“Izakaya” are casual drinking holes frequented by Japanese locals after work, where the drinks reign supreme and side dishes accompany the alchohol. At Izakaya Fujiyama, the star of the show is the food.
The back streets behind Crown Street in Surry Hills are the new “it” trendy places to be, where little hidden gems can be found. On Saturday evening, Mr. A and I were lucky enough to snap up a parking spot just outside the restaurant, which was easily recognisable with its large beige curtain panel covering the width of the restauarant, flapping in the wind.
We sauntered in, ready for our date night, and were greeted by friendly and professional waitstaff in their cute Japanese aprons. The restaurant was definitely more trendy and more of a restaurant than the word “Izakaya” suggests. It has a cool, dim vibe, and hundreds of exotic bottles of alcohol line the sides of the restaurant, with one side serving as a bar (the sushi chefs also work on the other side of the bar, serving up fresh sushi and sashimi so it’s also a great spot for keeping entertained).
We were presented with a food menu, an extensive drinks list which was longer than the food menu, and a specials menu. The food is tapas style and Mr. A, being the gentleman he was, let me choose a heap of dishes to share. We ended up ordering 2 hand rolls and 1 dish from the main menu, and 3 dishes from the specials menu.
Mr. A ordered a Japanese whisky on the rocks (out of a choice of 10 Japanese whiskys!) which was extremely strong. I ordered a light, refreshing umeshu (plum wine) suggested by our helpful server who was exactly on point when I looked confused at the 10+ choices of umeshu on the menu.
The first dish that arrived were our prawn and chicken wontons with ponzu and chives. They were mind-blowingly amazing! Huge flavour hit, and tasted fresh and healthy at the same time.
Our second dish was the Yellowtail tataki with ginger and shallot. I love raw fish with a passion, and the Yellowtail was fresh, soft, and moist, and coupled with the baby shallots and hint of ginger, it was perfectly cool and refreshing on the palette.
Next up, the mushrooms, asparagus, chill and garlic dish sure was filling! The generous serve of chunky mushroom slices and had perhaps a tad too much oyster sauce, but this is a minor complaint.
We were then served with the salmon and avocado hand roll, and the tuna and shallot handroll, which were good, but probably our least favourite of the night. The rolls had an amateur untidy look about them – as if I had rolled a sheet of sushi on rice.
Lastly, the Wagyu cheek buns, which both Mr. A and I agreed, was the knockout dish of the night. From the first dish, the standard had been set so high that when we bit into the baos, we were both speechless, staring at eachother with smirks in our eyes, in awe of the mindboggling flavour punch and textures of the tender Wagyu, mayo and the super soft bao. This was without a doubt the best bao I have ever had, and it was that delicious that I would bet money that it’s the best in Sydney. They even came with a hand towel – how thoughtful!
Izakaya Fujiyama is a must-try. I love finding little gems like this, where the food, drinks and service are all 5/5 and where the restaurant is relatively unknown. This is our little secret and we will definitely be back!