“I think I know which one is the bomb,” says the hungry digital elf confidently. He picks one of the six salmon sushi off the plate and put in his mouth. No doubt he is safe. One down, five more to go – the sushi roulette continues until one of us put a bullet into his mouth, blast his head off with a massive dose of wasabi, cunningly hidden inside one of the sushi.
This is how we rulez at Wagaya in Haymarket, Sydney.
We rock up at Wagaya after having our appetizers at the Taste of Sydney. It is Wednesday night after 9pm, and Wagaya is obviously not short of customers with all tables taken plus a big group outside waiting to be seated. Wagaya is like a Tardis but “made in Japan” – it looks small from outside; but it is surprisingly spacious once inside. The whole restaurant is filled with dining tables, plus a sushi bar setting in the middle. Not to mention there are also 3 private rooms tucked in a corner, away from the crowd.
Tummy rumbling, facial expression wilting; we are hungry. Finally we are led to our table after having to wait for 15 mins or so. It is way past 9.30pm, and the night has just begun.
Novelty is one of the attractions of this restaurant. Each table is armed with a touch screen menu mounted on the wall. This is 21st century, you are in the future and you are on your own now. You are Korben Dallas in Fifth Element; you are Rick Deckard in Blade Runner – with a touch of the screen, you can order an extensive list of Izakaya food on the menu; except they don’t come in pill form.
Mentai potato salad arrives first – mashed potato in Kewpie mayo serves on a bed of lettuce, and a good sprinkle of parmesan all over; a nice appetizer to get us going. ChocolateSuze orders a Crab Chawanmushi for one which she is happily share with others. The steamed egg custard is light and slippery smooth with a subtle flavour from the crab meat.
When the deep fried chicken karaage arrives I thought it looks suspiciously darker brown in colour than usual. Nevertheless, the golden nuggets are super crunchy and tasty, it is almost as good as Korean Fried Chicken which has a very special place, close to my aorta.
“Oh! Oh! I want Salmon skin!” demands Suze. “Oh! Oh! I want deep fried cheese balls!” demands Suze again. I am just glad to see the skin never go astray after peeled off from the flesh for Sashimi. The deep fried Salmon skin has a light and crispy batter but do need a bit of effort to tear the skin apart and chew.
The crumbed cheese is definitely one of the highlights of the evening. The bite-size camembert is like a magma with hot molten cheesy lava flows out with each bite. We need two rounds of the cheesy goodness to subside our cheesy lust.
Another highlight is the Dragon Roll – Unagi (eel) sushi roll with cream cheese embedded inside, topped with thin lotus root crisps. I am very fond of Unagi and this is definitely up my alley with a great balance between the tender unagi against the crunchy lotus root crisps; and sweet soy sauce marinated eel harmonise with the creamy tarty cream cheese. I heart it alot.
You can’t go to Izakaya without having some little fish to go with the beer while having a good time. I order some Shisamo Fried, deep fried little smelt until golden brown, it is crunchy to the bone; you eat the whole thing. Helen particularly fascinated by the way all smelts have their mouths wide open after being deep fried.
Ox tongue best to be eaten when it is still hot and just out of the grill. The ox tongue I usually have at Korean BBQ restaurants are thinly sliced which is quite tender and yielding. Unfortunately the ox tongue we ordered proven to be quite thick, chewy and tough. ChocolateSuze reluctantly picks up the last skewer after much persuasions and chews her way through half of it.
“I think we all should close our eyes, while someone spins the plate and whichever sushi that your chopsticks land on is the one you have to eat,” Helen set the rules how the Sushi Roulette should work after seeing Yas has the lucky escape.
I am next to take on the challenge. I thought I knew which one is the bomb, but all sushi are heavily disguised with a light smear of wasabi on the side which makes me even more confused than ever. “Oh, and you have to put the whole sushi in your mouth at one go,” Helen set more rules alongside. Luckily I am safe.
ChocolateSuze is up next. Not only Suze has to worry about the deadly wasabi hit, she even have to find a way how to fit the whole sushi into her tiny mouth. She gulps the whole sushi at one go, speechless, chewing; she shakes her head – we take it as a sign of relief.
The lucky last, Helen covers her eyes and picks one sushi out of three. The sushi looks extra plump compares to the others, and all three of us have the cameras ready; hoping to capture the priceless moment. After a few chew in her mouth, Helen smiles and shakes her head too. Drats… now we have to find a new victim…
“Wait…” Helen pauses, “Holy sh*t!”…. Helen’s face is flushing red, fanning herself with both hands, tears start gathering around the eyes. By this time, we all burst out laughing with cameras snapping away of Helen’s misfortune animated soury face. Like a true trooper, poor Helen charges on and keeps chewing until it’s all gone. She takes her glasses off, wipes the tears and sweat off her face, she fought long and hard, totally earns our respect. We salute you.
We conclude our night with scallop and garlic fried rice served in a hot stone bowl. The hungry digital elf does the honor by giving the rice a good stir, to make sure everyone has a fair share of juicy scallops and some of the crusty burnt rice.
Either you are here for the novelty value or taking a gamble of faith, Wagaya has definitely have its own charm to make people keep coming back. Food quality seems not so important anymore, as we had a great night, that’s all that matters.
Wagaya Level 1, 78-86 Harbour Street, Haymarket Chinatown, Sydney Tel: +61 (02) 9212 6068 Open 7 days 5pm - 2am