The Wagamama at Circular Quay has vacated its premises and in its place is a new branch of the Japanese chain called Yayoi which serves up “teishoku” meals a.k.a. meal sets. The menu is quite extensive and the photos make everything look pretty appealing.
The modern décor of the restaurant is simple, all light wood with clean lines, but it has an elegant vibe which can work for business meals too as well as casual dining. As it’s our first visit to Yayoi, the waitress kindly explains the ordering system to us – everything is done on the iPad and it’s highly recommended that you order some “ippin” (starters) if you’re going to be ordering a meal set as the rice for the meal set is cooked at your table and takes 25 minutes. We’re suitably intrigued by this concept and order a Miso Pork Fillet Katsu Teishoku to see how the rice cooking process works.
But first, as recommended, we start with the Zensai Yonshu Mori, which is a selection of Japanese entrees. It’s good value for $13 and beautifully presented in gorgeous Japanese ceramics (one is even in the shape of a swan!). There’s a serving of a fluffy sweet cooked egg (tamago) with two pieces of marinated fish, a light fish roe salad, a couple of tasty marinated chicken pieces in the swan bowl and a bowl of chewy raw octopus with kelp with sesame oil dressing.
Zensai Yonshu Mori, $13
Pretty soon after that, our raw rice comes out to be cooked at the table and it is sitting in an interesting contraption that seems to meld old and new – the bottom looks like a hotpot set with burner and the top is a traditional dark wooden lid which the waiter warns us not to open until the 25 minutes is up (the iPad has an alarm which goes off to tell you when it’s ready, but it’s not very loud).
Our friends decide to share a Wagyu Jyu (wagyu beef rice box set) which comes with pre-cooked rice, so they get to dig in before us. Again, the set is impeccably presented and the wagyu is soft and well-marinated in a tasty soy based sauce which also goes well with the rice.
Wagyu Jyu, $24.50
Even though we had to wait for our rice to be cooked, we were quite happy with the overall components of our Miso Pork Fillet Katsu Teishoku. The soft boiled egg lived up to the photos, it oozed gooey yolk as soon as we cut into it and coated the crispy crumbed pork katsu with extra yolky goodness, though the katsu was already well flavoured from the soy based sauce it was sitting in.
Miso Pork Fillet Katsu Teishoku, $28.00
The soy based sauce from the katsu part of the teishoku went really well with the rice, which was decent but a bit wetter than I am used to in comparison to the rice from a conventional rice cooker. I really enjoyed the flavoursome miso soup which we had upgraded to a clam miso soup (they were actually more like pippies and were $2 extra) which infused the broth with their essence and added to the overall comforting nature of the soup.
Matcha and Warabi Mochi, $8.00
For desserts, we went for the Matcha Mochi, which were gorgeously presented glutinous rice cakes with a cup of fresh green tea and a little jug of sugar syrup to pour over the mochi. The mochi was nice and chewy, but I found it didn’t have a particularly strong matcha flavour and the sugar syrup was definitely needed to add some extra sweetness. But once you have a sip of the green tea, it changes the whole flavour profile of the mochi – highly recommend trying the mochi both ways to see the contrast!
Overall I enjoyed my first experience at Yayoi, but found that it is fairly pricey, considering the size and style of the food that it serves up. It certainly is a classy Japanese restaurant which brings some authentic Japanese dining and something a bit different to the Sydney dining scene, but just be prepared to shell out a bit extra for the privilege of having your rice cooked at the table for you.