Interview: Restaurateur Terry Nishiura, owner of Jurin and HaNa-JuRin, Crows Nest

Terry Nishiura clowning around a giant bluefin tuna

Terry Nishiura clowning around a giant bluefin tuna

“I always try to develop very strong relationships with my seafood suppliers to build trust and goodwill.”
           - Terry Nishiura, owner of Jurin & HaNa-JuRin Japanese restaurants, Crows Nest

~~~~~~o~~~~~~

Sydney is blessed with some of the finest Japanese restaurants in the world, boasting ocean fresh seafood from daily hauls from the Sydney Fish Markets in Pyrmont. Being a Sydney diner for many years, I believe we have never had it this good as far as good quality Japanese restaurants are concerned.

New sushi outlets, casual ramen and Japanese noodle bars seem to be popping up at every major dining precinct in Sydney and gone are the days when Aussie kids think of sushi as rice wrapped with carbon paper. Not only are sushi and sashimi healthy, the abundance of fresh seafood in Sydney has meant that we should take freshness for granted at Japanese restaurants. Indeed, the high standard of Japanese food in Sydney is reflective of how competitive restaurants have become in offering quality and value.

This week, I go behind the scenes and talk to one of Sydney’s leading Japanese restaurateurs to find out what makes a good Japanese restaurant great.

Interview with Terry Nishiura, owner of Jurin and HaNa-JuRin

Chopinand: You are the owner of two Japanese restaurants, Jurin and HaNa-JuRin. How did you get started in the food business?

TN: My parents were operating a small ramen restaurant in Kobe. Therefore, I took a keen interest in food even from an early age. Although I was involved in an advertising and marketing role in my early working life, I knew that the food business would be my eventual calling.

Vinaigrette octopus at Hana-JuRin

Vinaigrette octopus at Hana-JuRin

Chopinand: Notwithstanding so many issues to consider when operating a food business, many people aspire to own a café or restaurant.

Can you share with our readers a few of your biggest challenges in running a food business?

TN: One of our biggest challenges in operating a food business remains customer satisfaction.

We try to ensure that what we are offering on the menu meets what our customers are looking for.

We spend a lot of effort on training our existing staff and hiring the right people to do the right jobs.

Chopinand: Apart from your own restaurants, do you have a favourite Japanese restaurant in Sydney?

TN: One of my favourite casual Japanese restaurant in Sydney is Gumshara Ramen at the Eating World food court in Chinatown.

This is because the ramen stock is flavoursome without any added flavouring or MSG. The owner prides his soup to be tonkotsu ramen or pork bone soup that has been simmered for hours to break down the bone marrow and tendons. This process gives the broth a hearty pork flavour and a thicker consistency.

Chopinand: Sydneysiders are lucky when it comes to fresh seafood in such abundance. We almost take for granted the freshness of seafood at Japanese restaurants in Sydney.

How do you ensure the freshness of the seafood that you serve at your restaurants?

TN: Firstly, I ensure that I cultivate a very strong business relationship with all my seafood suppliers. It is only when a strong relationship is established that trust can follow.

I place a lot of trust on my suppliers to deliver the freshest seafood because I don’t attend seafood auctions at Sydney’s fish markets. It is too early for me to wake up and go bidding! (He laughs out loud).

50kg Bluefin tuna

50kg Bluefin tuna

Chopinand: Sydney has never had so many good Japanese restaurants as there are now.

What do you see as your main competitive edge and challenges for your restaurants?

TN: We place a lot of reliance on fresh ingredients delivering naturally fresh tastes and flavours, especially seafood.

We do not add any MSG to our food and I believe this to be our strong competitive edge.

Chopinand: Both your restaurants in the suburb of Crows Nest are literally 50 metres from each other along Pacific Highway.

Is there a compelling reason for opening two very similar Japanese restaurants so close together in the same suburb?

(He thinks for a while and gives me a smile and a chuckle). Crows Nest is a very competitive suburb for restaurateurs because there are many good restaurants here. My older restaurant Jurin is a more casual sushi bar with daily specials on the menu board. This caters to more casual diners looking for simple Japanese food.

HaNa-JuRin on the other hand, is a little bit more upmarket where I offer items like wagyu beef and other favourite Japanese delicacies.

This newer restaurant caters to another segment of the market where diners are looking for a little bit more sophistication.

Terry Nishiura jokingly demonstrates how he prepares sushi

Terry Nishiura jokingly demonstrates how he prepares sushi

Chopinand: Your menu has a selection of sushi, sashimi, teppanyaki and grilled items.

What are the most popular dishes among the customers at your restaurants?

TN: Sashimi and sushi are always popular because it is traditional Japanese food.

On top of this, our wagyu steak and okonomiyaki are equally popular with customers.

Chopinand: Do you have a favourite cuisine apart from Japanese food?

TN: I like Chinese, Italian and French cuisine.

I love the Hainanese chicken rice at Ginger & Spice restaurant in Neutral Bay. I also love the pasta served by my Japanese friend who has opened Restaurant 16 just a few doors away in Neutral Bay.

Jovial and funny: Terry Nishiura, owner of Jurin and Hana-JuRin Japanese restaurants

Jovial and funny: Terry Nishiura, owner of Jurin and Hana-JuRin Japanese restaurants

Chopinand: Do you cook at home and if so, what is your favourite food to cook?

(He laughs out loud at my question). I don’t cook because I like to relax at home and spend time with family and friends. I get my wife to cook and I love Japanese curry udon.

