You would not believe the level of cringe in writing this post. Not because of this post per se, nor does it have anything to do with Gold Class Daruma, or sushi chef Yuta Nakamura’s omakase offering. But rather, because I had to go through the torture of re-reading my very own post on the Grace Hotel’s resident Japanese restaurant, three years ago in order to refresh myself to write this post, three years later. Any time I blast myself back to the past is a time I realise just how much changes – the writing (yuck), the photography (actually not bad), and sure enough, my views (what was I thinking?).
This is either a good thing in that I’ve ostensibly matured, or it’s another case of wheel-spinning at trying to become better at something that’s always out of reach. But as far as Gold Class Daruma’s sushi omakase? I can confidently say things have only moved forward. At least something’s improved.
The multiplicity of changes in the omakase scene in the last few years has led to an influx of sushi offerings that’s almost unrecognisable to that of even three years prior. This post isn’t the right place to expand, but it’s accurate to say the concept is closer to becoming mainstream than ever before. However, while more and more people discover the joy and wonder that only a truely glamorous omakase experience brings, it nevertheless remains a relatively expensive way to enjoy sushi – why yes, I’m actually aware dropping $200-$350 on dinner is…feel free to complete that sentence yourself. Even more so as kaitenzushi (sushi train) is, quite frankly, quite decent. With Sashimi Shinsengumi’s continued covid-induced hiatus, there are currently only two omakase experiences at a price point that could be considered ‘value plays’ (this is the other). And to be clear, offering a tin of Caviar and carpet-bombing every dish with truffle for ‘only’ a few hundred dollars is not the kind value I’m talking about. I like luxury ingredients as much as the next guy with more money than sense (except the difference is I have no money and no sense) but give me deliciousness underpinned by variety and a sprinkle of novelty and that’ll win 8 days out of 10.
Yuta Nakamura clearly understands the brief: at $99, his omakase at Gold Class Daruma SLAPS. It offers all the standard kit: the sashimi plate (otsukuri), chawanmushi, a saikyo-yaki that’s honestly as good (in its own way) as all the other places that cost double, 10 pieces of nigiri and yes, you still get your fatty ootoro. Sure, the dessert is a bit weak, and you will absolutely have a better time if you prefer your rice (much) softer vs the standard al dente/chewiness found elsewhere and yeah, if you put on your ‘I’ve had a bad day so I’m going to be nasty to everyone’ hat, you’ll be able to nitpick to your heart’s content.
But far out, the ease of booking (underrated, especially if you don’t have the patience/connections), baseline execution, vibe and of course – value – makes for an offering that has little to no competition.
I know, you’re already going ‘what, only 10 pieces?’ Well the craziest bit is that requested extras are charged in the low single-digit dollars. Let me be clear: this is made-to-order sushi at nearly sushi train-level prices, and as an extra kicker – you don’t necessarily have to get the same pieces either (though of course you can if you want). In our case, we asked for an extra five nigiri, and all were completely new fish, different parts of the same fish (bonus education points), or the same fish served a little differently.
So what exactly has changed for Gold Class Daruma since 2018? Well, it seems like pretty much everything (the chef included!) – but most importantly, the fact that it’s now solidly on my returns list.
***Note: I forgot to take a picture of the 10th piece – a scallop from Western Australia (served between the paradise prawn & ootoro).
The extra pieces we ordered:
This post is based on an independently-paid visit to Gold Class Daruma’s sushi omakase
Date Last Visited: 18 June 2021 (3 visits, first visit under Yuta Nakamura)
Address: The Grace Hotel, Sydney
Price Guide (approx): $99 for omakase. We paid $120pp(!!!) before tips/drinks
- Easily the best-value omakase experience in Sydney.
- Punches well above its weight: you can’t complain for the price.
- Extra pieces are different from the main omakase.
- Softer rice means fans of a more al dente/chewy texture may come away disappointed.
- Expecting too much of its $99 asking price (eg, the best of the best seafood) is a recipe for disappointment.
- Don’t forget to ask for extra pieces if not full!
Return factor: yes, definitely.
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