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Friday, September 30, 2011

Azuma Kushiyaki: Sugar Hit 2011

Throw away your belts, I say. You won't need them in October which is now synonymous with the Crave Sydney International Food Festival.

There'll be countless fooding events happening all over Sydney during the coming month. One of the most popular features is always the Sugar Hit, a chance to enjoy a special late night dessert at participating restaurants, cafes, bars and hotels.

Crab roll sushi, spider roll with soft shell crab, chicken kushiyaki skewers, marinated lamb chops

Azuma Kushiyaki were kind enough to offer a preview of their 2011 Sugar Hit, an updated take on their signature East Meets West dessert tasting plate. And though all of us would have been happy to start with dessert, we're treated to several savoury dishes from their menu as a precursor.

We whet our appetites with bites of crab roll sushi and an elegant mess of soft shell crab, wrapped up in an inside-out sushi roll, covered in tobiko flying fish roe and drizzled with mayonnaise.

It's kushiyaki, or skewers, that this branch of Azuma is most famous for, and we can only nod in agreement as we sink our teeth into succulent skewers of marinated chicken thigh, barbecued until slightly caramelised. Marinated lamb chops are sweet and juicy, marinated for four hours on each side in a special mix of honey, soy and spices. The lamb chops will appear on the new menu at the Azuma restaurant in Chifley Plaza shortly.

Azuma Kushiyaki 2011 Sugar Hit: East meets West dessert tasting plate

Azuma Kushiyaki have always presented their Sugar Hit in a set of stacked obento boxes. Having to lift the top layer to see what lies beneath is always half the fun - a bit like Christmas with a sugary twist. Owner Kimitaka Azuma confessed that initial versions of the tasting plate (Azuma participanted in their first Sugar Hit in 2009) had a fairly strong Western influence, with inclusions of chocolate and strawberry.

For their third version, he and Head Patissier Chef Miya Matsumura worked together to deliberately create a tasting plate with a greater Japanese influence, believing that the public is ready to venture beyond standard Western deserts.

Green tea tiramisu, sake sponge bites, dark chocolate praline and yuzu sake

The top tray holds three square-shaped desserts. Two precise cubes of butter cake have been soaked in Japanese sake and threaded on a skewer - although I found it hard to detect much of a sake taste to these. The chocolate is the only dessert item not to come out of the tiny pastry kitchen next door, a rich mouthful that contains a surprise layer of exploding pop rocks.

Kinako tiramisu

At this stage, the kitchen expects to offer two versions of the tiramisu: one layered with matcha green tea; the other with kinako or roasted soy bean powder. They haven't decided yet whether they'll be alternating these flavours between diners on the night, or whether they'll have green tea tiramisu on one night, and kinako tiramisu the next. The sponge fingers have been soaked in shochu which gives a faint alcoholic hit.

In the corner of the tray is a small cup of sake. There will definitely be two types of sake provided for diners. Nigori sake is an unfiltered sake, which gives it a distinctive cloudy appearance. The big hit is the very drinkable yuzu sake which is sweet and tangy, like fresh lemonade.

Homemade white sesame ice cream and anmitsu

The bottom tier holds anmitsu, a typical Japanese dessert involving fresh fruit, red bean and chewy rice dumplings. It's the shiratama rice dumplings that I love best - glutinous and starchy and dusted with nutty kinako roasted soy bean powder.

There's plenty of different textures to explore, from the bouncy tapioca balls to the dab of sweetened red bean paste, ripe strawberries, oranges and plump blueberries, macerated in a Japanese brown sugar syrup. A scoop of homemade white sesame ice cream is cool and refreshing.

Last year Azuma Kushiyaki sold 1200 Sugar Hits over 21 services. This year they'll be extending their Sugar Hit service to include Saturday nights so they can accommodate as many people as possible. Sugar Hits are $20 and include a glass of Brown Brothers dessert wine. Bookings are strongly recommended.

Grab Your Fork attended the Sugar Hit preview as a guest of Azuma Kushiyaki.

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Ground floor, Regent Place
501 George Street, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9267 7775

Opening hours:
Lunch Tuesday to Saturday from 12pm
Dinner Monday to Sunday from 6pm

The 2011 Sugar Hit at Azuma Kushiyaki is available Monday to Saturday 9pm-11pm
Bookings are highly recommended to avoid disappointment

Check out the full list of Sugar Hits available here

Related Grab Your Fork posts:
Azuma Kushiyaki Sugar Hit 2009
Sugar Hit Challenge: Could You Eat Five in One Night?
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posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 9/30/2011 08:56:00 am


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