"Will NQN _ever _shut up about her birthday?" I hear you ask. I totally hear you and understand what you are saying and I will cease and desist with the birthday babbling just as soon as I've finished with writing about my last birthday dinner. My third dinner was with my parents Rose and Ronald. We do a separate dinner with them you see as they don't like traveling outside of the Eastern Suburbs (certainly not crossing the bridge, it's a mental barrier) and they both like Japanese food. I've heard that Rise is like "Tetsuya for everyone" in that it is fusion cuisine, but at a more reasonable price. I remember my one and only visit to Tetsuya very fondly so I am keen to try this alternative.
So at 6pm we're standing at the mysterious looking red door of Rise and are greeted with smoky Jazz music. The small restaurant is dimly lit and already one third full and we're led to a table right by the window. There is only the Omakase degustation on offer tonight so that takes the drama out of ordering and while admiring the simple pebble chopstick rests, before long we're greeted with our first course. The menu is Japanese influenced by Chinese and Korean cuisine unlike Tetsuya which is French Japanese. Since the restaurant is dimly lit we didn't feel we could use the Flash as it would've made for quite the strobe light show for the other patrons, therefore the photos aren't anywhere as good as we wanted. So let me apologise in advance before proceeding with the food.
Course 1: Duck confit, beans and tofu with "Hoisin" sauce
The small pieces of Duck confit sit upon a square brick of soft tofu and rocket and streaked with Rise's own version of Hoisin sauce. It's delicious but I wish I had a little more confit and I prefer my confit warm where this is cold.
Course 2: Clear broth with calamari tortellini
The Clear broth with calamari tortellini is a soothing, subtly flavoured clear broth flavoured with seawed and fresh kaffir lime leaves and halves of cherry tomato. The calamari tortellini resembles more a dumpling than a tortellini and the taste is delicious and comforting with each bite of the pasta morsel.
Course 3: Assorted fresh market sashimi - ocean trout, kingfish and oyster
The third course, one that has Ronald quivering a bit at the idea of raw fish is eagerly snapped up by my husband and I, both sashimi devotees. The Ocean trout is sublime perfection. I contemplate begging other tables for their two slice shot glasses. The kingfish, not my favourite sashimi fish, is superbly fresh but it's also combined with a wasabi sauce which doesn't appeal to me. The oyster is gorgeously full, creamy and briney and I trade my last slice of Kingfish for my husband's oyster.
Course 4: Seasonal plate. Spicy tuna tartare in wonton cup; soft shell crab sushi roll and Steamed Baby octopus with "ume" plum vinaigrette.
I love plates with lots of little morsels so my eyes widen when I see this plate approaching. I am not sure how to eat the crispy wonton cup as it's too large to shove into my mouth so I try taking a bite of it which was exactly the wrong thing to do. The whole thing shatters and bits of spicy coated tuna fall onto the plate. Picking up the bits, the crispy wonton is brilliant paired with the spicy bean paste coated tuna tartare. I want more of these, stat. The soft shell crab sushi roll is soft and crunchy in a moist way that only soft shell crab can be. It's necessary to take a bite of this before attempting to load some of the crab and the sushi rice into the mouth and were I at home, I would've attempted shoving this into my hungry mouth in one go. The steamed baby octopus with ume plum vinagairette is tender and soft, although I must admit, Ume plum is not one of my favourite flavours. I never understood when people would buy boxes of the plums to add into their food where I would be picking it out.
Course 5: Spiced prawn and mung bean noodle salad with yogurt sauce
This is a curious dish, the single pasta shell with yogurt sauce and cherry tomato sits on top of a cut out disc of cucumber which sits on a fried prawn. I'm not sure what order I'm supposed to eat it in so I take it apart bit by bit as taking a bite of the whole thing is impossible. The pasta shell and cucumber aren't particularly good by themselves but then you get to the deep fried lightly coated prawn (not spiced at all despite the name) and you taste the lovely batter and before you know it, find yourself eating the entire prawn, tail and all. The noodles are a thin tangle of vermicelli noodles, nice but not particularly plentiful.
Course 6: Main course of Chicken confit and zucchini flower tempura stuffed with gochujang ricotta served with rice
We're given our last savoury course of the night which is significantly larger than the rest of our courses. The chicken confit is beautifully soft with a crispy salty skin and comes with a lovely sweet soy sauce. The zucchini flower is stuffed with Gochujang flavoured ricotta, Gochujang being a fermented hot sauce made of chilis, fermented soybeans and glutinous rice powder. It's unusual but delicious and Rose is curious and wants to try to make something similar at home.[
Course 7: Dessert, panncotta with persimmon granita on left. Espresso liquer granita on right.
Our last course comes out with sparklers to the tune of Happy Birthday from our waiter. They've personalised a message on the plate for me, thanks to my forward thinking husband. I've received not only a message but a bonus dessert. It's a espresso liquer granita pannacotta which is wicked in its sweet liquor base and icy top and creamy base. The pannacotta with persimmon granita is great in a different, refreshing way. I particularly like the pannacotta base with the small pieces of persimmon.
It's not even 8pm when we've finished our 7 Degustation courses and a good thing too as a large table has arrived and they're loud and merry and their conversations bounce around the small room. We leave and at the door is owner/chef Hide Okazaki who we thank for a memorable evening and leave outside the mysterious red door.[
23 Craigend Street Darlinghurst Sydney
Tel : +61 (02) 9357 1755
Fax : +61 (02) 9357 1766
Open for dinner Sunday-Tuesday
Bookings essential for Omakase Desgustation