Ja­panese tra­di­tion

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - FRONT PAGE - Graeme Phillips

MIYABI 339 El­iz­a­beth St, North Ho­bart Li­censed Mon­day- Satur­day, from 5pm 6234 6838

UP­STAIRS, above their street- level counter of take­away sushi, at wooden ta­bles sur­rounded by colour­ful Kabuki kites and ta­pes­tries, and with reg­u­lar shouts of “one­gaishi­masn” from the kitchen and replies of “itadaki­masn” from the black- Sa­mu­rai- bad­die- dressed fl oor staff, Miyabi is like no other Ja­panese restau­rant in Tas­ma­nia.

Opened a year ago as a “tra­di­tional Ja­panese restau­rant”, it is ac­tu­ally styled more along the lines of what the Ja­panese call an “isakaya”, a sort of ca­sual vil­lage eatery or pub where, ac­cord­ing to part- owner and chef Ak­i­hiro Naka­mura, “Ja­panese en­joy their nights to­gether eat­ing and drink­ing”.

From a 45- item menu ex­tend­ing well be­yond the sorts of dishes I ex­pect of a Ja­panese restau­rant, I asked he sim­ply send me those he con­sid­ered the most au­then­tic.

What I got, I sus­pect, was an as­sort­ment of tra­di­tional dishes and those that were the most pop­u­lar.

We started with re­fresh­ingly dark and salty miso soup with fl oat­ing strips of wakame, fol­lowed by the house salad – a mix of cu­cum­ber ba­tons, tomato and baby spinach and beet­root leaves with rice pa­per crisps and a sweet­ish, house- made dress­ing.

Then came eight beau­ti­fully fl avoured pork and spring onion gy­oza – without doubt, the best dumplings we’ve had in Ho­bart – with a vine­gar, sesame, soy and spring onion dip­ping sauce, the dumplings steamed and served on a siz­zling hot cast- iron tap­pan plate to crisp their bot­toms.

Four dif­fer­ent crumbed and deep- fried ke­babs – chicken, beef, pork and scal­lops – were pre­sented in a half bas­ket, the ac­com­pa­ny­ing soy- vine­gar dip­ping sauce the only thing that, to my mind, were sug­ges­tive of Ja­pan.

Then fol­lowed fried tofu in a thick, sweet­ish home­made sauce, a melt­ing, sweet- sour mar­i­nated half eg­g­plant topped with crisped beef crum­bles and pre­sented in a lac­quered boat and – best of the night – aburi- ni­girir sushi of salmon, the fi sh still raw but car­ry­ing a lovely hint of smok­i­ness from the light touch of a blow­torch with the fresh lift of ponzu.

When I raised the ques­tion of just what was and wasn’t au­then­tic or tra­di­tional Ja­panese food, Aki said Western­ers were “pre- con­di­tioned to what they think is tra­di­tional or au­then­tic about Ja­panese food”.

“But tem­pura – the word, the batter and the tech­nique – came to us with Por­tuguese mis­sion­ar­ies a few cen­turies ago and we’ve been as­sim­i­lat­ing new ingredients and tech­niques ever since,” he said.

“Things change with ev­ery gen­er­a­tion, par­tic­u­larly in the less for­mal iza­kaya- style eater­ies and on the street.

“For ex­am­ple, the lat­est craze in Ja­pan is cheese with av­o­cado, coated with tem­pura and deep fried. That’s the sort of thing, the lat­est pop­u­lar food trends, that my brother- in- law – who has a restau­rant in Saitama in Ja­pan – keeps us up to date on. So it’s now on our menu here.

“But the maki sushi rolls you see here fi lled with av­o­cado, for ex­am­ple, are not tra­di­tional – they’re Cal­i­for­nian. Our rolls are more savoury, with fi llings like fer­mented bean paste wrapped in shiso leaves.”

Pe­rus­ing the menu, I was dis­ap­pointed I hadn’t tried things such as the seaweed salad and Osaka’s fa­mous okonomiyaki pan­cake, and that, on such an ex­ten­sive menu, there weren’t any Ja­panese pick­led dishes. But there will be shortly, Aki as­sured me, made by his Ja­panese chef wife.

So, as we and other din­ers left to a cho­rus of “mata kiteku­da­sai” from the staff, we as­sured them we would be back, for the very spe­cial at­mos­phere they’ve cre­ated, the pan­cake and, I hope, some de­li­cious pick­les.

Miso soup $ 2.50; bowl of rice $ 2.50; udon noo­dle stir fry $ 12; aburi salmon ponzu $ 12.50; sashimi plat­ter $ 14.80; three- course menus $ 35-$ 36.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.