My father has an innate sense of borders. There is a certain perimeter he won't breach in his car and it spans about 10 kilometres around their house. Outside of that makes him nervous and so when I suggested a Japanese restaurant for my mother's birthday in Meadowbank which was in truth only about 30 minutes drive from us, I felt his jaw tighten and him tense up. Expecting this immediate rise in tension I quickly added "We'll drive us all there!" and he visibly relaxed. Crisis averted!
Sorenzo, set amongst what look to be new apartment complex developments, was a Japanese restaurant recommended to us by Mr NQN's sister Amaya and her husband Laporello. They live nearby and urged us several times to visit. A few checks on the internet confirmed that it was a hidden gem and many talked of their special deals. There are set lunch meals such as the ladies lunch set meal at $30 or a businessman's lunch set meal at $37. Each weeknight has a theme to it whether it be a Romance Tuesday, Mother's Wednesday, Food Tasting Thursday or Thanks Father Friday with little extras given away each night. We're dining on a Saturday night and there isn't any theme that evening.
We start with an amuse bouche which is a three parter plate to share given to all diners. It comprises of an avocado mousse with tiny watermelon cubes, kingfish sashimi with orange segments and a wagyu roll with cherry tomato. The squirt of avocado mousse with the watermelon has an orangey flavour to it and goes more towards the sweet than the savoury. The kingfish sashimi is fresh but perhaps has a bit too much orange as the orange overpowers the kingfish a little. The wagu roll served on a toothpick with a slice of cherry tomato is soft and a lovely little morsel.
Service is fine dining Japanese style and they've perfected that Japanese style of deferential service where they anticipate needs. Water glasses are filled readily and nothing is ever too much trouble and the courses come out in a timely manner without a long wait in between.
Foie Gras with Barramundi $22
The entrees come out first and the foie gras with barramundi is rich, slightly sweet and unctuous. It reminds me a bit of unagi (roasted eel) in the texture of the fish and the foie gras lends it that jellied, custardy quality. It sits on a round of sauteed daikon radish and the white powder is said to be teriyaki truffle powder but we try this by itself and it doesn't add very much or taste very strong.
King prawn with wasabi aioli $16
At our request the king prawns were upsized to a portion of four rather than the standard three as there were four of us. They were sauteed rock prawn, shimeji mushroom, salmon caviar and pesto sauce. The prawns are cooked well and come with deep fried shimeji mushrooms in a very light batter, some pearls of salmon caviar on a paper thin radish slice and a pesto sauce and the whole plate is ringed with a thick, sweet teriyaki style sauce.
Dinner box $40
We ordered this dinner box mainly for my father as he doesn't eat raw fish so this box gave him a good mix of cooked items such as fish, tofu, vegetables and the wagyu (all of their wagyu is rated 5) as well as salad, rice and some sushi and sashimi. It comes out as a two tiered box with a great variety of flavours and textures. The highlight is definitely the toothfish which if we visited again we would just have to order on its own. The toothfish or the black cod is known for it's utterly ambrosial buttery texture and here it is wonderful and just melts easily in the mouth. The tofu is also a highlight with its slightly sweet sauce and the wagyu is tender and comes pre sliced into strips. The sashimi and sushi is generously portioned and fresh and there are also crunchy tempura vegetables.
Sashimi Zen $40
The plate that we were just itching to see again arrives in a cloud of smoke and dry ice looking a little like a spaceship landing until the cloud dissipates and reveals a glistening serve of fresh sashimi. There is a fantastic variety of sashimi here and we can't help but be a little awestruck when we see how much sashimi there is. For $40 this would have to be the most generous serving of sashimi we've seen in a long time and it's a little like scaling a mountain. The kingfish is the standout for all of us followed by the salmon whilst the tuna has an unusually soft texture whereas we prefer the creamy bite of the others. The raw scallops, four pieces in total are soft and sit against a thin wedge of lime which starts to cook the scallop with the fruit acids ceviche style. And Mr NQN notes the wasabi here is excellent and upon enquiring we find out that the wasabi root is imported directly from Japan and is freshly grated to order. And before we know it, my father takes his first ever piece of sashimi. He pops it in his mouth, chews, swallows and nods and goes back for several more pieces. If you know my father, this was something of a minor miracle as he had steadfastly refused all manner of sushi and sashimi until now.
Sushi Lover's Combo platter $30
The impossible-to-photograph sushi lover's combo is plated on a long plate and features twelve pieces of nigiri sushi, including three pieces of aburi sushi (lightly blowtorched) and three pieces of soft shell crab sushi roll. They're too difficult to split up so we all try our favourites and I try the eel, and some of aburi pieces. There is an aburi scallop with a coral shaded spicy mayonnaise on top of which is just dandy and the favourite although they've all got a generous blanket of sashimi and a neat parcel of rice underneath it. And my father happily eats some of this sushi too.
Green tea smoked supreme of duck with cumberland sauce $36
Our last savoury dish is another one that we ordered for my father. There are six pieces of pink hued duck that are served with a cumberland sauce. I like the duck as it is tender but the cumberland sauce verges a bit too much on the marmalade side for me. The risotto is made using Japanese rice so it isn't quite risotto as one would expect. It has an ever so slightly sticky texture with a seafood flavour to it. It is served with grilled shiitake, shimeji and king oyster mushrooms. The risotto wasn't bad but again it wasn't quite what we were expecting.
The dessert assiette was a mix of their desserts. It featured a two creme brulees with a distinct floral aroma to them and a lovely thin toffee crust, a portion of rich chocolate cake with strawberries, some buttery vanilla chocolate chip cookies which my mother loved, a green tea mousse with strawberry topping which had a judicious amount of green tea in it and what ended up being my favourite, a coffee soaked layered cake with little chocolate "rocks" on top. I'd say this was worth the drive, especially if it had my father opening up his culinary horizons!
So tell me Dear Reader, do you eat sushi with raw fish? And if so, which one do you like best?
Level 1, 1A Bay Drive, Meadowbank NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9807 8303