Sushia Reigns Supreme

Sushia Izakaya & Bar, Perth CBD

One of my favourite cooking television shows growing up was Iron Chef – the ridiculously overdramatized cooking show, led by Tajesgu Kaga, a Michael Jackson-like impersonator (he sure had some dazzling jackets) who would showcase the cream of the crop of Japanese chefs, pitting them against the three “Iron Chefs”. Whilst I loved the intensity of the competition, the hilarity of the judging and commentary panel, and the sheer brilliance of some of the cooking displayed by the competitors, I never really understood the appeal of some of those dishes – fish ice cream anyone?

Down the stairs we go...
Down the stairs we go…

Now that I’m significantly older, I have a greater appreciation of trying out different cuisines and styles. One cuisine I didn’t think I had particularly warmed to throughout the years was Japanese. So many of my friends love it, primarily because it’s fresh, delicate and doesn’t pack it on the carbs. I don’t hate it, but I am just not an active advocate of it… until now. In the past, I would have easily elected to have a big bowl of pasta over tempura, but my time at Sushia Izakaya & Bar proved that Japanese food could be exciting, inventive and more than just a few pieces of sashimi and sushi.

Menu anyone?
Menu anyone?

The two besties and I decided to catch up at the exclusive Brookfield Place on a Thursday night. Brookfield Place was a ghost town that night – there was no one in sight within Perth’s gleaming new food precinct. That suited me fine, as the bestie and I had almost gotten into a harrowing car accident, on our way to the restaurant (thanks Mitchell Freeway) and just needed some quiet time to appreciate the fact that we were still alive. After some deep yoga breathing, we entered Sushia, and were immediately seated by the lovely waitress.

It was dark and elegant inside Sushia, pretty as a dressed up basement. The centerpiece was a tree, graced with blood red leaves, on a bed of what looked like ice chips, but were actually pearly white pebbles. There were candles to romanticise the establishment. The interior was evocative of a traditional Japanese temple, with its stone walls, gleaming polished wood, and the golden gilt of the dimmed lights. We were lucky enough to be seated in between the tree and the open kitchen, giving us great views of the surrounds.

Perfect for Autumn!
Perfect for Autumn!

First off the bat, Sushia had some great customer service. Our waitress looked like she had stepped off the set of some Korean/ Japanese drama, as she was so pretty, in a fragile, softly spoken kind of manner. She asked if we had been to Sushia before, to which we replied that we were newbies of the joint. She suggested that three people could easily share up to eight dishes and proceeded to go through the menu. She explained each section thoroughly and highlighted the popular dishes. Throughout the night, she was equally attentive and exceedingly patient, giving us time to wait and ponder over the menu, as my other friend was running a bit late. She also didn’t laugh in my face, as I annihilated the pronunciation of the Japanese dishes we ordered – turns out languages isn’t my forte.

 Sashimi Santenmori ($18)
Sashimi Santenmori ($18)

The waitress had recommended the Sashimi Moriawase, however I wasn’t a huge fan of raw fish, so we went for the smaller version, the Sashimi Santenmori ($18). The pros within Sushia’s kitchen staff didn’t just slap a bunch of raw fish on a plate that night. No, at Sushia, the tuna or Maguro (まぐろ) had been seared, cut into fine slabs and fanned out on a bowl of ice. The salmon or Sake (鮭) had received the same gracious treatment, resplendent in a dazzling, translucent pink.

As a whole, it was a striking dish, with fanned pieces of apple, slices of orange, bundles of pickled daikon, a soup spoon containing wasabi and green spring onion, and was even decorated with bright yellow dandelions. Soya sauce came alongside it, but I relished in the clean finish of both types of fish, without the condiment. It was evident that Sushia had used the highest-grade fish – the tuna and salmon were firm and gleaming, with each piece cut against the grain. It was not slimy nor acrid in the slightest, and was a refreshing first courser.

Gyo Tataki ($21)
Gyo Tataki ($21)

The Gyo Tataki ($21) was a line of seared beef, topped with garlic chips and chives. Right away, you could see that the beef had been cooked to perfection – it had been browned on the outside and was still rare in the middle. Once in the mouth, it melted away, indicating that it was top quality beef. The Gyo Tataki packed a punch in flavour, predominantly from the ponzu sauce, which was mildly tart with strokes of soya sauce. A combination of chives, scallion (spring onion) and momiji oroshi was reminiscent of multicoloured confetti, aligned down the centre of the beef.

