Who would have thought me and Helen are still hungry after sampling all the free food at the March into Merivale launch party? While the other foodbloggers bid each other farewell and decided is time to head home, we found ourselves wandering around looking for more food and ended up at The Rocks, having a post-dinner at Nakashima.
Nakashima used to be my frequently visited lunch break destination when I was working at the advertising agency in the area. Tucked away in the alleyway just before the overpass on Argyle Street, Nakashima is a hidden gem that not many people know its existence and could have easily walked past and missed it.
Even though I frequently come here for their best value for money lunch box set, this is only my second time here for dinner. We arrive just after 8pm and miss out on the "free first drink" Happy Hour between 6 - 7.30pm which you can choose between sake, house wine or soft drink.
Despite that it is a quiet Wednesday night, and there are a few empty tables in the tiny cosy restaurant; the restaurant is still surprisingly busy with lots of customers, having a nice meal all night long.
Our first dish arrives is the beef tataki. The beef is seared to perfection then thinly sliced and drizzled with vinegar dressing. Despite the beef tataki is nicely plated, fanning out like a peacock's tail, it is unpleasantly tough and chewy. My suspicious is the wrong choice of cut with stringy tendons that ruins this dish.
The pork maki is more a welcoming surprise for the first timer like Helen. The pork is tenderised and thinly slices, then rolled and wrapped around sweet spring onions (shallots/scallions), pan fried then glazed with Japanese tonkatsu BBQ sauce. The springroll-like pork maki is tender and flavorsome from the sweet yet salty tonkatsu sauce. And the spring onions gives it a nice crunch on every bite.
The Shigiyaki is surprisingly delish. The word "yaki" (燒) means grilled in Japanese, which I believe the eggplant is grilled then basted with sweet miso paste. However Helen's theory is that "deep frying" the eggplant first then grilled is the secret for a soft and yielding flesh by letting it soaking up all the oil. Who to argue? The shigiyaki is slippery smooth and creamy, sweet to the palate with a sprinkle of sesame seeds and chopped spring onions for the extra texture.
The vinegared fried chicken is the signature crowd pleaser at Nakashima. The lightly battered chicken is deep fried until golden brown, served with more tonkatsu BBQ sauce, a side clean crisp cabbage salad, and a generous dollop of Kewpie Mayo. The chicken is tender and moist with a nice crunchy skin, I can't help but heavily dipping the chicken pieces into the creamy not-so-cholesterol-friendly Kewpie Mayo. Life in Japan can be meaningless without Kewpie mayo...
Helen insists that she is full and ate very little of everything. Perhaps she is really full, or perhaps she is just saving some room for the dessert and orders the hot sweet red beans with mochi. The Japanese oshiruko (red bean soup) is a thick and dense sweet porridge dessert, compares to the Chinese version which is more watery like a soup. The oshiruko is pleasantly sweet with 2 glutinous mochi (rice cake) swimming in the porridge, a "good" chewy satisfaction brings a smile to my face.
I was curious about the Anmitsu, a traditional Japanese dessert with combinations of agar jelly that usually made from red algae or seaweed, peaches, pineapples, mandarins and azuki (red bean paste again). The cream Anmitsu I ordered comes with canned fruit as expected, two dollops of red bean paste plus a big scoop of ice cream, finished with canned whipped cream. It is a nice refreshing dessert after all the deep-fried food.
Nakashima is a down to earth restaurant with substantial, mediocre comfort food which makes it a nice place to hang out during lunch hour, where pretentious is definitely not on the menu.
Nakashima Japanese Restaurant 7 Cambridge St, The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9241 1364
Lunch - Monday to Friday 12pm - 2.30pm
Dinner - Tuesday to Saturday 6pm - 9.30pm
p/s: A table for two has just reached another milestone with its 100th post! Hooray to me! Champagne all around!