It’s a family night out, but not the type with polite smiles intercut with awkward conversation or tension threatening to explode into arguments. Tonight we are without our usual chaperones – it’s the cousins only and, well, me as the spouse of one Monsieur Poisson. The location is Mizuya underneath the hustle and bustle of George Street and we are confused as to where we are meant to meet the others when we discover there are two entrances – one slightly further north for the karaoke end of the establishment, the other more convenient for the dining end.
We have not been organised enough to book a karaoke room in advance and have to settle with a booth in amongst the purple-illuminated, cherry blossom-like trees. However, each booth is fitted with a touchscreen menu and we spend way too long flicking through all the menu pages and gawking at all the photos of the food choices.
There are six of us so we conveniently start with the ‘Mizuya test tubes’ which we can’t go past in their pretty colours. They arrive sitting in a plastic test tube holder and there are two in each flavour – peach, green apple and strawberry. The menu actually depicts six different flavours but that’s a minor detail as these are the perfect aperitif with their fruity flavours and being slushie-like in texture.
And then we move onto some food! The grilled shiitake are smoky but unfortunately a tad dry without a sauce to baste it. The crispy chicken skin is a let-down as the pieces are small, dry and, for me, possibly as I had high hopes of it being like that at Azuma Kushiyaki. Never mind though, as all is redeemed when we receive our plate of juicy, bouncy, grilled beef tongue.
This is followed by a plate of thinly sliced gyu tataki. Fatty strips of beef are neatly arranged down the centre of the plate and are surrounded by a wonderfully tangy ponzu and topped with a small amount of black caviar. At this point we are told that the deep-fried camembert we ordered is sold out and we are collectively disappointed for who does not love the prospect of crumbed and fried soft, gooey cheese?
Next, a contrast of textures arrives with our soft-shell crab salad and grilled quail eggs. The soft-shell crab is lovely and crisp with the salad offering a nice break from all the previous meaty and slightly oily dishes. The renkon chips adorning the salad are more chewy rather than crunchy though. The quail eggs are, unfortunately, just boiled quail eggs with only the faintest of grill marks. Bring on more colour, flavour and smoky grilled-ness, I say!
The scallop carpaccio arrives sitting in a shallow pool of thin, golden dressing that lends an almost creamy coating to the scallop slices. And despite there being flavour and fragrance from the scattered caviar and snipped chives, we have trouble identifying the dressing as it really isn’t prominent in taste. Luckily the scallops are fresh and firm and hold their own court.
Takoyaki are rarely disappointing when made fresh, as they are here, but I always have to be careful so as not to burn the roof of my mouth on these little balls of potato and octopus. The crocodile kushiage are firm and moist, and sparingly drizzled with a mildly sticky sauce which is sweet with hints of tartness. The eel roll is your classic combination of a cucumber and cream cheese maki topped with slices of unagi.
‘Nasu Dengaku’ is only a dish I seem to have recently discovered with its contrast of sweet, roasted eggplant and salty miso flavours. The flesh is soft and squishy which may bother some people but, oh no, not I. I quite like how it’s presented as a big slab of eggplant akin to a piece of steak.
We order two chawanmushi – one chicken and the other seafood. We dig into the wobbly, silken surfaces with the teaspoons provided but soon discover that they’re both still quite liquid underneath. We flag down a waitress and our chawanmushi are whisked away and don’t seem to reappear for ages and ages.
When they are served again we get a better grasp of the flavours. They’re lighter in taste than other ones we’ve tried, perhaps due to use of a less rich stock, and there is little difference between the chicken and seafood variants. For our troubles of having to wait for these little pots to be recooked, we are rewarded with complimentary vanilla soft-serves all round which appear to be sprinkled with Special K Chocolate Flakes – a variation of the usual cornflakes accompaniment. If only we could’ve had a choice of that or the green tea soft-serve!
Basement level, 614 George St (near cnr Central St), Sydney NSW
Tel: (02) 9266 0866
Opening Hours: 7 days 11:30am-midnight