PROFILE BY BEST RESTAURANTS
"No bookings policy". The three words I detest most about today's dining scene. In futile resistance, I regularly suggest to friends that we dine at my long list of reliable "bookings-accepted" establishments, rather than give-in to this dining trend. Don't get me wrong, it's not because I'm impatient or don't have the time, I just find the whole concept rather self-indulgent. Rather than the good old "the-customer-is-always-right" notion, it suggests that the customer can wait, because we're that good. Which, well, in saying that, they probably are. And two restaurants that I regularly make exceptions for are Phamish in Darlinghurst and Toko in Surry Hills. I will wait for their duck pancakes and wagyu beef nigiri. For an eternity. But new restaurants, I'm a tough cookie to entice. But the lure of Izakaya Fujiyama, with its impressive 14/20 score from tough-to-please critic Terry Durack and its cool 2010 location (next door to El Capo and Orto Trading Co), forced me to crack.
We arrive in perfect timing, beating a large group to the one table remaining. The place is alive with large groups of hip Surry Hill-siders getting into the Friday night spirit. With a glass of plum wine in hand, I admit, this place is pretty cool and I could definitely see myself sitting at the bar as a regular. After quite a wait, the food arrives in dribs and drabs – which, presumably, is their izakaya philosophy. However it is the order at which the dishes arrive that is unusual and at odds with the usual taste bud sequence with salmon nigiri arriving after our ‘main' dishes. The grilled mackerel was laden in a pool of mash which lost the clean, simple flavours of this fish however, the agedeshi tofu was beautiful in all its crisp yet jellylike glory. Chef Kenji Maenaka (formerly from Bodega) brings Sydneysiders a different style of dining which is refreshing yet still a little raw on the edges.