~~~End of Interview~~~ 

First anniversary party and sushi demonstration

Sushi chef jokingly demonstrates how to prepare sushi

Sushi chef jokingly demonstrates how to prepare sushi

We were recently at Hana-JuRin for its first anniversary celebration party. It was a Monday evening and the restaurant is closed to cater for this private function.

Sushi chefs planning the sushi demonstration

Sushi chefs planning the sushi demonstration

A 50kg bluefin tuna greets us upon arrival for a sushi and sashimi demonstration for the evening.

What is normally the restaurant’s teppanyaki cooktop has been transformed into giant prep table where a giant bluefin tuna costing upwards of $1,500 is laying on a massive chopping board at the mercy of sushi chefs wielding razor sharp knives of all different shapes and dimensions.

Removing the head is the first step in cutting up the giant tuna

Removing the head is the first step in cutting up the giant tuna

On the word “go”, they meticulously sliced off the gills and collar of the fish, removing the entire head of the fish in one swift slice of a long and thin knife which more resembles the razor sharp sword of a samurai warrior.

Guests snapping photos of the sushi demonstration

Guests snapping photos of the sushi demonstration

The sushi chefs at Hana-JuRin look young, savvy and skillful at what they do. Invited guests were eager to take a closer look of how a giant tuna would be transformed into delicate slices of sushi and sashimi within minutes right before their eyes.

The head comes of with one swift stroke of the razor sharp knife

The head comes of with one swift stroke of the razor sharp knife

We marvel at the skills of these chefs where their deft skills are slicing off the giant tuna faster than we can figure out the anatomy of the fish as they toss and turn the carcass around.

Prized tuna head and collar on display

Prized tuna head and collar on display

The severed head of the bluefin tuna is massive and is displayed with its collar and pectoral fins on a massive plate to the amusement of the guests.

Sushi chefs meticulously slicing up the giant bluefin tuna

Sushi chefs meticulously slicing up the giant bluefin tuna

Each segment of the 50kg fish is being sliced off in a systematic manner, revealing the blood red flesh of the fish.

Guests snapping photos of the sushi demonstration

Guests snapping photos of the sushi demonstration

Invited guests were quick to whip out their cameras, happily snapping away as the skillful chefs carved out the entire fish within twenty minutes.

Tuna sushi

Tuna sushi

Each piece of this fresh bluefin tuna is deep red with a shiny gloss that illuminates its freshness and is beckoning us to sample its succulent and tender flavours.

Christening of a drum of sake

Terry Nishiura christening a sake drum

Terry Nishiura christening a sake drum

The sushi demonstration was never short of its theatrics but Terry is the epitome of a hospitable restaurateur where he officiates the free flow of chilled sake with a stroke of Japanese wooden mallet on a giant sake drum.

Free flow sake

Free flow sake

I am told this ritual of offering sake signifies good health and fortune to guests as well as a sign of respect to Japanese forefathers.

"Care for some sake?"

"Care for some sake?"

I like chilled sake with sushi and sashimi because it is refreshing especially in summer.

Cold sake

Cold sake

The chilled sake is served in square lacquered drinking cups where drinking from the corners is probably a wise and only option if you don’t want to spill sake all over your shirt unless you prefer sipping sake with a straw.

