For people who enjoy their food, travelling out of their way to grace an establishment of good reputation is never an issue. Monsieur Poisson and I definitely fall into this category of diner, but by doing so we seem to have neglected areas of Sydney and subsequently eateries in our immediate vicinity. So in a bid to discover what’s available within a short distance from our home, we decide to start with Crows Nest and we begin our journey at Ju-Rin with the always-welcome company of Mistress.
I have lost count of how many reviews I have read about Ju-Rin before finally coming here myself. On this particular Friday evening Mistress has kindly organised the table reservation, but was told the restaurant bookings are arranged in two sessions only: 6-8pm or 8pm til close. The later option has been chosen as we’re not terribly adept at dining early, and when we step into the restaurant we understand why there are two rigid booking sessions – the place is smaller than we expect and the tables are limited.
With kanji characters meaning ‘forest’ emblazoned on their sign and front window, at their entrance and on their menus, we spend what seems like ages poring over the menu contents and are marred by indecision as to what to order. Often the problem with dining somewhere for the first time is wanting to eat everything on offer!
To complicate matters further, Monsieur Poisson discovers there is a specials board located adjacent to the sushi bar. Because it is too far for Mistress and myself to read comfortably, he takes our camera and snaps a photo of the specials before returning to our table. (See, cameras are not only for blogging whilst at restaurants!) And from here, we start with Monsieur Poisson’s adored uni sashimi which are accompanied by crisp nori sheets for wrapping.
The grilled guy-tan are huge and round and incredibly soft. We are confused at first as we’re all used to eating chewier pieces that have usually been trimmed into squares or rectangles. The fascinating part is definitely how tender the meat is, as if it has been stewed, as well as the obvious grill marks on the individual pieces. They’re a little under-seasoned but that’s easily fixed.
Next we have the aburi swordfish nigiri which feature thinly sliced pieces of fish with a subtle charred flavour. The flesh is firm and much less grainy than that which we tried at Sono, although we’re not sure if this could be attributed to the fish having been grilled.
Mistress has chosen the ‘Saury (sanma) with sansho pepper’ to try, where we discover the fish segments served are at room temperature. While the pepper is subtle and not very bitey, the texture reminds us of tinned sardines where the bones and fins can all be eaten and the flavours resemble Chinese tinned fried dace in black bean sauce (豆豉鯪魚).
When we spied chawanmushi on the menu, we knew we had to order some – Mistress particularly loves it, and it is a recent discovery of Monsieur Poisson’s and mine. We end up with two serves to share and are somewhat disappointed from the moment the lids are removed – we are not met with lemony yellow smoothness, but rather pock-marked surfaces instead. Nonetheless, the fragrant flavours of stock are evidently present in the steamed egg even if it is a little overcooked.
Our rice dishes, as expected, make their appearance at the end of our meal and consist of a soft-shell crab roll with matchstick-thin slivers of cucumber sprouting out the end pieces as well as a couple of seductively perched crab claws.
This is followed by a chirashi sushi (for two) which is larger than it looks. The bowl is wide with steep sides so we think, ‘Nah, can’t be much under there…’ But there is! I highly recommend this dish as it proves to be great value with a disproportionately high amount of assorted fresh-tasting sashimi pieces compared to the amount of vinegared rice underneath.
And after proclaiming that we are full-full-full, we pull out our reserve stomachs and order dessert. The dessert menu is located on a side wall which Monsieur Poisson again photographs for us. We order just the one thing: a tempura ice-cream with green tea topping and azuki to share.
The vanilla ice-cream comes encased in a light and fluffy batter on a flower-shaped plate. Azuki and a tube biscuit decorate the pre-quartered ice-cream whilst a few thin wedges of red apple sit alongside. Moss green topping which is tastier than its looks completes the dish. The staff acknowledge that we are sharing and thoughtfully bring out small plates and spoons for us to divide the dessert amongst ourselves.
We leave absolutely full to the brim of wonderful food, whilst totally understanding why Ju-Rin has two designated dining sessions as well as its claim to The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2010’s Favourite Asian Restaurant award. Our only battle from here is getting back to the car whilst the heavens have decided to open in a most spectacular downpour!
316 Pacific Hwy, Crows Nest NSW
Tel: (02) 9966 5811
Opening Hours: 7 days 12pm-2:30pm (lunch)