Sushi E – Setting a Benchmark
I’ll say it straight out. There is a sore need for more restaurants (sushi-ya) like Sushi E in Sydney. I can’t even think of five off the top of my head.
I don’t have anything against sushi trains – on the contrary I believe they’re awesome because they are a cheap and effective way of disseminating this incredible food. But this is on another level.
Y’all already know that I love, absolutely love sushi. It’s the primary reason why Japanese cuisine is my favourite. It’s one of the healthiest things you could eat (provided you discount all the butchery that Western culture has done to it – slathering in mayo, deep frying this and that…etc), and yet also one of the tastiest. I’m always on a quest to seek out good sushi.
It took me forever to take notice of Sushi E, but I’m very glad I did.
Name: Sushi E
Date Visited: 5/10/2012
Address: 252 George Street, Sydney 2000
Good for: some of the best sushi you can find in Sydney
Not good for: if you like sushi train-style sushi, cheap eats
Go-to dish: any sushi – but get the non-Western kinds if you wanna have a pure sushi experience
Le friends and I went for lunch at Sushi E, and we weren’t actually sure what to expect. Imagine my surprise at discovering what is a proper sushi bar that is dedicated to serving sushi. You can easily view the sushi chefs (itamae) perform their efficient art and it shall be plated up in front of you. Nobukuki Ura – the head chef was present (though I did not get a picture) and was cooking up a storm as usual. Ingredients are fresh, and the purity of the sushi is most definitely preserved. Of course, you can still get Western-style sushi – the restaurant is clever enough not to alienate that popular market.
You order other non-sushi dishes too – they just come from the kitchen. But if you’re gonna do that, please take a seat at the tables instead. The bar is for lovers of sushi
Watching the itamae display their culinary prowess is always a joy. To some, watching it is as part of the experience as eating it. I still value the food the most, but it’s a pleasure to see the transition from ingredients to edible art. Below, we see the itamae scorching like there’s no tomorrow:
And off we go, on a delectable journey of acidic rice and fresh fish.
Oh what yum. Most scallops I’ve tried recently have not really impressed me – it really is quite difficult to bring out what little subtle flavour scallops have. Excellent it is then, when Sushi E presents super fresh scallops, sears them to just the right level (that wee bit of burn taste but preserving the juicy tender meat underneath) and dresses them in a delightful spicy mayo sauce that’s accented by the hints of chilli. The result is something to pay for, that’s for sure. There’s 8 scallops on the plate but I could probably eat at least twice as much before I get tired of it. It’s that good.
The itamae begins cutting up some fish…check out that level of concentration. If you’re going to prepare fish, you need to make sure it’s fully deboned, extraneous fats and skin portions cleanly removed, and sliced to equal thickness per slice. It takes time to master, despite the apparent simplicity of it.
The result is the omakase (you leave it to the chef to choose) sashimi plate. I chose to get 8 pieces, as I wanted to make stomach room for other stuff later. As it turns out, I could’ve just had this sashimi until I was satisfied and I could be done with it.
The sashimi here is probably the only place I’ve been to that definitively floors Masuya at its own game. Often, you feel that you taste something that’s “the best” or “the freshest”, but you then have to revise your definition when you eat something better, or fresher. Sushi E did that to me – it’s both better and fresher than pretty much anything I’ve had in memory. It’s incredible.
On the left we have maguro (tuna). While it is sadly not of the toro (fatty) variety, it is still one lean, mean akami (picked up on the pun there?) and I can’t fault the chef’s choice of it. Flavours are subtle, and you definitely need the shoyu (soy sauce) to bring them out. A light dip is fine – do not saturate the piece in it.
The salmon is top class. Finely defined fat lines run through giving it that succulent look which translates into succulent taste. Packed with that oiliness (mmm omega 3s) that is attributable to salmon, you’ve got another winner right here.
Up next is the kingfish. As usual, this is tougher and more chewy than the previous two fish types and is probably not something for people who are new to sashimi to try out. Nevertheless, Sushi E presents it in its best light. Medium fattiness, resistant texture, and a wholesome taste in the mouth leaves me wanting more. Goes well with wasabi – which I usually never have. I don’t actually think this was hiramasa kingfish though – that type has a higher fat content and has a fuller taste. Pity, maybe they just didn’t have much on hand that day.
Last we have red snapper. Boy did the itamae deliver one hell of an omakase! The snapper has a very firm texture that may surprise, but it quickly won over with its sweet and nutty flavour – but do be more liberal with the shoyu. A great finisher.
Onwards, we have the Establishment roll, so named based on the bar that Sushi E is sitting 3 floors on top of (The Establishment). This is a semi-Western roll, but I didn’t mind as I wanted to see what made this roll so special to have such a name.
Turns out it’s a decent enough roll, but doesn’t blow minds. The choice of ingredients is apt enough – tuna goes well with avocado, mayo goes with anything. Cucumber provides the crunchy texture and the sesame seeds add a surface layer of crunch too, while imparting a nutty flavour. Using plenty of tobiko is plenty good in my books – gotta love me some of that. I particularly like how there isn’t an overload of rice – it’s not thick and ingredients get plenty of real estate on their own. Thank goodness for that, I don’t want to overpay for what is mostly rice. This last comment applies to the other rolls as well.
