When you leave a Japanese restaurant thinking, I can’t wait to go back again for their carbonara, you know your culinary orbit has shifted, but in a really good way.
In the past two weeks I have eaten Korean Italian (Bar Soul, review coming soon..), plant based Japanese-Peruvian (Calley Rey) and now Japanese Italian. Only in Australia could we do this. Sydney in particular, is a melting pot of cultures and cuisines. Whilst the debate about The Voice rages on, it’s comforting to know that our chefs whatever their country of origin, socialisation or background are able fight prejudice – be hired for their potential to learn and absorb new cuisines. Oh boy! are we all the better for it.
So lets talk about how a Japanese chef came to cook one of the best carbonaras I have tasted.
Chef Hideki Okazaki learned his craft in his homeland of Japan, then in 1990 headed to Italy to work in Michelin-starred, Italian restaurants Arnolfo and Shanghai’s Frasca. Fast forward a few years he lands in Australia and works for the ‘greats’ – Steve Manfredi and Tony Bilson along with time at Circular Quay’s Ocean Room, then sets up his own restaurant, Rise. So bow when you enter those 62 Clarence Street doors, my friend, we are in the presence of greatness.
Let’s start with the room. Anyone crazy enough to run a restaurant in a heritage listed building will know the drill. These guys do. The vaulted ceilings, central sushi bar along with swathes of red fabric tumbling from the rafters create intimate dining areas along the perimeter. Timber columns are painted red to emulate the torii gates of Japan. These touches don’t shreek coolness, but it’s about time, place and history.
Top tip, if you are in a Japanese restaurant, the place to be is the bar. We settle ourselves in front of a hardworking duo who are creating artwork with raw fish, shellfish, green leaves and dry ice. It is like watching an artist paint.
The floor team on the night we visit are under the pump and drinks orders take a while to come through, but given that the team from Maybe Sammy and Tetsuya have crafted the list, we are happy to hang tight. A ‘Toyko Dust’ cocktail arrives (hurrah!) It is a heady mix of whisky, vermouth, amaretto, maraschino. The theatrics commence. Our server whips out a handgun- the tip of which is whirled in liquid, then touches the surface of our glass to blow a big bubble which then bursts in smoke! whoah!!! I had previously ordered a Jericho Fiano from Adelaide Hills which, whilst delicious just doesn’t compare.
Kanade is designed to go from day to night as a venue. In their words ‘Tokyo Noon’ till ‘Tokyo Twilight’. The bottom line is, whatever your vibe or hunger (hangry) levels are, you are welcome.
We are in a ‘order up the menu’ vibe. Having watched the team plate up a number of dishes, “Um – could we have what they are having?” Renkon (lotus) chips and edamame keep the hunger dogs at bay. The edamame is all the better for ‘Yukari ( furikake rice Seasoning) made from red shiso leaves. Croquettes of softly cooked potato and corn are moorish snacks thanks to a delicate tonkatsu sauce.
The sign of any great japanese is how they do their karaage. Here the chicken is marinated, fried and five pieces of nuggety chicken with yuzu mayo disappear in a flavour bomb nano second. The premuim sashimi selection is created infront of us, oysters, scallop, kingfish, salmon, tuna all the favourites, beautifully fresh, curated and the dry ice is set alight at the table delivers more drama and fun again!
The Wafu (meaning Japanese inspired) spaghetti section is one of the reasons you come here. Not only is this an Italian salute to Japanese cuisine, its rollicking good value – $20 for a carbonara with an onsen slow cooked egg? With four choices from $19 to $22 for a dish where can you get this quality of food from a Michelin star chef. C’mon down. I could rabbit on for hours about the fluffy miso cream carbonara. Rome, be damned, I am a lady that loves her sauce, the added excitement of the slow cooked egg, all oozy, a perfect orb, slowly cooked just for me, well, its just too much, then the smokey bacon, al dente spaghetti, umami miso cream – I may need to lie down.
We head onwards to the rest of the menu. Eggplant miso will convert any nightshade haters. Little halved bundles of joy are picked up by hand and sucked till the skins disappear in all their charry gloriousness. In moments of weakness I go back to them and gnaw just a little bit more to the root. They are that good. The ‘Roll’ section delivers, but the rice needs a little more seasoning and is packed so tightly and thinly, you lose the texture of savouring each grain. The flavours of a spider roll endure with the sweet flesh of a soft shell crab and flying fish roe twinned together its an enjoyable bite.
So as we say goodbye to our sushi chefs, gun swaggering cocktail waters and head out into the cold air. Say “Bai Bai or Sayonara”. This is one place which doesn’t stick with tradition. It’s fun, fabulous and heck, where can you get a carbonara this great anywhere in the city for $20?
Kanade, 62 Clarence St, Sydney
Hours: Monday to Saturday, Lunch and Dinner
Also check out: Kaiseki – a traditional multi-course meal chosen by the chef, which consists of a sequence of small, dishes available on Saturday evenings for a 6pm start. Limited time only.
Dates: 3rd June | 10th June (8 seatings only) $155PP