Suburban dining is underrated. First, there is the convenience of driving to your destination with ample parking and then there are the comforts of dining in casual and modern surrounds when you’re not in the mood for rubbing shoulders with hipsters and people watchers.
Enter Niji Sushi Bar, a new Japanese restaurant that opened its doors on June 7. You’ll find it just before you reach the main roundabout at Kingsford along the strip of eateries that line up Anzac Parade starting from Kensington.
Niji Sushi Bar, Kingsford
Niji Sushi Bar stands out with the colourful vertical pieces of timber that line up its glass frontage and make up part of its sleek and modern décor. Staying true to its name – niji means rainbow in Japanese – the series of soft rainbow-coloured timber give the space a warm and inviting feel. There is a 32 metre rotating sushi bar and comfortable tables and chairs for a la carte dining.
Owner, Raji Khanal and Bar Manager, Binod Shrestha bring their collective knowledge from their time at Toko Restaurant to the new venture. With Head Chef, Kohji Matsuda at he helm of the kitchen, his seventeen years experience with restaurants such as Toko, Sake and Fujiya are evident on the plate.
On a cold Friday night, the restaurant is heaving with patrons. Whether it is along the sushi train or the table seating, young couples, families, groups of friends sharing sushi platters and a bottle of wine and university students make up the ebb and flow of diners. The vibe is relaxed with music at low volume adding a little ambience.
Bar Manager, Binod Shrestha has put together a beverage list which includes a selection of wines, sake, spirits and local and imported beers. Non alcoholic drinkers are catered for with mocktails, soft drinks, tea and fresh juices.
The cocktail list has a Japanese theme and combines traditional spirits such as Plum Sake and Shochu with other spirits. Cocktails start at $11 and most are easy-drinking with a low alcohol level. They tend to be a little on the fruity side and would please those who like them a little sweet.
L-R: Niki-Tini, Tall Yuzu, Edamame
The Niki-Tini ($13) is made with Wyborowa Vodka shaken with Plum Sake and Shisho leaves. The flavour combines a little tang and sweetness in a fresh and crisp drink that ends with herbaceous notes from the Shisho leaf. The Tall Yuzu ($12) is a fragrant and citrusy blend of minty Aloe Vera, Yuzu juice and Yuzu marmalade hard-stirred with Gin and lemon, served tall with crushed ice. This is a very easy drinking cocktail that refreshes the palate while you nibble on warm Edamame ($3), green soy beans that have been steamed and topped with a sprinkle of sea salt.
For a spicier alternative, try the Spicy Edamame ($4) which delivers a little heat from addition of garlic, chilli paste, soy and sesame oil.
The Spicy Scampi ($5) elevates the humble Miso Soup ($3) to another level. Rich and warming with subtle spice, this version comes with a whole scampi cut in half, daikon, spring onion and sansho pepper – a delicious starter with a lingering flavour.
Dassai Junmai Daiginjo “50”
Dassai Junmai Daiginjo 50 ($40) is a sake made from rice that has been milled to 50% resulting in a smooth and mellow sake on the palate with a lingering finish that goes well with the range of dishes.
Maguro Taru Taru
From the cold dishes comes Maguro Taru Taru ($10.50), a dish that is aesthetically pleasing with the assembly of diced tuna with chilli paste atop diced avocado. Black caviar roe adorns the dish with crunchy lotus root chips on the side. The mild heat from the chilli enhances the flavour and freshness of the ingredients.
L-R: Seared Salmon Roll, Rainbow Roll
One of the signature dishes is the Rainbow Roll ($12) shown on the right, made with boiled prawns and cucumber topped with salmon, tuna slices, and a sliver of avocado. Each ingredient has been specifically selected to mimic some colours of the rainbow. To the left is the Seared Salmon Roll ($16.50) which is made of prawns and avocado topped with seared salmon that has a superb smoky flavour which complements the natural oiliness of the fish.
If there is one dish that you should not order, it is the Popcorn Prawn ($8.50), made from tempura prawns that are tossed in a spicy mayo sauce and yuzu juice. Sweet, spicy, with mild heat, pop one in your mouth and this highly addictive dish will make you want to order another immediately.
Staying true in its name in presentation, the Spider ($12) consists of fried soft shell crab with a salt and pepper seasoning, sprinkled with seaweed and served with yuzu mayo. The crab is very tender and flavoursome and goes well with the citrusy dipping sauce.
Smoked Miso Salmon
From the specials menu, the Smoked Miso Salmon ($14.90) is the standout dish. The miso-marinated smoked salmon is served on a bed of steamed vegetables and topped with shaved, fried sweet potato. Caramelised on the outside, the pink and tender flesh is cooked just right. It falls off with a fork and melts in the mouth releasing the smoky flavour. This generously-portioned dish will transition from the specials to become part of the main menu.
From the Robata/Charcoal Grill comes the Wagyu Beef ($18), lightly seared grain-fed wagyu beef with a marble score of 9+, served with amayaki sauce. The meat is very tender almost melting in the mouth and is complemented by the ginger, sake and soy flavours in the sauce.
Hakutsuru Sazameki “Sparkling sake”
For a palate cleanser or as an accompaniment to dessert, Hakutsuru Sazameki is a sparkling sake ($40) that is low in alcohol (7.5%) with a peachy and cherry blossom flavour. It can also be enjoyed as an aperitif if you decide to forgo cocktails.
Creme Brulee, Mars Bar Mousse
Desserts take on the traditional French influence with a touch of Japanese. The Creme Brulee ($7.50) is made with a sweet soft red bean and the Mars Bar Mousse is a delight for chocolate lovers.
For a more decadent end to the meal, the Chocolate Fondant ($9.50) is a sheer chocolate delight, made with a chocolate and hazelnut fondant, topped with chocolate sauce and served with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream. Cut into the soft shell and it oozes with a delicious chocolate centre.
L-R: Raji Khanal (Owner) and Kohji Matsuda (Head Chef)
Niji Sushi Bar from Anzac Parade
Niji Sushi Bar could easily be at home in the inner city suburbs with a higher price tag. Instead, you’ll find it at Kingsford, just 7 km from the CBD. The diversity of the menu means you have many options to try on subsequent visits as well as returning for your favourites. Whether it is the Sushi Train with over 50 dishes ranging from $3 to $6, the Izakaya style share plates or the special dishes, Niji Sushi Bar wins you over with its casual vibe, well-priced dishes that pack flavour and friendly service.
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