Japanese Kirin beer

Japanese Kirin beer

Japanese beers such as Kirin and Asahi are dry and I find this style of beer to be perfect with seafood.

Ramune, a Japanese carbonated soft drink

Ramune, a Japanese carbonated soft drink

In contrast to the square sake cups, we are also offered one of the most tricky soft-drinks in the Ramune carbonated soft drink where a straw is needed unless you want to wear this soft drink on your clothes.

Sake from a wooden square cup

Sake from a wooden square cup

Wine and sake for the evening

Wine and sake for the evening

A selection of red, white and sparkling wines are on offer to complement a beautiful spread of Japanese canapes, finger food, sushi and sashimi prepared by the chefs.

Deep fried dumplings, prawn fritters and spring rolls

Deep fried dumplings, prawn fritters and spring rolls

We sample an assortment of sushi, sashimi, deep fried dumplings, prawn fritters and spring rolls.

Tuna sushi and deep-fried crab meat balls

Tuna sushi and deep-fried crab meat balls

Sharp and sassy: sushi chefs of Hana-JuRin

Sharp and sassy: sushi chefs of Hana-JuRin

The chefs and kitchen brigade at Hana-JuRin are friendly and jovial just like their leader. They obviouosly take a lot of pride in their work and what I have sampled tonight is testimony to their deft skills and dedication.

"Can I tempt you with some green tea ice-cream?"

"Can I tempt you with some green tea ice-cream?"

There is no better way to finish a Japanese meal with either some hot Japanese green tea or  refreshing Japanese green tea ice-cream.

Subtle and creamy: Green tea ice-cream

Subtle and creamy: Green tea ice-cream

This ice-cream is always subtle and creamy with delicate flavours of green tea. I am not a fan but this ice-cream is nice and cool finish to what is otherwise a great evening hosted by one of the most hospitable restaurateurs in Sydney.

Guests at Hana-JuRin's first anniversary party

Guests at Hana-JuRin's first anniversary party

The love kiss: "This could bring me some good fortune for 2012!"

The love kiss: "This could bring me some good fortune for 2012!"

So dear readers, do you have a favourite Japanese restaurant in your city or in Sydney?

What is your favourite Japanese food? (You can choose as many answers as you like)

View Results

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Note: ChopinandMysaucepan dined as guests of Hana-JuRin

Hana-JuRin
Shop 1, 300 Pacific Highway
Crows Nest 2065
New South Wales
(02) 9966 5833

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31 Responses to Interview: Restaurateur Terry Nishiura, owner of Jurin and HaNa-JuRin, Crows Nest

  1. Ann says:

    What an amazing restaurant interview and demonstration! What a terrific host and a fun evening! As always, you asked thoughtful questions and yet it was obvious everyone had a GREAT time! Thanks for sharing and have a GREAT day!

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Ann,

      I think it’s quite fascinating to try and understand the challenges that hospitality businesses face especially in the face of competition and uncertain business conditions.

  2. Wonderful! Wish I was there to see and taste all of that. Love the photos too, you really captured all the characters and the event.

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Lizzy,

      It was a fun evening especially watching how a giant fish like that being reduced to delicate piece of sushi.

  3. Min says:

    This has to be the biggest fish I’ve even seen in the kitchen! What a great experience :) Nami left an enthusiastic comment on my blog today and she mentioned you so I thought I stop by and check you out! I know it’s been a while, I have no excuse :P

  4. I decided. If I ever can move again, I’m moving to Sydney. I think I can live there without missing Japan too much. ;-)

    Wow, I wish I could see how they cut the bluefin tuna! That’s something we can’t see in our daily life… Sashimi or sushi must have be so fresh and delicious. Thank you for this post – I enjoyed reading it so much.

    I thought it’s cute that the chef likes curry udon (such a homey meal).

    p.s. Happy to see Min stopped by! :-)

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Nami,

      San Francisco is a beautiful city too and in many ways, it is also very similar to Sydney being a harbour city except I think SF can be foggy at times :(

  5. Wow what an experience to witness the sashimi demonstration! wish I was there too. Reading about this makes me miss Sydney Fish Market and the Japanese food there. Sushi and sashimi is always so fresh. It has been too long, I can’t quite remember the restaurants name i’ve been to :)

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Shannon,

      Thanks for dropping by. Were you living in Sydney before? There are so many new restaurants in Sydney and you should make a trip to check them out, would be a great eating trip! :)

  6. I can imagine how important his relationship with his seafood supplier is! And how funny are those pictures? What a character! :)

  7. Celia says:

    What a great post! We adore Japanese food, and I think you’re right, we’re finally at the stage here in Sydney where it’s very, very good. I’ve never eaten at these restaurants, but we will now, thank you!

