There’s always an excitement in the air every time I go for an Izakaya dining. Not only does it remind me of our big Friday night after-work food and drinks with work mates during my 6 months stay in Tokyo, but this Japanese gastropub style offers a great selection of delicious small to medium size dishes / tapas style food along with a wide variety of alcohol particularly beer and sake. It’s a good time! In recent times, Sydney has embraced Izakaya dining and it gives everyone an opportunity to experience this lively, vibrant and casual way of dining.
Last week Steve and I had the chance to experience Izakaya Samurai Neutral Bay, in collaboration with Washuko Lovers. We have been here before for lunch and this was our second venture, it did not fail to amaze us.
Nestled inside the Quadrant Building at 197 Military Road in Neutral Bay, Izakaya Samurai has got just about everything you could want for Japanese Izakaya dining. It offers both indoor and outdoor space in the central area of the building. When you step inside the dining area, you’ll be captivated by the stylish and modern fit out, it’s warm and inviting, it feels like being transported to the heart of Tokyo with very enthusiastic staff greeting you in high and welcoming tone of ‘Irrashaimase’ – Welcome! I can’t stop looking at the array of Japanese sake bottles on display which come in all sizes, pleasantly back-lit adding to that easy feel. Along with nicely arranged table and chairs, there are a number of seating booths accented and separated by orange dividers creating a contrast to the wooden panels with ideal level of lighting to complete the mood. Every table has an iPad installed for ordering but don’t worry if you’re not comfortable with this gadget as they also offer a menu to peruse. If you are in any doubts about either, the staff will guide you through. Owner/ Chef Shinya showed us how to order through the iPad and I must say it’s a piece of cake, you can really zip through the side index and see the tempting array of food and drink just a tap away!
A tasting menu was curated for us and the first one to arrive was the main size Sashimi – $37. Shinya-san said it is one of their best sellers and I can see his point. The freshness of seafood mix, slices of tuna, salmon, king fish, snapper, scallop and scampi served on a bamboo mat along with stringy daikon, sliced lemons, parsley and lettuce all to embellish the presentation was jaw dropping and tasted just sensational, you will not be disappointed!
If you’re a fan of tacos, check out their Salmon Taco – $8.80, crispy taco shell filled with slightly seared salmon cuts, it’s smokey and flavoursome. Adding a bursting little juicy pop on the palate are the ‘tobiko’ (flying fish roe) shallots and thinly sliced onion.
Hardcore nigiri sushi lovers take note! Their Salmon Aburi – $16.80 and Mixed Sushi Aburi $18.80 (scallops, white fish and salmon) is definitely not to be missed. ‘Nigiri’ (hand-pressed sushi) is all about technique, the presentation speaks for itself! The fish and scallops are slightly charred on the surface leaving the inside fresh. What I liked with these sushi was the slightly vinegar taste of the ‘shari’ (sushi rice) which was not overpowered by the smokey taste of the fish and scallops, it maintained a well-balanced flavour. Adding to the poetry of this sushi are mayonnaise, flying fish roe, shallots and soy sauce. Because of the toppings, you may find that the chopsticks will not hold everything and cause the nigiri to separate. Don’t worry, use your hands, it is an acceptable sushi etiquette.
I can’t help but have a big smile on my face when the Japanese-style beef hamburger – $17.80 or ‘hambagu’ with chips served on a sizzling plate arrived. This dish brings back memories of my time in Japan. It’s one of my favourites in between Izakaya dishes to order, so the timing was spot on. Big on flavour the meat is thick and juicy. The grated ‘daikon’ (white raddish) on top of the patty and ponzu dressing adds a refreshing and citrusy touch and who doesn’t love some crinkle cut chips!
The service remains impeccable, staff keep on checking our table making sure that all empty plates were taken away and if there is anything we may need. Shinya-san came over and explained in detail some of the elements of the dishes and answering any questions we had.
Eggplant with Sweet Miso $10.80 and Pan Fried Pork Gyoza $8.80 were served together.
Steve and I love this eggplant with sweet miso (Nasu Dengaku). Hands down to Izakaya Samurai’s version. Eggplant is creamy with a soft texture slathered with sweet and savoury sweet miso. The marriage between the two is a delectable combination, it may appear simple, but the depth of flavours are amazing and keep you digging to the last possible piece.
Oh holy Gyoza! It is as ubiquitous as ramen in Japan and I reckon it’s the most sought after Izakaya dish. Give me a gyoza and sake or beer and I’ll go to heaven. Five pork dumplings served on a hot plate, perfectly pan-fried juicy on the inside and golden brown on the outside. You can never go wrong with this dish!
Room for dessert? I was in awe when they brought the Dessert Plate – $17.80. It was well-plated with slices of green tea cake, cheese cake, custard and vanilla ice cream. Every bite was heavenly, never had such a variety of luscious patisserie on one plate! The accompanying strawberry slices, mandarin and cream added harmony to this plate.
Finishing off with a high note and thanking everyone for a wonderful dinner. Gochisosama deshita!
With equally good food and service, Izakaya Samurai is a gem. All fresh ingredients prepared with love and care. It’s child friendly and they offer monthly promos and events, for further details follow their Facebook page or their website!
Book your table through Washoku Lovers, (hit the logo on the right panel of this page or book online below). Booking benefit, GET 50% OFF on your first Sake order (by the glass or bottle) when you dine at Izakaya Samurai.
Izakaya Samurai Shop 5, 197 Military Rd Neutral Bay, NSW Phone: (02) 9953 4059
Open 7 Days
Lunch: 12:00 PM – 3:00 PM
Dinner: 5:30 PM – 9:30 PM
E-deliciou_S dined as guests