Spain meets Japan with Izakaya Dining: Japaz, 5 Oct 2010

The month-long Sydney International Food Festival features many dining events as well as cooking classes, food tours and street fairs, but over the years Monsieur Poisson and I seem to have only ever partaken in Sugar Hits and the Night Noodle Markets. So when we were presented with a hugely discounted offer to dine at Japaz as food-blogging friends of one, we promptly seized the chance to try out this restaurant specialising in Japanese-Spanish fusion cuisine located within our local vicinity.

Tucked just around the corner from traffic-heavy Military Road, Japaz is a small restaurant with a warm, rustic interior of dark wood notes and exposed brick walls. We walk in to find we are seated next to Penguin Says Feed Me! and Sir D for the evening as well as being in close proximity of other food-photo-taking individuals. These shenanigans seem to have the couple at the table on our other side quite bemused and I catch their gaze constantly being thrown in our direction. At one stage I even hear the gentleman at the table say, “Oh, they can’t eat yet until they’ve taken their photos!” Quite a correct observation indeed.

On the menu is an eight-course meal created especially for this event accompanied by five matching sakes. However upon consulting the printed menu provided, we discover there are actually six sakes on offer with one making two appearances – served cold then hot – including a cloudy variety which has been used in a sake sangria.

The sangria served in flute glasses is light and fizzy from the addition of lemonade with green apple and orange bits floating about as well as what appears to be shredded basil. It’s sweet and girly and makes the perfect summer cocktail. This has been paired with the ‘Gaspacho with Soumen Noodle’, which sees a twirl of thin slippery noodles covered with refreshing raw tomato soup anointed with a drizzle of herb oil and a clove of black garlic. The garlic is earthy and sweet, although a little hard to mash up with the small fork in the martini glass, and adds a mellow garlic flavour without the usual edge.

This is followed up by ‘Sashimi of lobster with crushed Spanish Gordal olives & tomato seed dressing’. A base of lobster sashimi is topped with chopped mild green olives and topped with a chopped tomato and shaved onion salad. The onion appears to have been soused in something beforehand as its usual in-your-face bite has been completely mellowed but its texture retained to contrast that of the lobster. My only complaint? More lobster please!

The lobster is paired with a sake that I describe to Monsieur Poisson as tasting like ‘man’ as it seems quite oaky and musty to me. Around this time some sourdough bread appears alongside some grassy green olive oil for dipping, and I take some to mop up the dressing from the lobster. The next course of ‘Pâté de foie gras with roasted beetroot & orange dressed with 12 year Spanish muscatel vinegar on pan con tomate’ comes with its own baton of toasted bread replete with diagonal charred grill marks resting on several cubes of beetroot sweet and mellow from their roasting. A pod of broad beans sits alongside.

The accompanying sake for the pâté I find tastes like a strong spirit on its own, however it does help to cut through the fattiness of the pâté. The next sake paired with the ‘Twice-cooked pork belly with jamon Iberico, truffle sand & asparagus, warm melon sauce’ I like much better with its apple-y spicy flavours. The fruitiness of the sake ties in with the sweet nubbins of rockmelon in the dish which taste quite sweet on their own, but are a perfect match for the pork belly ‘sandwich’ with salty jamon and truffle filling.

The sourdough bread comes in handy for soaking up some of the melon sauce and pork belly juices before we are presented with the ‘Roast duck breast with escalivada, ginger miso sauce’. Sliced perfectly pink duck breast sits on a bed of grilled capsicum and eggplant (aubergine!) before being enrobed in a thick ginger miso sauce. It is pleasantly not as salty as I expect but a bit heavy on the ginger, although I may be biased here as I’m not a big fan of strong ginger flavours.

Our final meat course is ‘Grilled Wagyu beef, reduction of Pedro Ximnez and ponzu sauce’. The meat is soft and cooked to a medium while being surrounded by a thick, sweet and sticky, spicy glaze. What it is sitting on causes a bit of confusion – we are variously told it is ponzu (perhaps they meant yuzu?) or daikon mixed with seaweed and chilli. It has a mildly tart taste with a hint of spiciness with the texture of citrus pulp. The accompanying sake is a warmed version of the one paired with the lobster and the change in temperature makes its flavours much bolder.

Before dessert is served there is a cheese platter of ‘Cabra Rulo & Manchego’ with sliced pear and dates. The former is a goat’s cheese which has been grilled. It is crumbly in texture and quite strong for my uninitiated palate. The Manchego is a slightly rubbery sheep’s milk cheese much milder in flavour, but I struggle to finish either as I find cheese to be quite filling, especially at the end of a meal.

We come full circle with the presentation of dessert in martini glasses. It is described to us as ‘Liquid biscuit with strawberry coulis and brandy ice-cream’. The layered dessert has a quenelle of ice-cream in a pool of coulis which is sitting atop a base of what we assume is the ‘liquid biscuit’ component. It tastes like a mildy-spiced biscuit which has been blitzed then liquefied but there is no way we would have picked this had we not been told beforehand! Monsieur Poisson rounds of his meal with a caffe latte served in a most retro-style cup along with irregular cubes of white sugar.

