With thanks to Olivia from Mademoiselle Mange A Sydney who works for Washoku Lovers, K and I were recently able to visit Wagaya in Haymarket. It’s one of my favourite Japanese restaurants in Sydney, and I’ve visited a few times before, even taking family members with me as they visited.
This new opportunity to visit Wagaya excited me though, as I’d fallen into a rut of ordering the same things every time I visited (skewers, ramen, hot pots, etc). The chance to try a greater variation of menu items was very appealing!
K was running late after a busy day at work, so I grabbed our table first and ordered us some drinks so that it would be ready and waiting for him on his arrival. We always joke that K likes his fruity girly cocktails more than I ever did, so I ordered him a garishly pink-red Nadeshiko cocktail of sake, grapefruit juice and grenadine. The swirly pink straw and grapefruit wedge sets the girly cocktail off!
The mocktail menu is shaped around the birthstones associated with each month, so I order myself a fruity Topaz mocktail of pineapple juice, tonic and Japanese Calpis soft drink.
The Rainbow Roll is beautifully topped with salmon, tuna or whitefish, and drizzled with Kewpie mayo before being sprinkled with little balls of fish roe. It’s a simple roll that really helps to whet our appetites before moving onto other dishes.
The Sesame Octopus catches my eye on the touchscreen ordering system. As much as I enjoy octopus, it’s not something that we cook at home as it can be so difficult to cook well without making it too tough and chewy. Wagaya’s version can’t be faulted as being too chewy though – it’s remarkably soft and tender and K barely gets to try the dish as I gobble it down much too quickly.
I hadn’t intended on ordering the Soft Shell Crab Hand Roll as it’s something that we order all the time at every Japanese sushi restaurant we visit. K is insistent though as it’s his favourite sushi option – and if I’m going to be honest, one of mine as well. I don’t regret ordering this – the soft shell crab is still hot and crispy from the deep fryer and a real delight with the fresh lettuce and generous use of Kewpie mayo.
As a big eggplant fan, the new menu item Grilled and Fried Eggplant Cubes catches my eye. Unfortunately it doesn’t quite live up to my high expectations – the breading of the batter was too floury and lacked the crispiness that I would have desired. This meant that the whole dish was just that bit too soft and same-ish to be really enjoyable. I wouldn’t order this again.
Sometimes I think that I love and eat pickles so often that I’m nearly brining myself from the inside out. I kid you not. Unsurprisingly, I order the Pickled Cucumber with Miso Paste to pick at in between all the other dishes we’ve ordered. It’s a nice simple side dish that really helps to cleanse the palate.
This was a bit of a cheat dish for me – despite not wanting to order the same things as usual, I found it hard to go past the Beef and Leek Skewer. Along with the ox tongue skewer, it’s one of my favourite skewer options at Wagaya as the rich meat is perfectly matched with the similarly strong leek flavours. It’s always a ‘must order’ menu item for me.
The last savoury item we ordered was a new one for me though. Having never tried a Japanese style pizza before, we ordered the Squid Mentai Pizza with spicy cod roe. The pizza base is like Asian-style bread in that it’s quite soft and doughy, unlike the thin and crispy pizza bases favoured by true Italian pizza aficionados.
I enjoyed it though, especially as I feel that the doughy pizzas work well with an overload of cheese as this one was. Very cheesy, very seafood-y, very more-ish.
We finished our meal by sharing a Green Tea Parfait. I love the slightly bitter green tea ice-cream, especially with its soft red bean topping. The wafer was a little stale though, and the addition of corn flakes as a topping somewhat strange.
All in all, while I’m glad that I tried a few smaller nibbly dishes at Wagaya, I think I’ll stick with ordering the larger serves of noodles or hotpot as I’m used to. It’s a little kinder on your wallet (lots of little dishes really adds up!), and I think the quality of the food is a little more consistent with the larger dishes as well.
We’ll definitely be back to Wagaya for our usual orders soon!
Note: Gourmanda dined at Wagaya as a guest of Washoku Lovers.