Azuma Chifley (to distinguish it from the now-closed Azuma Kushiyaki in Town Hall) is a popular haunt for many corporate lunches, small functions, and the like. This is in part due to its location – residing in its own restaurant space on the Chifley food court level, as well as its higher-than-average service and quality of its food. Put simply, big boys go here for lunch.
Turns out it’s also not a bad place to have a birthday. Le friend chose to have his 21st birthday dinner here and I was honoured to be a part of it. I had been to Azuma Chifley twice before – once for a simple work lunch, and the other time for its Sugar Hit
Date Visited: 18/10/2012
Address: Level 1 2 Chifley Sq, Sydney, NSW 2000
Go-to dish: popcorn shrimp
I did say it was a birthday dinner right? That would explain the cover photo for this post – I don’t think they provide those little chocolate presents if it’s not your birthday…so um don’t expect them if it’s not your birthday
We were served the omakase menu, so ’twas up to the restaurant to decide on what to get us. Thankfully, there was a bit of everything, so variety was served!
Starting off, we immediately have an interesting mix of flavours provided by black sesame and…oddly enough, yuzu miso. Yuzu is essentially a citrus-y fruit that grows in Japan. It’s best to liken it to what we use lemons for, though that’s not always strictly applicable. So that + miso = ?
The tofu was good enough – it was soft, and consistently so throughout. It was also a bit tepid, which is actually about right since it’s not meant to be served cold (or warm->hot). The aroma of sesame oil wafts and smells good…so far so good.
What was perplexing though is the yuzu miso. I just can’t reconcile citrus with the umami/saltiness of miso. It just doesn’t work for me. Almost like a bad souvlaki dressing…put simply, it’s a conflict of flavours.
My favourite dish of the lot, this one’s got everything. Various seafoods, a red meat, and veggies!
I enjoyed the baby abalone the most – steaming it is definitely one of the best ways to cook it. The meat provided an expected level of resistance, and was wholesome to eat. The generous serving size here was a winner too!
Coming in at a close second is the Saikyo (miso) cod. This is usually one of my favourite ways of eating fish – miso paste used to be a way to preserve fish for transportation back in ancient Japan. The awesome side effect is that it tastes so good as the miso infuses and smokes the fish which produces a delicious end product. Kind of like sushi, it’s amazing how these ways of doing A eventually end up making really good B.
The cod was quite tasty and tender, though it was a bit light on the flavouring – it tasted blander than it usually would. Thus, I found the abalone to be better. Still, two great pieces of seafood I would not mind eating on a regular basis.
As for the pork belly…this wasn’t particularly memorable, but it did provide a very strong countering force to the seafood-dominated platter. It was quite rich in its taste, as pork belly should be, but the belly itself didn’t have the greatest of textures – it tasted like one solid block of pork without the layered textures of belly. Ah well, one big bite and it’s gone!
I feel there’s very little to say about the vegetables – pickled daikon/carrots, with some sort of candied red…thing (I honestly did forget what that was). They tasted more or less as expected.
Sashimi at Azuma isn’t really what you should go here for. It’s good sashimi, and and regular would find no problems with it. As I’m unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you take it) very critical of sashimi, I’d say that much better is to be had at Sushi E, or Masuya. The main culprit is that Azuma’s sashimi isn’t particularly fresh – they most likely refrigerate it before serving, which is fine, but it shouldn’t really be done on prolonged basis, or it has to be thawed out. Whatever the reason, it makes it average, rather than standout.
Asuma’s “unique” sushi…I’m not sure how it is unique, but I guess you can’t find the exact same sushi elsewhere…so let’s give them that.
I found the seared tuna to be done really well – I love aburi-style nigiri. It’s just delicious. Well smoked, tender, superb. Nothing more need be said.
The similarly-seared salmon is just as superb, perhaps even more enjoyable than the tuna. They really do put all that fish fat to work. This is how we should get our omega-3s. Fish oil? Who needs that tasteless stuff!
Good tempura can usually be discerned when you use a pair of chopsticks and split it apart down the middle. If you hear a satisfying crack and hiss sound, followed by generous amounts of steam, you’re likely going to eat some really good tempura. The enemy in this case, is time – leave it for too long and it just won’t be good. Same with chips, mhm?
The tempura at Azuma is quite enjoyable. It was left to cool a bit before it was served which I think is a mistake – if one feels it’s too hot at least give them the option of letting it cool down or immediately eat it. But, the batter is done nicely – there’s enough crunchiness on the outer skin paired with an ample amount of creaminess on the inside. The tempura’d ingredients were very nice as well. Overall solid, but they should serve it piping hot – almost all restaurants are at fault for that though, unless it’s a dedicated tempura joint (not in Sydney unfortunately).
I generally quite like the beef steaks done in Japanese restaurants and the wagyu sirloin was no exception. Part of the reason is because Japanese dressings are always so…different vs their Western counterparts. It’s not necessarily better, but eating steak – Wafu style – and expecting a Western flavour is always going to be surprising. Gotta love that garlic shoyu! Paired with a good cut of meat that’s tender and not tough, and you’re pretty much all the way there.
The udon was quite chewy and that actually meant it was quite tough to get through. Not a very pleasant experience as I spent more time chewing than…doing anything else. That let it down, which is unfortunate as the soup broth was quite delicious. Umami ftw – but those noodles, they gotta soften them up – too springy doesn’t really do it.
As for that amount of chilli powder…I ended up putting on about four times as much. I’m a sucker for the stuff. Call me crazy, but…yeah call me crazy.
In a nice twist, the dessert actually partly happens to be the birthday boy’s cake! A pretty cool touch. I’d go into it, but I don’t actually need to – it is actually exactly the same as Azuma’s Sugar Hit. DOUBLE TWIST.
All I can really say is that the taste has remained consistent between the two times I’ve had it – that’s a good thing.
If Azuma were around 20% cheaper than it is, It would be an easy recommendation. Unfortunately, it’s quite pricey for what you get – especially as some dishes miss. In that regard…do go, but realise that a) other options exist that taste similarly for less $$, or b) much better options for only a bit more $$ exist.
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: great seafood and meat dishes
The Bad: somewhat overpriced, some basic dishes miss
I give Azuma Chifley a grand total of seven Caesars out of ten – 7/10