It’s the clos­est Syd­ney gets to a por­tal to Ja­pan.

Time Out (Sydney) - - FOOD & DRINK - By Emily Lloyd-Tait

A LOT OF things get watered down on their way to Syd­ney. Bangkok’s street food loses its lung-crush­ing heat when served up in Aus­tralia; Amer­i­can diner clas­sics down­size and price up when in the An­tipodes; and Ja­panese food is sim­pli­fied for west­ern palates. Well, every­where ex­cept Sasaki. This Ja­panese restau­rant is hid­den on a sketchy dead-end laneway where the CBD meets Surry Hills, and so the last thing you’ll be ex­pect­ing when you duck un­der the fab­ric awning is a por­tal to Nip­pon. But this is as pure an ex­pres­sion of Ja­panese din­ing in Syd­ney as you’ll come across. The aes­thetic is so achingly re­strained you’ll feel bad for even bring­ing your emo­tional bag­gage into such a pure, calm space. And clearly peo­ple are very keen to spend an evening in this oa­sis – book­ings are es­sen­tial at the 25-seat restau­rant.

You are not go­ing to be eat­ing teriyaki-any­thing here. But you might be fight­ing over gen­tly cooked slices of mack­erel that bal­ance their briny, oili­ness on a neu­tral­is­ing ball of vine­gared rice – it’s a dish that proves clean eat­ing and sat­is­fac­tion can in fact make good bed­fel­lows. You should or­der the as­para­gus, which is coated in a crisp tem­pura that’s as sheer as a bride’s neg­ligée and dusted in a smoky matcha pow­der, lev­elled up with a squeeze of lime. On the plate, translu­cent whit­ing is al­most in­vis­i­ble, de­fy­ing its ocean ori­gins with earthy flavours from kombu, dashi and soy. This is not the same-same sashimi you are used to, and you should be pre­pared for some chal­leng­ing tex­tures.

You can or­der del­i­cate, wob­bling cus­tard pots in sweet or savoury edi­tions – the dashi and crab ver­sion is good, but it peaks as a dessert, soaked in a plum sake so that it feels not un­like a Ja­panese twist on a crème caramel. But the dish that en­sures our re­turn visit is a study in sim­plic­ity – a per­fect pork fil­let seared and then baked in­side a salt dough case that they open at the ta­ble to re­veal the most juicy, suc­cu­lent slices this side of Christ­mas. You can swipe them through a sweet mus­tard sauce, but you don’t need to in or­der to en­joy this dish – it’s per­fect as is.

Ac­cord­ing to the beau­ti­fully de­signed news­let­ter you re­ceive upon pay­ing your bill, chef Yu Sasaki has a sec­ondary, diplo­matic mis­sion be­yond serv­ing one of the most peace­ful meals in the city – Sasaki is de­signed to gen­tly sway peo­ple to­wards the Ja­panese way of liv­ing. Spend a few hours in this min­i­mal­ist room of tim­ber fur­ni­ture, warm light­ing and not much else, and our money is on you hav­ing or­dered Marie Kondo’s book and vis­ited the Muji web­site to re­work your liv­ing space by the time you get home.

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