The momiji oroshi was a combination of grated daikon radish and red chilli peppers, in which the red chilli peppers were in an understated form. I loved the sharp taste of the pickled daikon alongside the garlic chips. The garlic chips also worked well with the momiji moroshi to create a crunch amongst the smoothness of the beef. The garlic chips provided a toasted smokiness to the whole dish and had been used sparingly (a flake per piece of beef) in fear that it would overpower the natural flavours of the meat. Brilliance in full form.

Soft Shell Crab Salad ($24)
Soft Shell Crab Salad ($24)

The Soft Shell Crab Salad ($24) sounded extremely appealing to me, and was also an additional recommendation from our waitress. The soft shell crab was in plentiful portions, the delicate battered skin tearing away easily as we bit into it. The deep fried goodness of the soft shell crab was so different within the context of the dish – not only was there very little oily residue, but the big cubes of fresh, firm watermelon was the perfect foil to the slight salty crunch of the crab. The watermelon itself was bursting with fruity freshness, but had undertones of salt and sourness from the amazu ponzu sauce. In the centre, were delicate rosettes of green salad leaves, wrapped in cucumber and decorated with chopped tomato. An aesthetically pleasing dish, that was also delicious. My favourite of the night!

In-house Sushi!
In-house Sushi!
Hamachi (king fish sushi, $18)
Hamachi (king fish sushi, $18)

You can’t go to a Japanese restaurant and not try the in-house sushi, so we ordered the Hamachi (king fish sushi, $18) and Kamo (duck breast sushi, $22). The king fish was sublimely fresh, with a slithering, slippery texture. The lustrous kingfish blanketed pockets of rice, which had a slight lemony acidity to it. The king fish sushi was smattered with micro herbs and topped with wafu gelee. The wafu gelee turned out to be a gelatinous cube of wafu dressing, which had some explosive citrus flavours (attributed perhaps to the potential yuzu inside). The presence of the gellee showcased some genius technique from the Sushia kitchen team, as it allowed the rice to be saturated with a slight tartness just before consumption, whilst not infusing the king fish at the same time.

Kamo (duck breast) sushi ($22)
Kamo (duck breast sushi, $22)

The Hamachi sushi was in stark contrast to the duck breast sushi, bringing forth flavours of earthy sweetness, as opposed to sourness. The duck breast was rosy inside and wonderfully succulent, impressively cooked like the beef we had been served that night. The duck breast had been drizzled with a yuzu miso dressing that was honeyed in flavour, perhaps due to the fact that it may have been deglazed by mirin, a rice wine that had a higher sugar content than normal wines. Quality sushi indeed.

Wagyu Gyoza ($25)
Wagyu Gyoza ($25)

My ritual is ordering gyoza at every Japanese restaurant I go to, and tonight would be the same circumstance. The Wagyu Gyoza ($25) jumped out at me and was the most expensive of the two gyoza dishes on the menu. The wagyu mince fell apart as soon as I bit into it. It was hot, heady and deliciously moist. With the wagyu’s higher fat content, the gyoza filling was not dry as anticipated, like typical minced meats. It had been tossed with some scallions and mushroom duxelles, which was simply finely chopped mushrooms sautéed in herbs and butter.

I’m used to having gyozas containing more vegetables or fungus than actual meat, but this was a fantastic amendment to the usual standard – the mushroom acted only to enhance the earthy flavours of the meat, rather than a substance to stuff the dumpling. The wagyu was enveloped in a caramalised pan fried skin, perfectly crispy. Alongside it was a smear of sweet potato puree – silky, sweet and nutty. I kept going back for seconds, appreciating how everything worked so well on the plate together – the puree, the tenderness of the wagyu, and the vinegary characteristics of the dipping sauce. Mouthwateringly good.

Unagi Fried Rice ($18)
Unagi Fried Rice ($18)

Our last savoury dish was the Unagi Fried Rice ($18) which had been crammed with gorgeous pieces of eel. It actually was the bestie that first got me hooked into unagi back in 2009, which in my opinion, tasted just like fish, but with a higher oil content. The flakes of eel in this fried rice had still retained the eel’s original oleaginous texture. I love my fried rice with a bit of crunch and lots of egg, which Sushia’s rendition certainly exemplified. The rice had caught to the bottom of the wok, creating portions of smoky, caramelized chunks. The rice had been evenly coated in tsume, a mirin and soya based sauce and finished with kizami nori, which was finely shredded dried seaweed. Some of the best fried rice I’ve ever had. Thank goodness I had finely pointed chopsticks – otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to pick up every grain of rice!

