All-you-can-eat sushi is my best, best friend.
I can smell the skeptical you from miles away, pouting a cat's bottom in disapproval just because I went for all-you-can-eat cheapskate deal which the quality of the food are usually below par. It's true, I don't deny that. Usually I probably won't go for A-Y-C-E deal that is full of raw uncooked fish for health safety reasons, but after reading what the others have to say about Kansai $28 all-you-can-eat plus the seafood do look decent and fresh from their posts, I am confident enough to give it a try and invited Helen and John along to join in for a good stomach work out.
Despite they have a signboard prominently displayed on Hunter Street and also an escalator that leads straight to the restaurant hidden on the lower ground in Hunter Connection, Kansai is one of those places that you probably would have walked past a thousand times and still never know its existence. As I am waiting for others to arrive, I noticed a few pedestrians stop and have a look at the A-Y-C-E menu, but none of them are convinced and keep on moving.
Helen and I are stupidly waiting outside the restaurant for John and getting anxious as there is a constant flow of customers into the restaurant but little did we know that he was exceptionally early and already sitting inside the restaurant half way through a bottle of white.
For $28 per person, you can order as much as you like from the laminated pictorial menu, or you can upgrade to $38 which includes hotpot and sashimi option. There is already 20 items on the $28 menu so we figured we don't need the hotpot and sashimi and will still have more than enough dishes to try.
The wait is short once we randomly picked a few items from the menu. The yakitori skewers are first to arrive, a welcoming plate of tender grilled chicken pieces doused in sweet sticky teriyaki sauce, perfect Japanese street food with a glass of cold beer. I possibly can have a few more of them, but best to save some space for other dishes yet to come.
I absolutely adore unagi. The thick slices of grilled eel is smoky and brushed with teriyaki sauce for sweetness, but it still has a slight muddy aftertaste that is not overpowering. The flaky flesh is soft clinging to a layer of jelly-like fatty skin, it is a luxurious texture inside my mouth that is hard to describe.
The karaage chicken unfortunately is not as good as we'd hoped for. The chicken pieces are lightly dusted with flour then deep fried to a deep golden brown. The flesh is tender and moist on the inside, but the skin itself is still soft and tad oily.
The sashimi salad on the other hand, is surprisingly good and refreshing. Chunks of tuna and salmon are melt-in-the-mouth tender while the avocado makes it a lot more smoother, served on a bed of crunchy shredded cabbage to counterbalance the softness of the dish.
We order a variety of sushi rolls and they all come in an impressive platter. The sushi rolls are more than two mouthfuls and quite a filler, the dragon roll is one of my favourites with a thin layer of smoked eel smeared with teriyaki sauce is simply divine. The rainbow rolls are a little confusing, with a mix of cooked prawns, tuna and salmon on top that I don't particularly find them interesting. Usually known as spider roll, these Volcano roll is disappointingly mild, with chunks of soft shell crab on top that is lack of crunchiness, drizzled with sweet chilli sauce.
Then there are a few dishes that really stand out among all the dishes we have tried. The prawn tempura is perfectly deep fried to order, the flesh is firm and bouncy whereas the tempura batter is incredibly crunchy and crumbs shattered everywhere on every bite.
Helen and I go for soft shell crab handroll which is not bad, but I found the ratio between sushi rice and soft shell crab inside can be improved. John goes for the scampi handroll which he thinks is decent but nothing special. They are very filling and one handroll each is more than enough before we quickly switch to our dishes.
I love a good spicy kimchi and the stir fried pork kimchi here is definitely not short in the heat department. The pickled cabbage is sharp and bitey, unsually addictive and find myself eating almost the whole plate of it.
Perhaps a little on the greasy side, the tonkatsu nevertheless is always a crowd pleaser with succulent pork cutlet, coated in schnitzel crumb then deep fried to a golden crunch. Trails of tangy teriyaki sauce helps to cut through the fat.
When I saw another table order the baby octopus, they look rather tasty and I simply have to have it as our last dish. Sadly, I was fooled by the inviting outlook of the "large-ish" baby octupus glistening in a red hot gochujang sauce, but they are disappointingly rubbery and tough.
The meal is decent, satisfying and value for money, the seafood is fresh and we sure ate a lot for $28 each. Despite a few disappointing dishes, there were plenty more to keep us happy and ate to our hearts' content.
Kansai b1/7-13 Hunter Street
P: (02) 9231 5544
Opening Hours: Mon-Fri 11am-10pm
All you can eat -
$28/person excluding sashimi & hotpot
$38/person including sashimi boat & hotpot