As one of the more reasonably priced degustation menus in Sydney, Waqu is popular among the lovers of Japanese fusion cuisine and has consistently hit the mark every time I have been there over the past 3 years. The stylish dimmed lighting adds just enough atmosphere and the polished wooden interior feels modern and elegant, reflecting the style of the food that they serve.
There is no longer an a la carte option on the menu and this time around, I’m trying out their Autumn Menu, since they change their set degustation menu between seasons. Waqu’s signature dish was the amazingly tasty spicy soft shell crab taco, which was a constant through all the menu changes in the past, but has mysteriously been left off the new Autumn menu. While I was apprehensive about whether its replacement dish would live up to that standard, it was a refreshing change to try something different in the first course.
The 6 courses for $60 pp:
1. Amuse: Soy milk chawan-mushi, ricotta zucchini flower tempura & prawn, frittata, tonnato sauce
The presentation of the food was very clean and the zucchini flower tempura was satisfyingly crunchy, matching well with the accompanying sauce. The chawan-mushi was deliciously smooth and warming, however the Japanese mushrooms which covered it were slightly too salty and the lone prawn accompanying the zucchini tempura was also too salty for my liking.
2. Soup: Scallop mousse in kaffir lime soup with tapioca, fried leek and kaffir lime leaf
The soup was very light and there was no apparant kaffir lime taste. The scallop mousse was appetising when mixed with the sprig of fried leek and the little tapioca balls floating around the soup added a dash of chewy texture to keep things from being too bland.
3. Sashimi: Cured ocean trout, pink grapefruit ginger mousse, ocean trout ravigote tartare
I have always found ocean trout to be very similar to salmon and this dish tasted a lot like smoked salmon but with a zesty twist when mixed with the grapefruit mousse. The fish was fresh and the salsa-like chopped vegetables on the side were surprisingly tasty and complemented the fish nicely. There was also a small mound of beetroot salt on the side, which I dipped part of the trout into and it added a welcome extra layer of savoury goodness to the flavour of the fish.
4. Entree: Mussel & Clam Risotto and Braised Wagyu Beef Cheek Apple Tatin
My friend ordered the mussel and clam risotto and it was heavenly, with the juices from the shellfish being infused in the rice. Although I wanted to order the same dish since it sounded so good from the menu, I decided to go for variety and try out the other option of wagyu which was presented interestingly as a layered tart – pastry on the bottom, braised beef cheek in the middle layer and caramelised apple on the top. It was an odd medley of sweet and savoury flavours, finished with the texture of crumble from the pastry but not bad overall although I preferred the risotto. The highlight of the wagyu dish was the airy wasabi meringue accompanying it, which tasted almost like wasabi flavoured crackers.
5. Main: Roasted duck breast, sauteed artichoke and shiitake, artichoke foam, prosciutto crumb
The duck was tender and soft, with just the right amount of spice but the most interesting part of the dish was the artichoke foam, which was a froth of bubbles and felt almost like scented air when you tasted it. Underneath the foam rested the artichoke and shiitake which were nice and fresh, and beneath the deepfried pastry basket holding the artichoke was a scatter of prosciutto crumbs which tasted like flakes of dried prosciutto mixed with sea salt. Very tasty!
6. Dessert: Persimmon three way: granita, green tea infused compote and almond tart
Persimmon is also known as fuyu fruit and it is not a fruit which I commonly see being used in desserts when dining out, but the chef did a good job with this dessert. The flavour of the fruit wasn’t very strong throughout the three different components of the dessert but the dessert itself was delicious, particularly the green tea infused compote which tasted like ice cream.
Service: The service is as per usual polite Japanese standards but the explanations of the dishes can get a bit garbled with their accents…although they always finish with a smile. The wait between dishes wasn’t too bad earlier on in the night before the restaurant started getting packed, after which there was quite a lag between our mains and the serving of our dessert.
Verdict: Classy, understated fusion Japanese degustation which ticks most of my boxes and leaves you wanting to lick your plate clean for certain courses. Great value for money for a 6 course degustation and even more so with an Entertainment book discount which brings the price down to $45 per person.
Definitely will be coming back for more later, even without the spicy soft shell crab taco on the menu anymore…although I hope they will be bringing it back one day because it was literally mouthwateringly tasty.
308 Pacific Highway, Crows Nest NSW 2065
(02) 9906 7736
Open Tue-Thu,Sun 6pm-10:30pm; Fri-Sat 6pm-11pm