Ikura is a popular Japanese restaurant in Canterbury. While there's no shortage of Japanese restaurants in Sydney, at Ikura the service is delightful and the food here is generously portioned with delicious sushi (and a standout prawn tempura sushi roll!) and hot dishes. This unassuming find on Canterbury Road is definitely a local gem.
My friend Valentina is showing me all of her favourite local restaurants. A couple of months before we went to Yukino Washoku Japanese Grill which was delicious but there was one thing that we were missing: sushi. For a sushi fix she always comes to Ikura. The restaurant has been open for less than a year and has a sister restaurant in Pymble. The space actually used to be Bon restaurant, another Japanese restaurant that she took us to but they've transformed the space so that it looks very different. The room is minimalist black and white (with a chandelier that seems a little bit off-brief). If you visit on a Saturday night you'll probably have to book and it can be quite a noisy restaurant when full. Valentina is a regular so she knows the staff well and their smiles could not be any wider when we arrive. We are the first table at 6:30pm but the restaurant will become full and then empty out by the time that we leave.
Ikura is BYO too so we open a bottle of wine and get to ordering. We end up choosing a selection of things that Valentina and Peter love as well as things that catch my eye. The first thing is my choice: I love Japanese style eel and this is an interesting combo that I really wanted to try. It's a slice of Japanese sweet egg omelette topped with grilled marinated eel and sauce. It's delicious and while I've never had this combination together, the sweetness of the egg and glaze on the eel go well together and there is a good textural contrast between the two.
We want to order a salad and they recommend the baby octopus salad but neither Valentina or I eat octopus so we go for the karaage salad with chicken karaage atop a green salad with cucumber, onion and green leaves with a kizami (nori seaweed) soy dressing. Drizzles of spicy mayonnaise and teriyaki sauce finish this off. I adore the juicy, tender pieces of chicken karaage and I like that this way I get to have one of my favourite Japanese entrees but also have a salad.
The kushiyaki combo is three types of skewers: pork, prawn and beef with two of each type so we share a skewer between each couple. The chilli prawn has a light coating of flour and is perfectly cooked and succulent although I couldn't really taste the chilli. The pork belly skewer has soft pork belly squares that are meltingly good while the wagyu beef is also deliciously tender with a rich teriyaki sauce.
Valentina's favourite item on the menu is the sashimi combo and she loves the dry ice presentation - once when they ordered this they had run out of dry ice and she was devastated because she had brought people here just to have it. A couple of days before she said, "I'm going to call to see if they will have the dry ice!". It does look very eye catching when it comes to the table and once the cloud of dry ice disappears we take a look at what is there. There are three sizes for the sashimi combo: small (8pcs), regular (14pcs) and deluxe (21pcs) and we have the regular. There are two pieces of each type of sashimi including two types of tuna and salmon, kingfish, two tiny ama ebi (sweet prawns) and dressed oysters. They're all fresh and deliciously silky textured but my favourites are the salmon and the oysters.
When Peter suggests ordering the prawn tempura I nod enthusiastically. It's my favourite variety of tempura and this one does not disappoint. The king prawns are perfectly cooked - crunchy on the outside and tender on the inside with some oroshi (dashi, mirin and soy) dipping sauce.
Their favourite sushi roll is the Mexican salmon roll which is filled with crab meat, cucumber, avocado, egg omelette, fresh salmon on top with spicy mayo, jalapenos and diced capsicum. It's nice although it's really not super Mexican in flavour but it's a nice roll.
The volcano roll is served in a bowl with cut up slices of California roll topped with salmon, scallop and flying fish roe. It is covered in bonito flakes and spicy mayonnaise. It's a lucky dip as to what you'll get when you reach in with your chopsticks as you can't really tell what is what underneath the bonito flakes. At first I just got some salmon and bonito flakes but I dig a little deeper and get some sushi roll. It's good but there are possibly too many bonito flakes as that's the predominant flavour in each bite.
We need another dish I think," says Valentina. "I'm only 93% full," she adds. I'm more than happy with that because I really want to try the prawn tempura roll. This too is served in a bowl and sliced up. It ends up being 4 whole tempura prawns in a sushi roll with cucumber, egg omelette,flying fish roe, mayonnaise and sweet chilli. Every bite is crunchy and creamy and honestly my mouth is watering right now thinking about it. They are generous with the prawns with each sushi slice having two pieces of tempura prawn. This is my favourite dish of the night and even though I am full when they bring this out, I still eat two pieces.
There's no dessert on the menu and that's fine as we are perfectly full. They bring us some complimentary fruit, a slice of sweet pineapple cut into 4 perfect bite sized pieces.
So tell me Dear Reader, can you gauge how full you are at the end of a meal as a percentage?
This meal was independently paid for.
163 Canterbury Rd, Canterbury NSW 2193
Phone: (02) 9451 4872
Hours: Monday Closed
Tuesday to Friday 5:30–9 pm
Saturday & Sunday 12–3 pm, 5:30–9 pm