The décor within matches the doorway and is somewhat non-descript with wood panelling halfway up the walls and dark brown café-style furniture. Apart from the paper lantern light fixtures and the odd fishing rod and paper fan affixed to the walls, it could just as easily be an eatery which serves neither Japanese nor seafood but rather a different cuisine altogether. However the aromas upon stepping in are unmistakably Japanese – being those of pickled ginger and sweet sukiyaki sauce.
We are seated and served small complimentary dishes of edamame, each containing several pods. Whilst perusing the menu, we notice how “fishy” the place is – the aforementioned fishing rods on the wall, the fish painted on our sauce dishes and the two little guys printed on the paper placemats hiding underneath the serviette and chopstick setting. There is a serious amount of seafood offer and Monsieur Poisson politely complies by ordering, first up, one of his favourite things: sea urchin.
The uni sashimi is presented attractively in an open abalone shell surrounded by sides of colour, and is the largest we’ve ever seen. Monsieur Poisson attests to their sweet freshness, whilst a particular food blogger may or may not have been seen dangling a piece between her lips to resemble a tongue. (All photographic evidence of which has been destroyed. Ahem.)
This is followed by ‘Tuna Tar-tar’ which we feel required more lubrication. Whilst the ingredients and especially the tuna are fresh, the raw egg yolk when mixed through doesn’t provide quite the amount of creaminess of which we had hoped. Perhaps mayonnaise might have been a welcome addition?
Their tempura and sashimi platter doesn’t disappoint with its fresh, cold and bouncy fish slices and light, crunchy tempura. I do wish we’d been afforded the other half of that soft-shell crab though!
The ox tongue is thinly sliced and well seasoned, and we order a bowl of green tea soba in hot soup simply because there aren’t enough places which serve flavoured soba. The noodles are slippery with a slight bite but don’t top those made in-house at Ju Ge Mu & Shimbashi.
And because we greedily wanted to try too many things, we are already quite full by the time our bara-sushi is brought out to us. Lifting the lid off the lacquerware box reveals masses of shredded egg omelette shielding the seafood and rice underneath, apart from the cooked prawns and strategically placed salmon roe on top. Digging in, we discover a delightfully high topping to rice ratio but can only make our way through half of it and take the remainder home. The rolled egg omelette branded with Sakana-Ya’s name in Japanese is a cute touch, as are the serving plates again emblazoned with fish – one of which is of a fugu.
But there is somehow always room for dessert! The ‘An-mitsu and green tea float set’ proves much better value than ordering the two separately, and we are rewarded with a bowl of green tea and vanilla ice-cream sitting on a base of chewy discs of mochi and springy cubes of agar jelly alongside a generous scoop of azuki paste. All this is washed down with a slightly unattractive, aloe vera-tinged green tea drink which becomes enjoyably creamy when the large scoop of ice-cream bobbing about is allowed to meld into it.
Admittedly Sakana-Ya is on the pricey side, but in exchange you do receive quality, freshness and simplicity which respects the true flavours of the food. The service is polite and it has been around for years, which serves someway of attesting to its enduring standards.
336 Pacific Hwy, Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9438 1468
*Bookings are highly recommended, especially on weekends.*
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 12pm-2:30pm (lunch)
Sun & Sat 6pm-10:30pm (dinner only)