So…it was that time of the year aye. Well, I chose Ume for Valentine’s day with The Lady because it’s fairly small, tucked away in Surry Hills – away from the hustle & bustle of the city, and also because I hear it’s a Japanese gem in Surry Hills. I’ve walked past it on several occasions, as it’s extremely close to Bourke St Bakery, but never took the chance to visit.
It’s about time that changed! Turns out this one-hatted restaurant delivers the goods – and it ain’t your classic vanilla Japanese food either.
Date Visited: Valentine’s Day
Address: 478 Bourke St Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Go-to dish: Riverina lamb shoulder
Ume is assuredly a fine dining restaurant, but it doesn’t try to be fancy with its decor. It’s minimal, simplistic, but still quite beautiful.
The Valentine’s day menu comes in the form of a 6-course degustation priced at $95 pp. Reasonable, once you take into account the V-day markup.
Our otsumami comes in the form of salmol tartare laid on house made rice crackers. I LOVE these kinds of starters (remember Marque?)
- Super tasty, you already know how much of a love affair I have with salmon tartare. I love everything about it – its umami flavour, its texture. Done and dusted
- The crackers themselves have an umami/nori taste to them, adds to the tartare’s taste and gives that awesome texture that defines why food combos like cheese on crackers such a mainstay
Off to a good start!
The scallop carpaccio is an interestingly mixed bag. On the one hand, scallops are nothing unusual, on the other I’ve never had it in the form of a carpaccio. When you’re thinly slicing something up it changes things…
- The good news is that this kind of thin-slicing brings out more flavour by way of allowing the butter to more fully permeate the scallop. This is good as scallops are generally considered flavourless, and require external flavouring to get it right.
- I think the dish could’ve used a little bit more seasoning – just a little more
- Texture-wise, it was great – the scallop was seared well, and the creamy butter got it all together
Just a bit more flavour, just a bit more.
Not often do you go to a fine dining restaurant and one of the courses is simply a salad that actually contains no meat. Ah the gall
- It’s a good salad though, all of the vegetables are crisp and fresh. I actually preferred how the heirloom carrots were kind of wrinkly – their crunch is still very much there after all so it was a bit of a added texture
- Nice touch on actually roasting the carrots – that adds a lot
- Not exactly sure what hen’s egg miso is, but as the dressing of the salad, it’s what pretty much prevents it from becoming a detestable, boring salad. Luckily, miso is a miracle bean, and turns this salad acceptable (I wonder if the grammar was right there…)
The lamb. Oh god the lamb. This is most DEFINITELY the go-to dish and by far the favourite of The Lady as well. It’s win on so many levels. Lamb has three inherent advantages over beef and other red meats:
- it’s got a higher average fat percentage, and fat is what makes meat actually taste like meat. Also, more fat = better-tasting meat
- it’s got that ‘lamb’ aroma that isn’t in any other kind of meat
- it’s extremely tender, easily more tender than pulled pork/beef
Ume’s lamb is a shining example of good lamb – it’s so tender and delicious…and lamb shoulder happens to be one of the tastiest (but also fattiest) parts of lamb. I’m just going to end this here. Dot point summaries are not needed. Someone pass me some lamb. Oh and that wasabi pea sauce – frick, what a good combination that I would have never expected to work.
The waiter explained that since the previous dishes have essentially been a build-up of umami, this dish provides the last explosion of umami fulfilment before dessert. Essentially, this is the dish that allows you to really scratch your umami itch. I know where he’s coming from.
- The snapper soup is exactly as you’d expect – light, but the umami is definitely there.
- I pretty much just mixed the rice and the soup together – perfectly valid, and delicious
- The rice itself does have a shoyu taste to it, much more preferable than just white rice for sure. The snapper soup would not have been enough to fully infuse the rice with flavour otherwise
Alright, primed for dessert!
Oh now that looks like a delicious delice doesn’t it! This dessert is a little bit of everything.
- The vanilla tofu is the most interesting element – The Lady hates tofu but this isn’t ordinary tofu! It’s kind of like vanilla curd in texture, and like vanilla jelly in taste. It’s quite nice.
- Strawberries are as good as strawberries go – nothing too special going on here
- The vanilla ice cream is just vanilla ice cream, though it does taste a bit richer than your typical variety
- The watermelon base provides a bit of moisture and is good to eat last, to “wash” everything down
A Valentine’s Day dinner well done. If it’s good enough for me, it’s possibly good enough for you
As usual, feel free to leave a comment or three
The Good: great food, that lamb is the bomb, understated decor
What could be improved: I question serving a salad as a whole course on its own, some dishes could have been more daring
I give a grand total of eight Caesars out of ten – 8/10