Level 1, Chifley Plaza, 2 Chifley Square
(Cnr. of Phillip & Hunter Streets)
Sydney NSW 2000
Tel : (02) 9222 9960
Fax : (02) 9222 9962
Opening Hours (bookings can be made here at their website)
Lunch : Monday to Friday 12.00pm - 2.30pm
Dinner : Monday to Saturday 6.00pm - 10.00pm
It has been a couple of weeks since I visited Azuma, which was one of several meals I had in the company of the visiting Carrie whilst her chef son Luke was at the Blinman Camp Oven Cook Off with Franz and others. We had a few meals during this period, including sushi e and lunch at Marque, Carrie had more memorable meals with Luke and Franz on their return, and I had one or two more of my own, including a CRAVE/ SIFF dinner at Marque with Magnus Nilsson. I mention this because looking back, it wasn’t just that upon leaving Azuma, I felt that I wanted to visit them again the next day, but that in comparing that night retrospectively with the other meals during that period, it stood out as one of the top few.
Why? Well, let’s start with the food.
Wakame seaweed salad served with Azuma’s soy vinaigrette ($16)
The bowl in which this was served was large and heavy, perhaps weighing a kilogram and in this beautiful bowl was a magnificent looking specimen of a salad. Generous, fresh, full of different textures and tastes, this has got to be one of the best salads I’ve had. Despite our valiant efforts to finish it all at once, in the end we had to stagger it a bit. There was easily enough there for four people.
Wagyu beef carpaccio (Marble Score 5) $39
Another beautiful presentation, another good sized dish. The carpaccio was textbook perfectly cooked, the beef tender, and despite there being a lot of dressing quantity wise, which looked excessive at first glance, its balance of tart and salty (with a touch of sweet, I thought) flavours wasn’t too heavy handed, so the beef did not taste as though it was sitting in a small pool of dressing.
Deep-fried Pacific Oyster wrapped in Kataifi Pastry ($15)
Having eaten at sushi-e on the previous night, where Carrie had been introduced to Australian oysters (steamed and raw), it was time to give her a third experience. With a dollop of mayonnaise and salmon roe (which I love), the perfectly cooked plump and juicy oysters encased in golden kataifi were destined from the start to be a favourite of mine. These were rather addictive, I could happily eat a few more of these.
Pan-fried abalone and scallop
The mushrooms and asparagus were the highlight of this dish, especially the former, which were packed with flavour and very meaty. The disappointments were the inability to really find much in the way of abalone (the scallop was easier to find), and the presence of baby corn, which neither of us really ‘get’, so we didn’t eat it.
Tempura Soba - Buckwheat noodle, served hot or cold ($25)
Ordered hot, this was a welcoming bowl of comfort food. As you can tell from the pricing, it was a large bowl, and again, could have easily provided a small bowl each for three to four people. I think we did pretty well to eat all bar a little bit at the end. The soup was clean and fragrant, the famous tempura’s batter perhaps a little bit heavier than I had expected, though still very good.
I mentioned at the beginning that this was one of the best meals I had during this period. The food was important, but arguably as important (if not slightly more) was the service. The people at Azuma that night were some of the most welcoming, friendly and just-attentive-enough men and women that I’ve had the privilege of meeting in a Sydney restaurant. There was such a feeling of genuine pleasure, care and friendliness, and in such an understated modest way, that I wanted to go back as soon as possible. I can have amazing food that blows my mind, but if the service is marginal, it can ruin the meal for me. At Azuma, the food was very good and the service on that night, perfect. Combined with the quiet ambience and the beautiful small private rooms (which I’d love to book one one day), this is an old-fashioned restaurant by Sydney standards, but one that is worth remembering, amidst the constant hubbub of trendy new openings.