Dessert Platter ($35)
Dessert Platter ($35)

Dessert time! Considering the high standard of all the dishes that preceded the arrival of the dessert menu, we were very enthusiastic about what was to come in the sweet aisle. Going all out, we ordered the Dessert Platter ($35), a selection of the Chef’s special desserts. To say that it was simply a “selection” was a gross understatement – the bamboo mat the platter came on, seemed to hold almost every single dessert displayed on the menu.

The chocolate delight (aka the chocolate marquise) in the centre of the mat was exceptionally decadent. The crisp crack of the chocolate on top alluded to the sublimely tempered chocolate, the layers beneath light and creamy. It was quite rich, but not markedly saccharine, as it had been made with dark chocolate. The biscuit base had been constructed of a feathery crumble, so different from the hard cheesecake foundations I’ve had in the past. Beside it was another thick brush of dark chocolate paste, with several blobs of raspberry gel.

Chocolate Marquise in the centre
Chocolate Marquise in the centre!

At the back was the tofu cheesecake, Sushia’s own signature dessert. My first reaction was, “Tofu cheesecake? How will this work?” It turned out that the kitchen of Sushia was very capable of wielding its magic once again. The cream cheese interacted well with the tofu component of the cheesecake, which was rather neutral in flavour. The cheesecake was ivory in colour, with a whipped, fluffy consistency. The richness of the cheesecake was offset by a valley of passisonfruit coulis on top of the cheesecake.

To the front of the chocolate marquise was the banana harumani, which were crispy fried bananas wrapped up in a pastry and served with the flavour of the day ice cream (white chocolate). The pastry was thin and crunchy, very similar to the wanton wrappers that make up spring rolls. Instead of a burst of carrot and vermicelli noodles however, it was some crushed banana and red bean paste. It was a refined  interpretation of deep fried banana fritters, spotted with passionfruit coulis. My pick for desserts.

The mochi ice cream was green tea ice cream, encased in a mochi flour pastry. The great thing about green tea (and matcha in general) is its unique flavour and how it isn’t as sweet as other flavourings. The mochi flour pastry had been artfully moulded into an arch and sported a polished, glutinous gleam. Its sticky chewiness worked well with the ice cream, which had also been coated in toasted coconut. Last but not least, were the small balls of semi froddo, potentially raspberry in flavour. They were ice cold and delicious, with an almost mousse-like consistency and had a fruity sharpness. The trio of us finished the platter with gusto, with enough on there for all of us to have a sample of everything. It was amazing.

One more of the crab!
One more of the crab!

The bestie is incredibly hard to please. I’ve taken her to so many places to eat and she’s always been “meh” in reaction to some of the food she has had. That night at Sushia was that one exception, where all of us were pretty ecstatic about the restaurant’s food and service. The food came out at a cracking pace, to the point that we were leaving some dishes on the table, while we rapidly consumed the rest. There were bright smiles from our two main service ladies, with one of them reminding me of Felicity from Arrow (I kept on smiling at her in a very creepy manner). The only slight observation, was that when it got exceptionally busy, our finished plates were left out on the table for a while, with promises of dessert sadly beyond our reach. As a whole though, the service was attentive, professional and smart.

Thank you Sushia!
Thank you Sushia!

I was also striking impressed towards the end of the service, of how very calm everyone was in Sushia’s open kitchen. Every single person who worked in the kitchen that night had an aura of tranquility and precision. No one was screaming or shouting orders in Sushia’s kitchen. No “Yes Chef! Coming Chef! Chef there is a problem!!” Everyone was zen. Totally zen. It was almost scary. As a restaurant that consistently churns out tender meats in any shape of form (across the night we had sampled two different types of beef and duck) as well as fresh seafood is most certainly a dining gem. It had occurred to me about halfway through the night, that we had ordered a ridiculous amount of food, but it was in actuality, it was just enough to feed the three of us. I was exceptionally impressed, and for $60 a head (whilst not particularly cheap) it was certainly worth the quality of food and service provided throughout the night. I can’t wait to return!  Thank you Sushia for a brilliant night!

Rating: 8 out of 10.
★★★★★★★★☆☆

 Address: Brookfield Pl, 125 St Georges Terrace Perth, 6000
Website: http://www.sushia.com.au

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Sushia Izakaya & Bar on Urbanspoon

Bites:

  • Open for lunch and dinner Monday to Friday (12pm to 11pm) and Saturday for dinner (6pm to 12pm).
  • Specials are on offer including lunch specials ($15) from Monday to Wednesday and an early bird bento box special ($35 pp).
  • Bar and teppanyaki grill also available!
  • Bookings available via Dimmi, email (brookfield@sushia.com.au) or via phone (9322 7771).

– L.

 

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