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Japanese culture has a wonderful respect for tranquillity, singularity and style. Sasaki, a new Japanese restaurant hidden down a Sydney CBD laneway, embodies all of this in every sense. The tiny, sophisticated space tucked behind curtains is unassuming from the street, but inside is an interior designer’s dream. A courtyard leads to a small room that could pass muster in a high-end homewares catalogue – white walls, a Tasmanian oak bar and tables that dot a minuscule space filled with pottery and wooden cutlery hand carved by the chef’s father. The wait staff is lovely bordering on apologetic, while chef Yu Sasaki (owner of Cre Asian cafe next door) captures the considered cuisine of regional Japan and his hometown, Shimane. His simple, yet sophisticated, cuisine is inspired by his mother’s cooking. A tofu dressing, used in place of egg, lathers a salad of cabbage, persimmon and walnuts for a satisfactory start. Pretty pink slices of roast duck breast wading in soy-braised leeks is bang on, before a big bowl of Cloudy Bay clams in a moreish sake and shungiku sauce (chrysanthemum greens). The classic savoury custard ( chawanmushi) with crab arrives in a covered teapot. The custard eats like silk, the flakes of crab are somewhat missing in action, though it’s still a joy. The miso soup steals the show – an alluring broth housing justcooked carrots, turnips, fried bean curd, konnyaku and silken tofu. This alone will have me coming back. The pastry, while aesthetically astounding, is polarising. A sweet potato mound is sandwiched by potato crisps and it’s… interesting. Figs in a lick of yuko are better, while white peach sorbet and yogurt nails the sweet, velvety brief. Sasaki is a quiet and almost Zen experience – a striking vision with graceful delivery. It’s not for those who like a ruckus, and though the food could do with a bit more energy to balance, it’s still a welcome addition. 102/21 Alberta St; sasaki.com.au
Yu Sasaki, chef/owner of the Japanese newcomer.
Sasaki’s highlights include roast duck with soy-braised leeks, and the chawanmushi savoury custard with crab.