Thursday, August 21, 2008

Azuma - Chifley Plaza, Sydney

Sophisticated... the first word that popped into mind as I entered through the glass doors of Chifley Tower. Sophisticated... the word reappeared as I was welcomed by the warm glow of the Azuma sign. Sophisticated... the word resounded once more as I walked through the restaurant, taking in the elegant interior design and atmosphere.

This place had me in awe as I sat down and looked excitedly around, soaking in this beautifully warm atmosphere. We had a relatively early booking so the place was a bit empty as we entered so we were welcomed by a group of the wait staff.

(I think the waiter intentionally looked away when I took the photo, which made me feel quite sheepish.)
Soon after we entered though, the seats slowly filled up and the ambient background music was replaced by a dim murmur of chatter and laughter from Japanese businessmen and other customers. The atmosphere was completed with a plasma television displaying breath-taking scenes of Japan, from the bamboo forests to the Sakura blossoms.

The design of Azuma really is befitting of a restaurant in the Chifley Tower. The walls were lined with paintings with amazing brush work and some cute animals. I passed by some private function rooms as I made a trip to the restrooms and couldn't resist the urge to take a peak inside. I was a little bit disappointed that there were no traditional tatami rooms but they were still very nicely decorated.

(I made sure to ask the sushi chefs before I took this photo :P)
We browsed through the menu and decided not to have the degustation even though they sounded like they had excellent dish choices so settled for some a la carte options. Here comes the food.

The first dish was the Japanese Daikon white radish salad with a Soy Citrus vinaigrette. The shaved daikon had a refreshing flavour with a touch of sourness from the citrus vinaigrette. Very fresh start to the meal.

Next came the hand rolls: Spicy Salmon hand roll and Tuna and Avocado hand roll. I had the Tuna and avocado hand roll and for me it was quite average. There was no doubt about the freshness and taste but there was nothing special about it.

Next came one of the Seasonal Specials: Wagyu wrapped asparagus in super-tasty sauce. To be honest it wasn't actually called that but I forgot the name *feels more sheepish*. The meat was really tender and soft as was the asparagus and it did not have a very fatty taste. The sauce was sweet and matched perfectly in this dish.

The nigiri we ordered: (front to back) Seared White fish, Seared Salmon belly, Marinated Tuna, Shiitake mushroom Tempura and Seared Kingfish belly. My favourite was the seared salmon belly but they were all very fresh and tasty. There is just something about sushi aburi that brings out a richer flavour from the fish and I just love it.

Chicken balls and Teriyaki Chicken. This was another seasonal special that we decided to try and the sweetness of the teriyaki sauce combine with the tender meat made this one a happy choice.

Another seasonal special was this mushroom tempura. The variety of this mushroom had a fancy name which i forgot >_< (clearly I am not a professional food blogger yet) but it was something like enjiiyuu. It looks similar to the Trumpet Royale variety and has soft meat. It is very pleasurable to eat this type of mushroom but it is a bit bland without the dipping sauce and flavoured powders (Japanese pepper, green tea and chilli). Azuma’s famous deep-fried NZ Flounder fillets served with braised vegetables. I was not able to ninja in a photo before the waitress separated it into the individual bowls. The fish is nicely deep-fried so that even the bones can be devoured and what a taste sensation! The crunchy bones went perfectly with the tender meat of the flounder. I personally prefer a whole bowl of fish bones haha.

For dessert we decided to share the Assorted dessert. Clockwise from bottom: Belgium chocolate mousse served with raspberry sauce and fruits, vanilla creme brulee, green tea rolled cake with red bean paste and assorted fruits with jelly.
All of these desserts were absolutely delicious but for me the creme brulee just shined. This could be because I am biased for creme brulees but the crunch of the caramelized sugar combined with a smooth and creamy custard base is just unbeatable. Alas, we are still in search for a the ultimate creme brulee but this is a high ranking one for sure.

Azuma has left a very impressive impression on me especially with their atmosphere and service. The food presentation was also another crucial factor which makes this place that bit more special. Their uniquely designed plates and tea cups made every dish look more appetizing. The prices are definitely high but for this sort of location, service and atmosphere it is worth coming at least once to try it out.

Level 1, Chifley Plaza, 2 Chifley Square

Lunch: Monday to Friday from 12pm

Dinner Monday to Saturday from 6pm

Closed Sundays and Public Holidays

Ph: (02) 9222 9960



NQN said...

That deep-fried NZ Flounder fillets served with braised vegetables sounds great. The bones look quite big so it's amazing that they were soft enough to chew yet still hold their shape! Another sushi aburi fan too here :)

Lydia said...

Our favourite Japanese restaurant when living in Sydney.

Erique Fat Owl said...

Noooo!! You've got to be kidding! I find the decor a bit passe, dinghy, and bland! Oh come on, FFIchiban...even a much lower-class Japanese restaurant in Jakarta, Indonesia looks much better than Azuma!! Check out this restaurant in Jakarta I reviewed - it's frickin' dirt-cheap but the decor is much better:

Komachi at Le Grandeur

Azuma's food, however, is really first-grade. Excellent. (I heard the crown prince of Japan ate there when he was in Sydney!!)