Don’t go to Raita Noda expecting a menu. In fact, don’t expect table and chairs. At this 8-seater venue in Surry Hills, the specialty is omakase, or chef’s selection, a 10 course degustation based on daily-sourced produce with a dining experience that will leave you in awe.
Raita Noda, Surry Hills
A humble exterior and a funky interior with 8 counter seats ensure a full house at his self-titled restaurant. Comfortable padded high stools with a high back, a foot rest for the vertically challenged ensure you are most comfortable for the next 3 to 4 hours that follow. Every dish is prepared on the spot and in full view of every diner.
Ex-Ocean Room Chef Raita Noda swapped the 200 seater restaurant for a more intimate and personal experience where he could have full control over every dish. It’s the first venture of its kind in Australia, and Chef Noda is enjoying the interaction and reaction of his customers, many already there on repeat visits.
Umetsu Nokyo Plum Wine
Raita Noda is part of the Washoku Lovers program which aims to promote washoku (lit. Japanese cuisine) and to expand Japanese food culture beyond Japan’s borders. To qualify as a washoku restaurant, the chef needs to have learned washoku in Japan, or have learned from a washoku chef who learned in Japan.
Membership has its rewards with a range of benefits at select restaurants, and at Raita Noda tonight, it is a flute of Umetsu Nokyo Plum Wine from Tottori, 2007 vintage. The wine is fruity and exhibits some age with a mild nuttiness on the finish – a most pleasant aperitif and one that doesn’t overpower the palate.
Seated at the counter with full view of the kitchen, you can easily forget about your dining partner. Silence almost reigns in the restaurant aside from eclectic western tunes and the occasional whispers of the other diners.
At Raita Noda, it’s not about theatrics of the kitchen but about artisan master and apprentice at work in unison. There is a sense of harmony between Chef Raita and his apprentice son, Momotaro both working the kitchen that runs the length of the venue with only a few words exchanged.
Duo of Oysters
In Japanese style, hot towels are offered and dietary requirements are checked before the first course is skilfully plated, a duo of Oysters with Yamazaki whisky and Champagne foam, chilli and vinegar sphere and gold leaf. An exquisite dish, the oysters are smoky and briny with a hit of chilli from the sphere. If you can resist temptation, try to taste each component individually.
Hair Tail Fish
You soon realise that if you blink, you’ll miss a vital component of the prep that occurs between serving courses. Two glistening white pieces of cuttlefish are layered between konbu sheets, wrapped in cling wrap and pressed. Pipettes are cut. A long piece of hair tail fish is skillfully trimmed, deboned, cut in half and skin removed. The knife skills put you in a trance.
Tuna in a Can
Despite the serious concentration, Chef likes to jest. He explains that he had no time to prep so he bought a can of tuna for the next course as he serves an unmarked tin on a long leaf.
Tuna in a Can has Mediterranean influences with finely chopped yellow fin tuna, a green olive juice sphere and a Kalamata olive sphere, shaved Spanish onion and cubed mozzarella cheese. Squeeze the pipette over it to season with a mixture of soy sauce, lime juice and olive oil. The tuna tastes so fresh and the olive spheres burst in the mouth – it’s a taste sensation. The dish goes well with the crisp and dry 2013 John Duval Wines Plexus, a blend of Marsanne, Roussane and Viognier.
In the meantime, crab claws are cleaned and handpicked and an octopus tentacle is sliced ever so thinly at an angle before being painted with green mustard and sprinkled with a curious seasoning, ginger and sliced chilli.
Master and Apprentice at Work
Hot extra virgin olive oil is spooned over the octopus which makes the ends curl and releases a wonderful aroma.
WA Octopus Carpaccio sings with flavour. The familiar ginger, coriander, chilli and olive oil are elevated by the use of Kamebishi soy sauce flakes, which also add texture to the dish.
Shaving a Carrot
There is no time for conversation when Chef shaves a carrot with a sharp knife then twirls it around a fine sharp spear. The sound of ice cubes being made overtakes the funky tunes and worm-like vegetables are placed in cold water.
Ice snow is being made, scallops are halved and blocks of ice are placed in spherical containers with a light in the centre giving it an ethereal glow and heightening the anticipation.
Seafood with Invisible Tomato
The dish is presented as Seafood with Invisible Tomato, where the tomato is the clear ice snow and the worm-like vegetables are sea grapes that have come to life. Fresh lime zest adds a bright zing to the scallop, prawn and crab meat mixture.
A most delicious glass of 2014 Whispering Angel Rosé from Cotes de Provence is poured. Crisp, dry and vibrant on the palate, it has a hint of fruit on the finish to indicate it is a rosé wine.
