For someone who loves sushi, ramen, dons, and other cornerstones of Japanese cuisine as much as I do, I think it’s a complete travesty that I have never had the opportunity to visit Japan. What is this madness? I’ve always wanted to visit, but other destinations and excuses seem to pop up just when I fix on the idea of visiting Japan. Excuses like: Korea will be cheaper, Vietnam’s better at this time of the year, I need to visit my family in China again, those flights to London are really cheap, we’re going to New Zealand why don’t you come with us, etc etc.
I know I’ll make it there eventually, but in the meantime, I can at least indulge in my love of Japanese food in such (reportedly) authentic restaurants as Taruhachi in North Sydney. Hidden down a passageway behind another shop, Taruhachi is a real hidden gem on the North Shore, and popular with locals in the know even on the usually quiet Wednesday night that we were there.
K delighted in the decor of the tiny restaurant which reminded him of his own visits to Japan – lots of handwritten signs for different dishes plastering the walls, with no easy translation into English.
Can’t read Japanese? The waitress will bring out their stand-up whiteboard menu, conveniently written in English with illustrative photos for you to choose from. It will shame you into resolving to learn hiragana, katakana, kanji – whatever it takes, as long as you can order authentically from the options plastered on the walls instead!
Conscious of my diet and craving some good fats and omega-3, I order a sashimi set menu for the very reasonable price of $25. Healthy servings of my favourite salmon and tuna go surprisingly well when interspersed with mouthfuls of the side dish of Japanese pickles and sips of the miso soup. The sashimi is full of fatty protein goodness and makes me so full that I barely touch the rice and happily eat my melon as a finale to the meal.
K orders the grilled kingfish set menu, which comes out with about 50% more kingfish than we expected, given the low price of the meal! The kingfish was grilled to perfection as well, with a crispy and crackly skin and meat that remained moist and firm. The side dishes were the same as mine, but the distinguishing element here was the small serve of chives bound together and dipped in sesame seeds – a nice touch that added depth of flavour to the meal.
As a point of difference, K chooses to order the special salmon head miso soup rather than the standard miso soup. It has a lot more body than the soups that I’m normally used to, and the addition of the salmon really adds a special depth and complexity of flavour to an otherwise bland soup staple.
Overall, I really enjoyed our meal at Taruhachi. The food was fresh, hearty, plentiful, and excellently cooked and presented. The experience felt authentic – at least it did to me, having had no experience of actually visiting Japan. Next time I’m in North Sydney, I’ll be back to try something else on the menu – perhaps the sashimi salad next time around?