Here in Australia we’re really spoiled for choice in terms of Japanese restaurants. We’ve got sushi bars, saki lounges, ramen shops, Japanese barbecue houses. But the latest thing to hit our streets is the long awaited izakaya craze.
Unfortunately this venue no longer exists. Please check out our other Sydney restaurant reviews here.
An izakaya is a bit like a Japanese pub. They’re usually very small – the ones we explored in Kyoto, one of Japan’s oldest cities, were incredibly small. Some had enough room for half a dozen people no more.
But big or small, old or new, izakaya in Japan are always such cool places to sit, take a drink and perhaps have a bite to eat. We’ve got so many funny stories of when we were in Japan a while ago, of sitting in an izakaya talking to the locals – us with no Japanese skills, the locals with no English, but everyone having a good laugh.
Sharak Izakaya, Sydney’s latest answer to this uniquely Japanese experience, is right in the city’s burgeoning Asian food district of World Square.
Typically Japanese, this place doesn’t look like much from the outside at street level, but inside is tardis-like and does in fact take up three stories.
We went up to the top floor in the glass lift (no Wonka comments, thank you) and took our seats in our private bamboo-clad booth.
Every table on every floor is equipped with a touchscreen menu where you can order as much as you like and the wait staff bring it to you faster than you can tap you requests! You can also ask for the bill on these screens, which is an excellent idea.
It’s an extensive menu at Sharak. True to its izakaya roots, most of the food here is tapas style in that you get lots of little plates to share.
We were here for dinner so we ordered five or six dishes:
The slow-braised pork belly cooked in a soy and mirin broth
Perfectly pull-apart tender, this was a delicious dish. I was amazed I could eat this with chopsticks. I ended up drinking the broth with a spoon the waiter had thoughtfully supplied.
The deep-fried eggplant pieces served with a sweet blueberry miso
Crisp on the outside, gooey and tender in the middle this was an excellent dish. The blueberry miso was surprisingly savoury, and worked well with the eggplant.
The slow-cooked ox tongue in a tomato paste, hachyo miso and soy broth
Potentially confronting, this is served in 3mm slices and is the most tender meat you’ll eat. The broth is thick and hearty, and makes for a generously portioned dish.
The deep-fried prawns with wasabi mayo
These are like school prawns, so you eat the whole thing. You get quite a few too, so this is a good-value dish. And yes, incredibly tasty too!
The unagi nigiri eel sushi
Juicy marinated grilled eel pieces on beds of sushi rice. If you don’t like the sound of eel, its real name is unagi. Much better isn’t it. You only get three pieces of this, but it’s so tasty, and you get a good sized piece of fish on each serving.
The Hokkaido scallop and the volcano sushi
The scallop are seared and served with a Japanese sauce and the volcano sushi is more of an avalanche of fish, roe, sauce and flavour. However, though these were tasty, we probably wouldn’t order them again for the price.
The food here is a little expensive – as it is in most izakaya in Japan – but my god it’s good!
The drinks lists, however, are full of savings. Especially the cocktails. Mrs Romance had an Umenoyado Yuzushu citrus sake drink that was delicious and only $8.
I went for a Japanese craft rice beer (rice beer?) and absolutely loved it. If you ever see an Echigo Koshihikari beer on the menu anywhere, buy it.
I also tried the restaurant’s special sake ‘Mellowed Kozuru’. It’s aged in oak casks for 10 years and comes out tasting like a very fine scotch. It’s $25 a (large) measure, but it’s very very good.
This is a great date night location for somewhere different to eat. I’d eat everything we ordered tonight again in a heartbeat, and I’m sure the other things on the menu are great too.
Our hot tip: ask to sit on the top floor when you book; the booths are nice and private.
Open: Mon-Fri: 11.30am – 3.00pm then 5.30pm – 1.00am; Sat: 5.30pm – 1.00am; Sun: 5.30pm – 10.00pm
371 Pitt Street
T: 02 8084 3341
What’s your favourite Japanese dish? Do you have a favourite Japanese restaurant? Tell us in the comments!