We usually spend more time at Manly during the day rather than after the sun goes down, but the upbeat and vibrant atmosphere at Daniel San means that the fun can continue long into the night too.
There was a buzz in the place when we came for dinner on a Saturday night, helped along by the neon signs on the walls and the cheeky decor which references all sorts of Japanese pop culture elements along with famous rockbands (think The Ramones, AC/DC and Nirvana to name a few).
The bar/restaurant is huge, with plenty of seating for groups of all sizes – you’ll need to order at the bar so best to come in a larger group so someone can hold the table. We were pretty hungry, so we ended up ordering bits and pieces from the whole Japanese fusion menu to try it out. Their portion sizes are pretty generous considering the prices and are made for sharing.
The first thing that surprised us was how fast the food came out – I had barely sat down at the table after walking back from the bar when the first dish came out, a Seared Beef Carpaccio which was among the best I’ve ever had. Each delicate sliver was a flavour explosion, thanks to the beautiful Japanese lime and soy dressing.
Seared Beef Carpaccio with Japanese lime and soy dressing, $15
We also had the Scallop Sashimi from their raw menu, which featured an intriguing Japanese citrus snow (like a granita), topped off with crunchy dried miso. The scallop was fresh and succulent, sliced into wafer thin slices for maximum enjoyment.
Scallop Sashimi, $16
Next up was the Tuna Belly Sushi, which had a dash of truffle and yuzu for a luxe and zesty touch.
Tuna Belly Sushi, $14.5
Moving on from our seafood entrees, we dug into the addictive Chicken Karaage which was nicely crispy on the exterior and paired with a delicious wasabi mayo that thankfully wasn’t too overpowering.
220gm Chicken Karaage, $14.5
We enjoyed their Porkie Steamed Buns too, with fluffy buns enveloping a slab of honey glazed Berkshire pork belly, well flavoured by a spicy cashew sauce with a punchy first bite. It’s not quite as tasty as the Ippudo ones (or the original Momofuku ones in NYC) but the sauce is a nice twist on the standard creamy sauce.
Porkie Steamed Buns, $16.5
The porky goodness continued with the Glazed Pork Belly Robata Skewers – these were tasty, with a lovely smoked flavour from the robata grill and served with some crunchy broccoli on the side to up the greens, as well as a mild yuzu sauce and a mound of rice.
Glazed Pork Belly Robata Skewers, $11.5
For carbs, we opted for the Spicy Beef Noodles which weren’t that spicy at all and had large chunks of wagyu beef and asparagus tossed throughout the noodles. The noodles actually tasted quite strongly of ginger and we were a bit disappointed that the wagyu wasn’t all that tender.
Spicy Beef Noodles, $18
The chips came out surprisingly late in the meal, and true to the rest of the Japanese fusion menu, the chunky chips came with some wasabi salt and a yuzu mayo for a citrus touch.
We were blown away by the slightly funky sounding Milk and White Chocolate Tofu for dessert. It tasted pretty amazing, with an interesting consistency in the creamy white chocolate tofu component that went well with the quenelles of chocolate mousse and crunchy cocoa nibs scattered throughout the dessert. This has now become one of my all-time favourite desserts, as it’s not too sweet and has a wonderful balance of flavours. The fact that it also contains tofu makes it feel just a bit healthier!
Milk & White Chocolate Tofu and Coco Nibs, $14
We also tried their other dessert option, which was the deconstructed Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake, which had a very similar texture to the white chocolate tofu from the other dessert, but with a creamier flavour and plenty of cookie crumble thrown in with the strawberries.
Strawberries and Cream Cheesecake, $14
We washed down this feast with a refreshing cocktail which epitomises the playful vibe of Daniel San – the Chu Hai, a well-priced which mixes smooth Tanqueray gin with aloe vera (tick for fusion again), peach bitters and shiso, a Japanese mint-like herb.
Chu Hai, $12
We experienced many unexpected delights at this bustling bar and restaurant, which dishes up quality food at decent prices and keeps their customers entertained with arcade games in the back corner and a rooftop bar that will go off once summer hits.
Excuse Me Waiter dined as guests of Daniel San