Meanwhile, small pots are being warmed on the stove, shallots are chopped to less than a millimetre in thickness and the next course awaits.
Dobin Mushi is served in a cute teapot (dobin) with a wedge of lime that you squeeze into the soup. The lid doubles as a saucer from which you drink. The bonito and konbu broth is aromatic and earthy with a good measure of smoke and contains a mix of Japanese mushrooms, tiger prawn, taro potato stem, ginko nut and barcod. The soup is comfort in a dobin pot – smoky, warming, earthy yet with a harmony of flavours – one of the highlights of the menu.
Blow Torching Salmon
Fish is expertly sliced. Salmon is blow torched and dressed in lime. Slate plates are prepared with wasabi, shaved daikon and soy sauce is poured into saucers. Near the oven, a slab of wagyu beef awaits.
White fish is intricately scored, skewered in five strategic places and blow torched front and back.
The Sashimi Selection is presented with yellow fin tuna, bar cod, hair tail and salmon which is smoked and served beneath a glass cup, giving a new meaning to smoked salmon. Again, the freshness of the ingredients is the key factor and the smoked salmon sashimi is the highlight of this course.
Before there is time to savour the last piece of sashimi, fresh ginger is put through a fine mandolin then in a sous vide machine. On the stove, red balls are coated with flour then deep fried.
Kimoto Gensyu Sake
The first of the sake is served cold in a glass with a sphere of ice. Made by Umetsu, the same producer as the plum wine, Kimoto Gensyu 60% is unfiltered and has a higher than usual ABV of 19.3% which is hardly noticeable.
The meat is cut, seasoned, pan seared, flamed then placed in the oven. Something is being whisked at the stove. Broccoli is blanched and the next course is underway.
Agedashi Tomato is served, and the mystery deep-fried balls are revealed as peeled tomatoes coated in tempura batter. Unlike most agedashi tofu dishes, this variant has savoury notes. The broth is simply sensational, almost unctuous and as it is poured hot, the broccoli is getting a gentle wilt.
Junmai Daiginjo Sake
Seven courses have now passed and a couple of Junmai Daiginjo sake are poured. Both are very smooth, and the Saito Shuzo on the right with 40% rice milling has good structure and lingers with an earthy flavour.
Rice is steamed and spread into hangiri, a wooden tub, and seasoned. For the next course, knives and forks are laid.
The Wagyu Beef is pink, tender and full of flavour. The instructions are to eat it with a squeeze of lime, wasabi and salt which completely changes the flavour and makes it lighter. Something to try again. The beef is served with deep fried Brussel sprouts and accompanied by 2011 Paracombe Adelaide Hills The Reuben, which pairs well with the dish.
Sushi preparation is underway and watching the master at work is mesmerising. The cuttlefish that was between konbu sheets is intricately scored and shaped into sushi. hair tail fish is scored, another fish is filleted, bones are removed with tweezers. Then the show begins, an almost choreographed routine that turns the ingredients into sushi.
Sushi Selection is served one at a time with a side of pickled ginger that was sliced through the mandolin and prepared earlier. Each piece has been seasoned so no wasabi is required.
There’s cuttlefish, hair tail that was flamed and topped with ginger shards, yellowtail with lime and ginger, flamed salmon with lime, and the perfect piece of sushi – soy, sake and mirin marinated tuna that glows crimson red. Perfectly seasoned, it explodes with freshness and ends with touch of lingering heat.
You know the evening is coming to an end when dessert is plated and a centrifuge machine is whirring. The Spicy Cherry and Mascarpone Mousse is delightful, smooth, creamy and not too sweet. The Umebashi Sour Plum Fairy Floss steals the show, adding a tangy and sour note to the end of an unforgettable meal.
L-R: Momotaro Noda (Son/Apprentice), Raita Noda (Chef/Owner)
Almost four and a half hours have passed almost in the blink of an eye and there is nothing left to do but applaud the experience.
If you haven’t been to Raita Noda yet, we suggest you make a booking soon. The waiting period is long and the restaurant is getting repeat customers such as the lady beside me who was back for the second time and immediately made another booking at the conclusion of the evening.
The full 10-course degustation costs $120 per person with $88 per person for matching wine and sake. Dinner starts at 7pm sharp and finishes late, allow around four hours to be sure. The experience is well worth it.
Photography © by Corinne Mossati for Gourmantic – Copyright: All rights reserved. Contact us if you would like to purchase any photographs.
Suite 1, 222 Riley Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 8093 9807
Hours: Monday to Saturday, 7pm-late.
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