The Wynyard area is known for its many bars and great places to go out at night, but before heading for a drink I like to eat dinner. Finding good, quick and affordable food is something I’ve always found difficult around the Wynyard area as you either eat finger (bar) food or eat expensive restaurant food – there are few choices for mid-range priced restaurants.
On this night, my friend suggests we check out Tori Ichi Sake Dining, a new restaurant that opened recently. The interiors are furnished dark and sleek and it is a bit hidden, with most of the restaurant hidden at street view. There are zig zag lights on the ceiling which beckon you to enter. It has an impressive drink menu which boasts 15 types of sake (Japanese rice wine), but the food menu is rather standard Japanese. We couldn’t decide what to eat so we opt for the dinner function menu which is $20 per person with drinks on top of that. Not long after ordering, we find out that the kitchen has run out of a lot of the ingredients, so we get upgraded dishes instead; we get gyoza (pan-fried dumplings) and marinated octopus instead of the chicken liver, and also receive salmon carpaccio instead of english spinach.
Drinks come first and I’ve ordered 3 kinds of Sake for $15. This includes the ‘Karen’, ‘Sumine’ and ‘Yamatoshizuku’. The three drinks come out with three tags to identify which one is which. They are served at room temperature and I’m not really a fan of any of them. Personally, I much prefer hot sake tocool sake which is something other Japanese restaurants offer, such as Wagaya.
Cucumber Pickles Nukazuke, Asazuke Pickles, Cabbage
To start the foods off, three of the starters come first in little bowls to share. The cucumber pickles are boring, as are the Asazuke pickles. To top it off, the cabbage is salty and disgusting…great start to the night. Needless to say these starters sat there unfinished.
Marinated Octopus, Qing-Geng-Cai Sesame-hitashi Prawn Flavour, Edamame
Our next three starters then come out. Thankfully these taste better compared to the previous three. The octopus is very tender with a light vinaigrette, the Qing-Geng-Cai (bok choy) is served cold with dried fish and a good combo, and the edamame is warm and addictive after munching on a couple of the bean pods.
Gyoza (Pan-Fried Dumplings)
The gyoza then comes out served with a soya dipping sauce. It is hot and crispy on the outside with succulent fillings on the inside. It isn’t too oily either which makes it more enjoyable.
We then receive a serving of salmon carpaccio since they have run out of english spinach (not sure how they’re equivalent dishes but hey, I’m not complaining!). It is served with vinaigrette and a lemon wedge at room temperature. Refreshing and simple, I would prefer this more if it were served cold instead.
Seared Smoked Duck
Deep Fried Chicken Wing Nagoya Style
Then comes three of our meat dishes. The duck has a beautiful smokey flavour; my only criticism is that it’s been cooked a bit strangely such that it doesn’t actually taste like duck anymore and in fact, tastes like sausage. The chicken wings have a crunchy, crispy skin. The meat is well marinated with honey soy, sesame and spicy flavours. The karaage chicken is hot and fresh. It is cooked perfectly and is succulent and tender in the middle.
Dashi Rolled Egg Omelette (free range eggs)
Oden Mix (Japanese stew)
Our last two dishes which come out are a bit confusing. The first is an egg omelette which is meant to be cooked in dashi (fish stock). I find that the egg is very bland with barely any dashi taste and is not sweet enough. Your average sushi train will do a much better version of this and I’ve cooked this plenty of times at home before with it tasting immensely more flavoursome. The oden mix (Japanese stew) then comes out. It consists of a clear broth full of chewy tender things, most of which we cannot identify. The broth tastes like udon soup and acts as a good palate cleanser, but seems quite disconnected from the rest of the menu.
At the end of this meal, the majority of the table is not full yet and we contemplate doing a Macca’s run. I feel that although $20 per person for a set menu is a reasonable price, the portions of food which come out must be quite small. They have some hit and some miss dishes and I probably won’t be coming back again since there are many good Japanese restaurants out there with competitive prices. Overall, I’m disappointed by Tori Ichi Sake Dining. Maybe it should consider specialising in just Sake.
Tori Ichi Sake Dining
12 O’Connell St, Sydney, NSW 2000
Ph: (02) 9233 8181