We are in hip and trendy Kings Cross tonight. As I circle the neighbourhood looking for a park in this busy entertainment hub, Mysaucepan spots an vacant space almost immediately. “This is almost too good to be true”, I exclaim. “And close to the restaurant too!!” I add.
We are dining at Ju Ju tonight, a casual Japanese restaurant and karaoke lounge.
The entrance is on busy Darlinghurst road and a staircase leads us down to the restaurant below.
As we reach the bottom of the staircase, a waitress greets us “Konbanwa, would you please remove your shoes, thank you”.
The entire restaurant is decked out with lacquered wooden floorboards and we are given white plastic bags to hold our shoes.
Sunken dining cubicles are the novelty feature of this restaurant. I am thankful every cubicle has leg room so we are not sitting on the floor unlike some Japanese restaurants as I find that rather uncomfortable.
We peruse the extensive menu and soon after, a friendly waitress appears to take our orders.
An appetizer of daikon with roasted sesame seed seasoning is fresh and crunchy but it is a tad too salty. Nevertheless, we nibble and gaze around the restaurant where each cubicle is separated by wooden barriers.
A pot of hot green tea is doing wonders in neutralising the saltiness of our appetizer.
A unagi platter arrives where the piece of eel is soaked with sweet teriyaki sauce and sprinkled with roasted sesame seeds and chives.
I believe this dish is almost fail-prove in any Japanese restaurant. I separate one half of the eel for each of us and true to its form, our eel tonight is soft and succulent with that slight smoky aroma of the grilled unagi. The sweet teriyaki sauce and roasted sesame seeds are beautiful accompaniments as always.
A mixed sashimi platter arrives with the usual salmon, tuna and kingfish and a small dallop of fresh wasabi.
Sydneysiders are a lucky bunch as far as seafood is concerned. This city is a seafood mecca and because of the daily abundance of fresh seafood that is readily available all over the city, we generally we take fresh sashimi in Japanese restaurants for granted. I wonder if our sashimi tonight can be any fresher and doubt if sushi chefs can or even need to further improve on this iconic Japanese dish which has been a Japanese staple for hundreds of years.
One of my all-time favourites is saba shioyaki or salt grilled mackerel. A squeeze of lemon juice onto the crisp and flaky skin adds another dimension to the slightly salty meat of this fish.
And every mouthful should be accompanied by a small pinch of shredded daikon to neutralise the saltiness. Again, I believe saba shioyaki is another fail-prove item in Japanese restaurants. It is everyday comfort Japanese food and I contemplate making this at home as I savour each mouthful of this simple yet delicious fish. Better still, mackerel is relatively inexpensive compared to other fresh fish and it is one healthy meal that I can have everyday.
Deep fried soft shell crab comes in a long platter with salad leaves, tomato, cucumber, corn, surimi and laced with Japanese mayonnaise.
Diners at Ju Ju are young and generally out for a night of fun and laughter.
For dessert, we are entertained by diners who go on stage to sing their favourite karaoke numbers all in the name of fun.
One particular guy was especially good with his funky moves on stage as well.
The food at Ju Ju is inexpensive and pretty standard Japanese fare. It is difficult to fault comfort food and as long as the service is also good, we know we will have a good night out.
In the Kings Cross area with all its trendy bars, cafes and restaurants, entertainment is sometimes more important that what’s on the plate.
So dear readers, what is your favourite Japanese dish?
Shop 320, Kingsgate Shopping Centre
Kings Cross, Sydney
Tel: + 61 2 9357 7100