I have very little experience with consuming sake, so it was a great chance to get to try different varieties in the one evening. Apart from being able to compare and contrast the sakes, it was also of course an enjoyable evening of Spanish food served with a Japanese twist. Thank you to Chef Hiro for his kindly discounted offer and hospitality, as well as his generous gift of a bottle of sweet muscat vinegar at the end of the evening. We will be returning soon to sample the standard menu.

165 Wycombe Rd (near cnr Military Rd), Neutral Bay NSW
Tel: (02) 9904 0688

Opening Hours:  Mon-Sat  6pm til late (dinner only)
                        Sunday  CLOSED

Japaz on Urbanspoon

happy eating!


  1. Wow, an interesting fusion there. But sake sangria sounds like something to try this summer :D

  2. pretty pictures! so nice to bump into you at the event and LOL at the comment from the other table (I thought they were looking at us funny!) I like your description of the sake tasting like 'man' hahaha

    P.S. look at the size of that mutant... sugar cube!

  3. Wow at that desserts looks so "unique". Must try this restaurant one day!

  4. I was planning on going to this event as it was a very tempting offer but unfortunately wasn't able to go... :( Looks like you had a wonderful night and dinner. How red did you go after all the sake? :P

  5. oh gawd that shot of the cheese! get in mah belly!

  6. I always find cheese too heavy at the end of a meal too.. but oh, that cheese platter looks so good!

  7. I haven't been to this place. Must visit sometimes soon. Looks good.

  8. Your photos are incredibly beautiful! The desserts look good too. This event sounds like such a fab experience.

  9. I've been meaning to try this place out for a while now! Love the presentation of these dishes.

  10. Japanese food and Tapas have to be two of my favorite things in life so I enjoyed salvitating at each and every dish you tasted! And I agree with Suze about the cheese..I would demolish that piece!

  11. Oh Lord, tastes like man?! How... appetising ;)

    I also have to comment about that oozy cheesy cheese cheese. Yummmmm

  12. each dish looks absolutely stunning! must put this place on my list to try!

  13. OH boooo!! So wish I could had tried all those awesome dishes! That pork belly and truffle and that chheeesssseeeee

  14. All these dishes are so pretty! The wagyu beef looks great. Nice recap...

  15. Hey Fiona, the sake sangria was beautiful! More delicate than standard sangria.

    Hey Jacq, thank you dinner neighbour! The couple on our other side looked like they had never seen behaviour quite like it.

    And unfortuantely my wine descriptions are very, um, basic.

    Hey Julie, the dessert was interesting and very refreshing.

    Hey Phuoc, if you'd have come along we could have scared a few more people with our photo-taking antics!

    And hehe, quite red from the sake I think, but the mood lighting helped =p

    Hey chocolatesuze, we were such fail at the cheese platter - two people and still unable to finish it!

    Hey Betty, maybe we needed a couple more people to share the cheese with!

    Hey Ellie, it's in a handy location and quite unique.

    Hey Celeste, thank you! But that's because the food was presented really nicely.

    Hey Maria, Chef Hiro has quite an impressive experience list so it's definitely worth trying!

    Hey Gianna, great meeting you over the weekend =) And I'll think of you guys when I next have trouble polishing off cheese!

    Hey Tina, it was quite intimate and relaxed. Lots of fun!

    Hey Conor, for some reason that sake immediately made me think of Brut or Old Spice which, you know, is very manly! =p

    Hey Panda, it was quite a nice tasting menu. Planning on going back to try more jamon =D

    Hey FFichiban, I'm afraid you missed out on pork belly!

  16. Hey Karen, thanks for dropping in =) The dishes were well-presented on small plates that didn't hog all the table space, and the Wagyu was incredibly soft.

  17. That was such a great offer! I wish I had time to take Yas up on it! :) Thanks for the rundown of the food! :)

  18. oh mi gahhhdd! all these yummy foods at a discounted price? D: i wanna go tuu!

    lolol what does a 'man' taste like? *innocent look* :3

  19. Hey Lorraine, it was great value and probably even moreso for someone who knows how to appreciate sake more than myself!

    Hey sugarpuffi, ahhh, 'man'... The sake had flavours that reminded me of men's aftershave, hence the description! =p

  20. What a wonderful fusion of japanese and spanish, looks fab, and that cheese yummmmmmmm.

  21. Hey Sara, the food was lots of fun but I feel like such a weakling about the cheese! Everyone seems so much more enamoured with it than I =p

  22. Hehee, sometimes I forget that it's not "normal" to take photos of food and that some people aren't used to it. Not that it's ever stopped me! :p

  23. Hey Agnes, I find it quite funny that people look as us taking photos because they keep glancing at you during their meal as if they're wondering, "When will they stop?!"


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