    The sake out of the square cups looks challenging, and it so nice to see how the professionals fillet fish – I always end up making a complete raggedy mess whenever I try…

  8. Juliana says:

    Wow, what a nice, fun and entertaining post…I enjoyed so much going through it…the pictures are awesome, and the event just amazing. Thank you so much for sharing it.
    Hope you have a wonderful week ahead :-)

  9. Hotly Spiced says:

    That fish is enormous. It looks like the fish that swallowed Jonah. The chef looks like he loves that knife.

  10. LOVE Jurin! It use to be our fave when we lived in Cammeray. I didnt know he had opened another. Def need to get there ASAP

  11. Carolyn Jung says:

    Not to put a damper on a fine post and a festive looking time, but I wondered if anyone asked him what he thinks about the fact that so many environmentalists urge folks to stop eating/fishing for bluefin because it’s on the verge of extinction?

    • Chopinand says:

      Dear Carolyn,

      I agree with the over-fishing of the bluefin tuna to satisfy that insatiable appetite for sushi and sashimi. I think there are also sustainable fisheries around the world now which are trying to address this issue although I am not aware as to how successful they are.

  12. Sydney is blessed with such good seafood and good Japanese restaurants. Reading your post made me sorely miss Japan and the wonderful Japanese food. We will have to seriously consider living in Sydney when we are ready to move back to Australia (I do have 3 sisters living in Sydney, after all).

  13. sophia says:

    He looks like an ex-gangster boss! And I mean it in a good way– fierce and powerful! Or maybe it’s because he’s posed next to that holy-lordy giant tuna! Anyway, sounds like a fantastic and fun chef to chat with. :-)

  14. Winston says:

    What a great interview! I enjoy reading his answers. What a photogenic personality too haha… Awesome event!

  15. Great interview and absolutely hilarious photos! :)

  16. Raymund says:

    That tuna looks amazing, now I am craving for some sashimi

  17. msihua says:

    Sometimes I wished I lived in Sydney! That looks amazing! I can’t believe how big that fish is (I can, but I can’t!).

    Great questions asked! Excellent photos as well :)

  18. Sissi says:

    Fascinating post and amazing photos. The first one is terrific! I would give a lot to see how the tuna is being cut…
    One of your photos has just reminded me I am planning to buy the special skillet to make prawn or octopus fritters.

  19. I truly enjoyed this post. We don’t indulge much in Japanese cuisine, expect for occasional sushi’s. But I can’t help not thinking about that fresh and huge tuna. Yummylicious! And those serving dishes and cups? Too cute :)

  20. Fantastic post, love the photos. Nothing like sashimi ninja action shots.

  21. WOW, I think I’ve never seen such a big fish!!!!!!! 8O 8O 8O

    This time, I could participate in the voting. :)

    I was born not far away from the Baltic Sea coast, and my dad loves to fish, so I grew up with fresh fish. Where I live now, it is hard to get fresh fish. I really miss it!

  22. What a fun friendly bunch indeed! It sure looks like everyone involved was having a wonderful time with that monster tuna. Japanese cuisine is one i really need to explore further, I’ve only just scratched the surface. Very enjoyable post, thanks!

    • Chopinand says:

      Hi InTolerant Chef,

      I think you should definitely explore Japanese food because it is so healthy. The only thing is whether you can get it gluten free tho :(

  23. Food Morning says:

    Wow, great interview! Loved the photos of the bluefin tuna… and the massive drum of sake!!!

  24. Su says:

    That bluefin tuna looks enormous! For some reason I never pictured fish used for sushi or sashimi being that big.
    Jurin and Hana-Jurin are two restaurants I’ve wanted to try for awhile but haven’t had the chance to yet. I really like traditional Japanese restaurants so I think I’ll prefer Jurin from the looks of it. I find that there are an overwhelming amount of great Japanese restaurants around Neutral Bay. I recently went to Toriciya in Cammeray and Jugemu & Shimbashi in Neutral Bay which were both amazing.

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