Besuto Sydney is an omakase restaurant in Circular Quay, Sydney. It's a more informal version of omakase blending Japanese tradition with Australian style. Guests dine on 18-20 courses of exquisite Japanese food, all in an intimate 12 person restaurant perfect for a special occasion. So what is Sydney's newest omakase restaurant like?
When Monica and I reach Besuto, located on Loftus Lane in Circular Quay we are ushered into the foyer. There is a kabuki style floor mural by Australian artist Lisa King and pink neon lights. We take the elevator up one floor where there's a Japanese zen garden to the left and noren curtains to the right leading to the restaurant itself.
Besuto is named after the Japanese word for Best as well as the owner and chef Joel Best (it is the Japanese way of pronouncing Best where they add a vowel to the end of each syllable -be-su-to and the u is silent). Chef Joel Best has worked at The Pier in Rose Bay, Fish Face in Darlinghurst and the Boathouse on Black Wattle Bay before opening up his self described, "elevated fish’n’ chip shop concept" in Bondi called Bondi’s Best. He sold that in 2019 and opened up Besuto in December 2021. Here Joel isn't cheffing, he is working the floor and serving sake and whisky (his other interests apart from food).
Joel is also in charge of buying the seafood. It starts the night before when he places a wish list before speaking with the buyers around 6 -7am the next morning to see what they have been able to buy on the auction floor or have flown in directly. Then he heads down to the fish market at 8-9am to pick out the live seafood. "We buy direct from fisherman through a company called Two Hands to connects us directly to the fisherman like Chris Bolton who catches line catches coral trout and kills using the ikejime method down the spine of the fish," says Joel. This method is said to preserve the quality of the meat. "Most of all its about the relationships you have with your buyers, suppliers and fisherman," he adds.
But it's chefs Hirofumi Kano and owner Hirofumi Fujita who are creating tonight's omakase menu. Kano-san is the more outgoing of the two Hiro's posing with his face resting on his chin and smiling broadly when presenting his food while Fujita-san keeps his head down. Fujita-san worked with Joel at Bondi's Best for 10 years and has worked as a sushi chef for 25 years. Kano-san is from Kyoto and has been in Australia for over 20 years with over 30 years of experience as a chef.
There are two omakase sessions: 5:30pm and 8:30pm and we are at the 5:30pm session. Tonight it's a range of couples or twos. Shortly after 5:30pm they start the omakase announcing that we will be enjoying 18 courses tonight with a flight of nigiri making up the second half of the courses. There is no printed menu as this changes every day (omakase means "I leave it up to you") and sometimes changes between sessions. On Fridays and Saturdays there are 20 courses. There's an extensive sake, umeshu and whisky menu available and you can order some by the glass or bottle or pair your omakase with a sake flight.
The first bite is a Gold Royal Miyagi oyster from Boomer Bay in Tasmania topped with umeshu jelly. This is a fresh and bright start to the meal and the courses come out in good time after this. Joel mentions that this oyster is a real treat as they have a very short season twice a year of about 2-3 weeks each time.
The sashimi course is next and there are four types of sashimi: coral trout, big eye tuna, alpine salmon loin and trevally. There's a tiny marigold petal on one and a dab of pickled plum with shiso on the Alpine salmon (a sustainable salmon from Mount Cook in NZ) that adds a flavour burst to the luscious salmon. They use an 18 year old soy combined with dashi stock for the sashimi (as well as seasoning of some of the nigiri).
"Chawamushi! Chawanmushi!" chants Monica excitedly and then a tray of chawanmushi appears. The small bowl of savoury egg custard is topped with hand picked mud crab from Queensland, lobster from South Australia, sea urchin from Tasmania and ikura salmon roe with garlic flowers on top. The mud crab is slippery and sweet with the silky egg custard and this is a dish all about textures and subtle flavours.
The next course is a kataifi pastry wrapped tiger prawn with a bush tomato sauce. Whilst I love the idea I prefer when deep fried food is freshly fried so that it is hot and super crunchy when it comes out which makes the crispiness more pronounced. The bush tomato sauce is tangy like a tomato chutney.
An abalone course is next and features abalone with rice and an abalone liver sauce. The abalone is tender and the rice is a comforting element and a nice contrast to the stronger liver flavour.
The next course is a favourite - it's Patagonian toothfish marinated in yuzu miso for 24 hours served with a square of pickled daikon cut to resemble a flower. Toothfish is a luscious fish that suits this classic white miso marinade but we love the extra touch of yuzu in the marinade.
While most omakase menus serve the larger courses towards the end, here they start with the larger courses and progress to the smaller nigiri sushi courses. One of my favourites is the Kakuni or slow cooked pork belly that is all luscious gingery flavours served with parsley purée, squash and okra. This melts in the mouth and I would eat a whole platter of this.
Our last meat course is next and it's a very special treat. It is A5 wagyu from Kagoshima which is an incredibly marbled wagyu served with king mushroom and Yakiniku sauce. It's so rich that you can't have a lot and given that we are less than halfway through our meal it is a judicious size.
Chef Kano brings out a display of sashimi and shows it to each couple at the table. This is the start of the nigiri courses which is Chef Fujita's area of expertise. The first is a toro topped with a N25 caviar pearls. These are harvested in the Yunnan Province of China on the 25° north latitude (hence the name). It is a Kaluga Hybrid caviar that is harvested after 19 years. "We fight with Crown casino to get this caviar," says Joel. Diners are encouraged to use their hands for the nigiri courses.
After that is followed by nigiri courses of Alfonsino (also known as red bream or imperador) which can usually be a bit chewy in texture but here it is tender and delicious. Then there is a Cuttlefish course topped with sea urchin sauce. This segues into Snapper nigiri with cured kombu and plum chilli paste and grated mullet roe.
With the nirigi there's a course of miso soup with chopped mizuna that gives the miso soup an appealing freshness to it.
The Garfish nigiri is beautiful with the stripe of silver skin on top and paired with grated ginger to complement the strong flavoured fish. Each nigiri is individually seasoned to bring out the flavour of the fish.
We are nearing the end when Chef Kano hands over a hand roll filled with aged blue fin tuna with sea urchin wrapped in nori which is a wonderful course to precede the last nigiri, a lightly torched and fatty slice of Alpine salmon with apple purée. And although we're done with our savoury courses, this is the perfect ending to this night that feels very special and full of treats.
The tamago or egg omelette is the first sweet "dessert" course that bridges the gap between savoury and sweet.
And our last course is the yuzu sorbet with freshly grated lime zest. This yuzu-shu sake mix is created especially for Besuto by Zini gelato downstairs. They take down a bottle of yuzu sake every day and they churn it in their $40,000 gelato machine every day. Normally I have a spoonful of sorbet but this is so refreshingly lovely that I finish every bit of this.
So tell me Dear Reader, would you like this style of meal where its up to the chef? Have you ever tried an omakase?
NQN and Monica were guests of Besuto but all opinions remain her own.
6 Loftus Ln, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Tuesday to Saturday 5:30–11pm
Closed Monday &Tuesday