but I was quite impressed :)

    Hi Globe Trotting Munchie - No we didn't try the sukiyaki but thanks for the tip.

    Hi Jobe - It's a cute eatery tucked away down an alley which seems to add to its allure.

  • At 3/11/2009 8:22 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    I used to visit Naka all the time when i worked in the city...best kept secret ever!!! If you work in the city with book a table, go early say around mid-day or after 1.30...

    You have bought back so many good mem's...I miss my long lunches

  • At 3/11/2009 9:33 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Carissa - I don't work up this end of town, but if I did, I would definitely be heading here more often :) And ahh food memories... aren't they the greatest?


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