Kansai – Japanese on a Budget
Those who work at Wynyard/Martin Place, especially in buildings along Hunter St will no doubt be aware of Kansai. Many a businessman have had lunches there – it’s quite cheap for Japanese, accessible, and delivers the goods. Indeed, this blogger has been to Kansai more than 20 times while on various work placement stints around the around the area.
With options ranging from noodles to rice to bento to sushi, you have a wealth of choice at Kansai that won’t let you down.
Date Last Visited: 19/12/2012
Address: 13 Hunter St Shop B1 Sydney, NSW 2000
Go-to dish: Kansai A – if you can handle it
I would not recommend arriving during peak lunch hours, as it gets epically crowded – try and arrive after 2pm if you can. Arriving before 12:30pm is also suitable, but don’t arrive too early – the restaurant doesn’t actually begin serving until 12pm.
I’ve had most of the things at Kansai already – I’ve yet to try the BBQ, but I can get those cravings satisfied elsewhere. Below are a…selection of what you can expect here.
So I talk about how cheap this place is, yet the first dish is at a whopping $28.5. Wait till you see what it actually includes – I couldn’t actually fit the rice and miso soup into the picture, goodness me.
Generally, the Kansai A set is sure to fill up even the hungriest of patrons, with four types of protein laid out in bento form, with accompaniments to boot. I find that the teriyaki at Kansai in general is incredibly powerful – you should definitely have it with rice otherwise you’ll be overdosed on that sweet sauciness. The quality of the meats in general is most certainly acceptable for a high-turnover Japanese “fast food” restaurant. Particular points to the chicken where thick, generous pieces are used.
The sashimi ain’t half bad either – you could tell it’s pre-refrigerated, but that’s the only way you can serve them in a high-turnover environment. This isn’t fine dining people; besides, they more than make up for it with generously thick slices of the stuff.
For the lighter side of the Kansai A you have some accompanying sushi. Now you see why the whole package is close to $30. I find that the nigiri at Kansai generally has bigger (longer) portions of fish than other fine dining sushi establishments, but at the price of being a bit thinner. I personally think longer pieces are more unwieldy, as they tend to flop off the rice, especially if the construction of the rice and the molding isn’t that great.
Speaking of the rice & mold, I would have to say Kansai is subpar – the rice is quite mushy, but at the same time somehow very loose and the vinegar taste is a bit strong at times. In nigiri, the fish tends to fall off the rice very easily. Oh, and if you’re still eating nigiri wrong (dipping the rice into the soy sauce instead of the tuna upside down), then you’ll be most frustrated as the rice breaks apart almost the instant you dip it into the soy.
But these criticisms aside, the overall flavour is acceptable, but I wouldn’t say Kansai is suitable if you’re specifically looking for a sushi fix.
FYI, you can get a Kansai B box for $10 less, which doesn’t include the aforementioned sushi – perfect for the well-rounded lunch that isn’t like a buffet.
On the other side of the equation we have their noodles. The udon is actually available as a curry udon as well. You’d have to ask for that as it doesn’t exist on the menu. I find the curry udon is more or less the perfect winter’s solution – sure to warm you up right away!
Anywho, the udon at Kansai is very good – the noodles are pretty much the right softness, the soup light and refreshing, the vegetables crunchy.
Pair it with salmon and it makes for a very decent lunch indeed (and this is why I’d even get veggie udon in the first place – there’s still meat :P). The salmon kind of tastes like chicken with the texture of salmon, if there was such a thing. But that’s probably because I’ve been overexposed to the superman-strength teriyaki sauce here.
Kansai also has a special selection of sushi that costs more than their usual, as they incorporate more ingredients. These are obviously Western-style sushi, but who cares about that – it’s the taste that counts.
The best volcano rolls I’ve had would still be at Kobe Jones (this was a LONG time ago), but Kansai’s rendition is very satisfying nonetheless. I find they’re actually really big, and I have to really stretch my mouth just to fit one in (maki should never be eaten in more than one bite!) though my mouth is quite small by average standards…
The flavours are a big cocktail due to all the ingredients and the textures are the same too – soft, crunchy, crispy, spicy, saucy and fishy all in there. You get it all!
But remember, if you prefer your sushi simple and traditional (fish + rice + soy sauce nothing else), then this is the antithesis to what you want. Just saying.
Lastly, I can wrap up ALL their sushi with this convenient picture – an ASSORTED SUSHI TRAY. Look at how much sushi is on there, and then look at the price.
Convinced that Kansai is cheap cheap cheap?
Look at all that colourful sushi.
Anyhow, my usual comments about the sushi applies – some are actually quite good like the aburi, while others still have the same rice issues as before. As for freshness and quality of fish – well it’s as good as it’s going to get for fast sushi (Y).
My conscience does require me to say this – I’ve heard from a few friends of mine who have experienced some rather unpleasant stomach problems after eating at Kansai, and while this has never happened to me in any of my visits, it’s something I should point out. Caveat emptor. Or you know, just get their bento or noodles.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: one of the best Japanese restaurants in the city for value, great bento and hot dishes
What could be improved: sushi is a meh due to rice and fish quality issues, food quality concerns are…concerning