There is a table of 7 Japanese salarymen in the corner at Komaru on Military Road in Neutral Bay talking animatedly. This tiny restaurant seats just 20 people so those without a reservation are gently turned away this busy Friday night. The menu at Komaru is made up of fresh sushi and sashimi as well as the distinctively presented Osaka style sushi.
We are seated at the front table for six where we sit on wooden cubes on wheels. There's a sushi clock on one wall and photos of J pop bands on a fan. The menu has a good range of sushi as fresh fish is their specialty.
On top of the kitchen doorway is also a chalkboard sushi menu. Chef Nagoshima is in the kitchen expertly creating sushi from the small kitchen. He started as a sushi chef in Osaka at age 18 and then moved to Australia when he turned 30.
Service is very friendly and accommodating although with just one waitress it can be hard to get their attention at times. I'm dining with Mr NQN, Louise and Viggo and we order a range of things mostly sticking to sushi, sashimi and seafood and favourites.
Osaka style sushi is also called hako sushi, hako meaning box. The sushi is pressed into a wooden box and topped with a range of vinegared fish. It can be quite different from the sushi that many are accustomed to. To me, it has a real traditional Japanese flavour although the sweet, vinegared mackerel with a thin layer of kelp on top doesn't suit everyone. Mr NQN and I like it (and we like sardines and other fishy fish) while Louise and Viggo don't (because they dislike that kind of fish).
If you're looking for hako sushi that is more familiar, the salmon version featuring salmon sashimi with a layer of nori is more familiar. This is Louise and Viggo's favourite.
And the sea eel sushi is a balance between the mackerel and the salmon and features delicately flavoured eel without the sticky sauce.
The firefly squid is served raw (and tiny!) with a sake and soy sauce with freshly grated ginger on top. The squid is slippery and tender and the ginger and sauce lift the rich squid.
Ahh my kingdom for cream crab croquettes. I always wonder how they can get them so crispy on the outside and so soft and creamy on the inside. I immediately want to order another lot of these they are so moreish.
Prices are excellent here making this an easy choice for a regular dinner (well if we lived more closeby). The wagyu salad has thin slices of tender wagyu beef and a green salad with tomatoes. There is a choice of three dressings: sesame, wafu (vinegar) and a yuzu miso dressing with yuzu citrus and miso. we go for the last one and the salad is perfectly balanced and easy to eat with chopsticks.
We couldn't resist the sashimi with seven types of sashimi: salmon, tuna, tuna belly, kingfish, octopus, yellowtail and scallop. They come with three slices of each and three piles of freshly grated wasabi. Perfect and simple.
The eggplant with miso is a popular dish here. It comes as a slice of soft, melting grilled eggplant slices topped with miso and sesame seeds.
I should have perhaps heeded the waitress's advice that we didn't need the chirashi sushi but there were so many kinds on the menu that I wanted to order at least one. It's not the easiest to share among a group but it is rice topped with salmon sashimi, salmon roe, konnyaku, shiitake, lotus root and potato. Honestly we were a little too full to really appreciate this and we had perhaps had a bit too much rice by now.
There are four desserts, green tea and vanilla ice cream as well as anmitsu and mochi. The Anmitsu comes with cubes of jelly and nata de coco jelly (the firmer, springier jelly), slices of mandarin and a scoop of sweet red bean paste. I usually prefer cream anmitsu with a bit of ice cream on top just to give the sweetness a bit of a break.
I mainly have eyes for the mochi, the chewy, stretchy rice flour balls. We pick them up with the wooden picks. They come with a brown sugar syrup and kinako or soy bean powder.
"I miss Japan," Mr NQN says mournfully. "I think it's time we went back."
So tell me Dear Reader, have you ever had Osaka style sushi? Do you like strongly flavoured fish?
This meal was independently paid for.
222 Military Rd, Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Phone: (02) 9908 1950
Thursday to Saturday 12–2:30pm, 5:30–9:30pm
Monday to Wednesday 5:30–9:30pm