Spice Alley’s newest recruit, Tabé-ru (& Nomu Bar) offer Japanese bowls from $15 and killer cocktails!

We love Spice Alley. So any new kid on the block has our attention.

On a cold, rainy Saturday night we walk down the Spice Alley strip. The lantern-lit pathways evoke the bustling street markets of Asia. Classier restaurants on the outside and on the ‘inside’ are the more hawker style counters, where you can order food and eat in the lane way. It’s cold, We really want to eat inside, but don’t want to miss the authenticity and energy of the laneway. Hurrah – with Tabe-ru you can do both as it spans the alley and the ‘luxe’ side.

As it turns out, Nomu Bar is where the action (and Kevin) is. It is a narrow little speakeasy off the main lane, which reminds me of the many Salary Men bars in Tokyo. Yes, we could head over to the Taber-u dining room which is open to the elements on both sides, but the bar has the energy, conversation and human collisions which make it the better place to dine.

Spoiler alert: THIS IS A GREAT NIGHT. Kevin owner, mixologist and all round awesome talent has spent his lifetime perfecting his art and craft of Asian and Japanese eateries from Lotus Group, Cirrus Dining and overseas in Canada. This is his first venture into ownership.

We sit up at the bar. Co-pilot ‘Audrey’ has worked with Kevin before and after a little debate we kick off with a Nihon Negroni, described as “Not bitter, unlike your ex” Kevin, whips up a heady mix of tea infused Bombay gin, elderflower and sake which is perfectly balanced. I chose a Yebisu from a great selection of Japanese beers.

Shredded Crab Roll

We start with a hearty miso soup. Then a shredded crab roll ($12.80) and a salmon sashimi roll arrive. The hero ingredients sit on top of the roll, rather than inside. Which is great in concept, but eating doesn’t work well as the salmon (or crab) falls off, and I just have a mouthful of rice. Kev is going to work on improving this dish. The Salmon nigri is delicious.

Yakitori mushrooms

Next up is ‘Yakitori’. A skewer of three majestic mushrooms appears, meaty, and nicely spiced, followed by a trio of prawns, crispy crumbed, sweet and gone in seconds. The ‘sides’ are where the fun is at Agedashi Tofu (5 pcs for $7.80), which is delicious. Little tofu nuggets are crispy fried, doused in a flavoursome broth. Kev tells us to order the waffle fries and he’s right. Naughty but nice but the winner is the teriyaki wings ($9.80). Golden, glossy and slightly sticky in all the right ways.

Onto mains. The Don’s and Udon bowls are seriously awesome fodder, for an insane price ($13.8). We add salmon ($2 extra for the don) and the Wagyu beef is only a dollar more. It’s cooked at 65 degrees for over six hours, then it’s brought to room temperature and refrigerated overnight. It’s then pan fried, char grilled, hand sliced and torched. Woozers. Mr G, my dining companion is in heaven. Each bowl is a delicious blend. A perfect halved soft yolked egg, chewy noodles, umami rice, savoury elements of spring onion. Each bowls is a riot of flavour, balance and art.

We could have ordered the ‘Black Garlic Ramen’, which has aged garlic cloves which we hear are cured over a high temperature for several weeks, giving it a rich, creamy, earthy and umami flavour. We missed out on the ‘Chicken Katsu Curry’ too. It’s the reason to come back.

Kev n’ Audrey has told us to hold off on ordering the ‘Lit Toddy’ cocktail till the end. Oh my! Kev creates his own Vivid light show as the blow torch slowly warms a heady mix of Bacardi rum, orange, bitters, house spices and honey – which liquifies as the whole thing goes up in blue flames. It’s poured (still flaming) from a dramatic height into another container and then into a glass. Its $22 bucks! and worth it for the showmanship alone. It’s like drinking Japanese gluhwein. Absolutely delish.

Tabe-ru, means “to eat” in Japanese and its sister bar Numu are a cracking example of what Sydneysiders need right now. It delivers authentic street-food, spot on cocktails, fun service and all at a price tag where you can order at least one more…

Numu and Tab-ru, Spice Alley, 18-20 Kensington Street, Chippendale NSW 2008
Numu hours: Tues to Thurs 4pm-11pm, Fri to Sat 4pm-12am
Tabé-ru hours: Mon to Sun 11 am–9:30 pm

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


- Enter Your Location -
- or -