“So it’s a Japanese restaurant but they don’t serve sushi or ramen at all?” I asked Mysaucepan.
“Yup, it’s sorta Japanese tapas, kinda like Spanish tapas, that’s why it’s called Japaz” she explains.
“So, it’s like a sushi train where we can pick and choose small plates to share?” I probe further to see what this restaurant is all about.
“That’s it!” she says.
“So if it’s like a sushi train, then why don’t they have sushi?” I counter.
“Because it’s contemporary Japanese with a fusion of different cuisines” she further clarifies.
“Okay, one of those restaurants if blinded-folded, one may not be able to tell which cuisine the food tastes like” I joked.
So we arrive at Japaz in Neutral Bay to meet a friend for dinner.
This 40-odd seater restaurant is fairly busy this Saturday night with a mix crowd of families, young couples and groups.
“Gee, you were right about this being a fusion restaurant!” I quipped to Mysaucepan.
As we peruse the menu, I find stuff that you won’t normally see in a Japanese restaurant – jamon iberico, Hainanese chicken, Montadito de Navajas, carpaccio and gyoza.
“An icy cold and dry Asahi is always a great start for nibbly type meals” I thought to myself.
Our first entree arrives where a block of blue cheese, small cubes of pear, halved dried dates and black garlic are drizzled with red saffron honey.
“This looks rather interesting” I said to the girls. “But why are we having dessert for our entree?”
“The blue is actually kinda heavy for an entree” Mysaucepan agrees.
“You’re right, and the sweetness of the pear and honey can really pass this dish off as a fusion cheese plate” our friend remarks.
More effort has gone into fusing a few odd ingredients together than any actual cooking in this dish. The crunchy bits of sweet pear is a good contrast to the pungent, soft and salty blue cheese but we felt this dish might have been better at the end of our meal.
Scallops with sweet soy and onion butter arrive in its shell with the scent of melted butter and topped with thin slivers of shallots. It’s good but a rather pricey $6 mouthful.
A tempura zucchini topped with young ginger, chilli and paprika is like an agedashi tofu replaced by golden brown zucchini batons.
I like this dish because it is cooked well and I dislike deep-frying at home.
“Do you think they would have white rice to go with this beef cheek?” Mysaucepan asks.
“This is contemporary tapas and not a Chinese restaurant, so the answer is no” I jest.
Perhaps the girls didn’t fancy the braised wagyu beef cheek with white almond puree because it was all meat without any carb or vegetables to go with it. Being a low-carb eater, I found this dish fine although some crusty bread would have been a good complement.
I like the soft and slightly gelatinous texture of the beef cheeks and the sauce is subtle. The almond puree is the fusion ingredient here but when mixed with the sauce, it made little difference to its taste. Personally, I prefer red meat stews with more complexity in red wine, herbs and spices such as thyme, pepper, bay leaves, rosemary or star anise.
A braised Asian wagyu beef brisket with baby bok choy if not for the slices of green apple on top would not look out of place in a Chinese restaurant.
The brisket is soft and nicely cooked. The sauce being slightly tangy and sourish is pushing my taste boundaries from what I prefer to be a savoury taste for a braised item.
But pairing green apple with baby bok choy in this dish is like putting Osama and Obama together in the same room.
A patatas bravas is obviously one of the dishes that lend Spanish influence to this restaurant. Mysaucepan tells us this tapas is very popular in Spanish restaurants where chunks of deep-fried potato are mixed with a blend of spicy tomato sauce.
I am expecting the potatoes to be crispy outside but they are rather soft and chewy instead. It may be the style of patatas bravas but frankly, I prefer a bowl of good old french fries with my tomato sauce on the side to this one.
I am happy to nurse my beer through dessert whilst watching the girls tuck into a malt ice-cream, apple and French toast.
“How’s the dessert?” I ask the girls.
I don’t get an answer. Perhaps, they are too busy enjoying their dessert.
“If you gave me that scoop of malt ice-cream, I think the remaining apple and French toast could pass off as your breakfast tomorrow morning” I joked.
Their laughter brought a cheerful end to our meal at Japaz.
Apart from the tempura zucchini which I think is a simple dish cooked well, the tangy braised brisket with baby bok choy and green apple is like trying to reinvent a classic dish with some mismatched ingredients.
Some people might enjoy a Chopin or Beethoven piano sonata played in the style of a jazzy saxaphone. To me, that just doesn’t work.
So dear readers, do you like fusion style food or tapas style dining where you share small dishes and if so, do you have a favourite restaurant?
165 Wycombe road Neutral Bay,
New South Wales
Tel: +61 2 99040688
Business hours: Dinner Monday – Saturday 6pm till late.