Speaking of this rice (apply this comment also to all the below sushi since it’s the same rice), it’s good quality sushi rice. Fluffy and soft, with a high level of acidity which is a great counterbalance to most of the sushi that is to be served. At the same time, the construction is great – it holds itself together, even during the times when I accidentally dolloped shoyu onto the rice itself (you’re not meant to). But of course, don’t go nuts – the rice will still fall apart once it’s too wet.
Overall, the roll does satisfy, it just isn’t special.
Next up we have another specially named roll – the Hemmesphere roll, based on the name of the bar that is on the same level as Sushi E – Hemmesphere. Hemmesphere has its name itself based on Justin Hemmes, the owner of the Merivale chain of restaurants/pubs/function rooms of which Sushi E is a part of. There’s a whole other backstory to that guy…which you can discover for yourself.
The Hemmesphere roll plays on the texture and flavour synergies of salmon and avocado. Of course, avocado goes with just about anything so this one’s an easy sell. The capers make for a good crunch while the mayo gives it a well-deserved spicy kick. Add sesame for outer texture and you’re good to go for another well built roll.
No need for too much shoyu – let the flavours speak for themselves.
Now this is a roll we’ve all seen before. It wasn’t long before people thought to combine the crispy awesomeness that is soft shell crab with the delicacy that is sushi.
Having said that, I was somewhat disappointed with the one on offer. The crab was a bit too dry – didn’t have that juiciness that I’ve become accustomed to in a good soft shell crab. Other than that, I can’t fault any other parts of the sushi as it’s just as well constructed as the previous samples. Needless to say, it wasn’t mind blowing – but there are far better things for your taste buds to be had at Sushi E.
Ahhh…the California roll. Supposedly invented in the 70s and popularised in the 80s, it’s pretty much the roll that pushed sushi out into the Western spotlight. My respects to that.
This was, and always has been a very safe roll – most people will eat crab, and when you chuck all the other stuff in it makes for a fairly standard roll. The taste is fairly standard, though since Sushi E is using great ingredients you could say it’s a ‘high quality’ standard. Hey, if you’re already here and you already ordered the California roll…you may as well have a good one, right?
Still, get something else if you’re a true sushi aficionado…
Which is what’s coming up next as prepared by the itamae…
Generally, I prefer nigiri over maki, but I know why many prefer the latter – there’s just a lot more going on with maki. You’ve got the seaweed, the cucumber, the sauces etc. Nigiri is sushi in its purest – just fresh fish and fantastic sushi rice. Of course, there’s more to it than that (if you watch the documentary Jiro Dreams of Sushi [which I highly, highly recommend] you’ll see what I’m on about).
There’s pretty all good and no bad with Sushi E’s nigiri. The fish is as fresh as it gets, the tastes are spot . You’re also left to use the amount of wasabi you want, rather than what the itamae decides for you. I think this is a good thing despite the fact that many purists argue that you should trust the itamae’s suggestion – I get that, but some people are really intolerant towards wasabi. I am unfortunately one of them.
The only thing I can fault about the nigiri is that the rice doesn’t hold together all too well, but this is a minor gripe – I wasn’t exactly eating it with perfect skills (yes, there is a certain way to eat sushi correctly. Elitist? Maybe).
When I next come, I’ll be coming for the nigiri.
Last but not least, we have a classic Western favourite, the prawn tempura roll. This time the roll is done hosomaki style (the seaweed on the outside – up until now the rolls have been of the uramaki-style). It has little impact apart from the initial bite-in so no biggie there.
I’m only slightly partial towards tempura rolls since sushi is meant to be served at room temperature, while tempura is meant to be served hot. When you combine the two well…something is going to have to give. In this case, it was the tempura, and tepid tempura is not the most appetising of things to eat.
Oh well, you gotta draw the line when you try and combine too many things into one!
I didn’t actually order dessert, but I got this complimentary. I suspect a reason for this which I’ll get to in just a sec. The dessert itself is reminiscent of panna cotta, but creamier. Well, that’s essentially the basis of Russian cream anyway…it’s just…a lot of cream haha. There’s a very malty and crunchy liquid at the top which tastes absolutely delicious though. Kind of like toasted caramel.
For a free dessert, I ain’t complaining…
…except for the reason – see while I’ve been raving about Sushi E (to write over 2000 words on it is a mean feat) one very, very big flaw is its service speed. We went at around 12:30 which is lunch hour yes. We expected delays yes, but put it this way – I was lucky to be able to take an extended lunch that day, because the last dish was not served to me until nearly 2:30pm – well after lunch hour. This is extremely staggered and I find that very problematic – and this coming from a guy who usually doesn’t take service into account. I do this time. I hope it’s a one off though, since I’d love to come here for lunch again, and get some great quality sushi that you’d have to try real hard to duplicate elsewhere.
Try and come for dinner – it may or may not be better then. I know I will!
The Good: almost everything – the decor, the freshness of the food, the great taste
The Bad: the eye-watering price (which is acceptable if you’re into sushi), the service speed
I give Sushi E a grand total of eight and a half Caesars out of ten – 8.5/10