It is not often that I venture into a restaurant twice within a space of a week. If I do, it’s either the food is really good or the restaurant offers exceptional value.
However, when a few of my friends read about our previous visit to Nishiki the week before, they were a little curious.
There are many Japanese yakiniku restaurants in Sydney and many would offer the usual chicken, beef, pork, beef tongue ala carte which can taste very similar to a Korean BBQ.
Given the huge selection of Korean BBQ around Sydney that can offer a hearty meal for $20, what is the attraction of a Japanese yakiniku restaurant that sets you back $30 for a just few pieces of Wagyu beef?
Different strokes for different folks perhaps but it could be a little more than just taste.
The answer may depend on whether you would settle for a car made by Korean manufacturers like Hyundai and Kia or prefer a Honda or Toyota from Japanese car-makers who have had hundreds of years of experience.
This is not to say Korean BBQ is inferior to Japanese yakiniku. By any measure, both have their own elements to excite and tantalize the tastebuds.
What it boils down to is price – you pay for what you get.
And at Nishiki Wagyu Yakiniku, one is paying for more quality over so many Japanese yakiniku restaurants sprouting out around Sydney like shitake mushrooms.
Corkage for BYO wine is $5 per person. This relatively expensive charge tells me the restaurant would prefer that you order from their cellar.
Represented by a short little wine list, there appears to be an obligatory bottle or two for every varietal – red, white, pink or sparkling. For good measure, this short little list even includes a 2005 Penfolds Grange for $988.
The 2010 Waipara Pinot Noir that we choose tonight is light and plummy. This wine is good to drink on its own or with a few pieces of sweet red meat that we have chosen on the menu.
To me, this wine is a perfect “middle ground” for the six of us here, the girls pining for some fresh sushi while the boys are obviously eyeing the yakiniku red meat on the menu.
I put my hand up for the salmon belly sashimi and it arrives with pieces of the delectable orange fish on a bed of ice.
Creamy and milky is how I would describe this super fresh piece of fish as it melts in my mouth.
We had the deep fried oyster on our last visit here and I told my friends we have to have it again.
The crispy golden brown crust on the outside and hot succulent oyster inside is just how I remembered this delicious mouthful from a week ago.
This visit with six diners, we decide to order half a dozen deep fried oysters while the other half is natural Pacific oysters with yuzu vinaigrette.
I normally like fresh oysters with a dash of Tabasco and a twist of lemon juice but the yuzu dressing has such a refreshing lemony lime flavour. It is like having a fresh oyster with some sweet, homemade lemonade.
A bowl of the trusty agedashi tofu arrives with its bonito flakes quivering on top of a few golden brown tofu nuggets.
It is delicious and so it should be for a simple appetizer. I would imagine any Japanese restaurant will be in trouble if they get this one wrong.
I like Japanese salads because of their texture. You either get corn flakes, roasted oat meal or some kind of crispy chips for a bit of crunch and it makes a salad so much more interesting.
The spinach and bacon salad comes with loads of shaved parmesan drizzled with ponzu dressing.
There is something about the tangy taste of ponzu – it is appetizing because it is sour. Paired with savoury bacon and fresh young spinach leaves, I can eat this salad everyday.
A homemade tofu is bland as we would expect. Topped with bonito flakes, diced shallots and ginger, you would enjoy it for the soft, creamy texture and subtle taste.
With a few more hungry people tonight, we order a few more dishes.
I like the premium wagyu short rib because it has some beautiful flavours after being seared on th grill. It is not as expensive as the premium wagyu rib eye but is not short in taste and flavour.
This is one dish I would recommend if you have not tried wagyu beef cuts and do not want to pay the price of a wagyu sirloin or rib eye.
The premium wagyu ox tongue is tasty with a bit of chewy bite to it. It is almost the price of a piece of steak but texture and taste is what you are paying for.
With a twist of lemon juice and a dip of sweet soy, each mouthful of this offal is just as tasty as a regular piece of meat.
Searing Tzubozuke pork belly ($15.80) on a yakiniku grill
I especially like the thin strips of pork belly because it is marinated in a sweet and gingery marinade.
After a few minutes on the grill, it is nicely charred on the outside and the layer of fat is juicy and sweet. This dish is a perfect complement for the plummy Waipara Pinot Noir that we are drinking tonight.
Lastly. the piece de resistance of premium wagyu scotch fillet arrives in all its glory – specks of intricate red meat doting a palate of white fat.
Drizzled with sweet soy, roasted sesame seeds and some finely diced ginger, we grill these slices to the point they are slightly well done and just like last week, I have another eye-closing moment when I pop a piece into my mouth.
Nishiki Wagyu Yakiniku
270 Pacific Highway
Crows Nest 2065
New South Wales
Tel: + 61 2 8021 6688
Trading hours: Dinner Mondays to Saturdays 6pm – 10pm (Last order)