Adjusting is never all that easy. I made the hasty decision to move from the comforting distance and stillness of Mittagong – where I was somewhat isolated from the hustle and bustle of city life and all that it entailed – to the fast-paced, ever-changing world of life within Sydney. Adjusting was like waking up within the dazzlingly colourful, artificial world of a candy store.
So much choice, so many things to see, so much life to be had! With literally less than an hour’s commute to get to the CBD, I had 4 hours more (my previous daily commute) to spend exploring the world. If I thought I knew what ‘information overload’ meant back when I was trying to figure it out doing communications theory at uni, I had no idea until 2014 arrived. To top it all off, SEO work wasn’t doing much for me, so I quit my full time job at a major marketing agency to give myself a little breathing space. It’s been so fun. Every day I haven’t worked, I’ve learnt something new. There is something new to learn every single day, even from socialising with your nearest and dearest. I heavily support reading up on and experiencing as much as you can to fill that brain with as much knowledge and wonder as possible. Because although the world is not what it once was – ie. a bit slower, a bit more technical, a bit less rushed – there is still so much fun to be had while you’re still a living, breathing, healthful human being.
In the eyes of the food-obsessed, extra time means one thing in particular: time to start ticking off restaurants and cafés from my ever-increasing list! If you’re a Sydneysider (or Melbournite) who is either too cool for school, squeals with joy at clean lines and minimalistic design, an urban socialite of sorts or just has respect for good, decent writing on the online space – Broadsheet is your answer for everything and anything that is happening within the crazy confines of your city. My trusty guide – I hope you never disappear.
Broadsheet signalled me to what I’d probably consider the restaurant of any Japanophile’s (ie. my) dreams: Yayoi. A traditionally-inspired ‘teishoku‘ restaurant and sake bar – teishoku translates to ‘meal set’ and usually includes miso soup, rice, any variety of side dishes and ‘tsukemono’ or pickles to accompany – with a slick new fit-out on Bridge Street. With a sophisticated appearance from the exterior, the broad space within is stunning in all its understated glory. Upon entering the restaurant, you will be soothed by welcome splashes of earthy green, the crisp whites of the uniforms, and woody tones of the overall interior. The gentle murmur of an older crowd of Japanese folk, businessmen and couples on romantic dinner dates will make you aware that the hushed noise levels should be noted. Leave your loud, raucous friends for a night on the town for this one.
The beautifully designed menu includes everything you’d see with your local Japanese joint’s selection of dishes, albeit more refined and of a higher quality. Choice is plentiful, however teishoku is what we are here for, no? So teishoku we must order! I’m a sucker for impeccably cooked salmon so I ordered the Salmom Teriyaki Teishoku($32) whilst my companion was intrigued by the Wagyu Sukiyaki Teishoku($33). Did I mention they had fancy iPad menus? This is really convenient as once the paper menu is taken, you can order from the iPad as you go, saving you having to call for a waiter for every little thing.
A cooking pot of rice kept appearing at other tables before the set meal so upon asking, we were told that this was traditional steamed (kama-taki) rice which would take 25 minutes to cook so we made sure to order that first up. It arrived immediately and we were instructed to wait until the iPad would tell us the time was up to remove the lid. You’ve got to love how tech-savvy the Japanese are, don’t you?
As each teishoku meal has a variety of elements, don’t expect your meal to arrive post-haste the way a bowl of pho would. This is why I fell in love with Japanese cuisine in the first place; the attention to detail is unmatched. Our meals took a good half hour to arrive but I didn’t mind one bit, it just made it all the more exciting! Perfect timing too; as this is when we were informed by our iPad friend to uncover the lid of the rice.
My teishoku came with a perfect portion of glistening salmon, a miniscule pot of savoury egg custard, a bowl of miso soup and a serve of agedashi tofu. Equally as content with her dish, my friend’s wagyu hotpot was huge! It was accompanied with similar dishes but also a serve of spinach with sesame sauce and topped with a wobbly, googie egg. Heart just melted.
I’m going to avoid fan-girling but this was the epitome of a perfect restaurant, and an even more exquisite meal to me. The salmon was meltingly tender, with its sticky glaze complimenting the fattiness of the fish well. The tofu was all crisp outer, soft inner and with just the right amount of dashi and soy sauce broth to soak into its deep-fried deliciousness. The mustard leaf pickle provided a good textural counterpoint to the dishes whilst the egg custard was salty, smooth and velvety. I could’ve done without the miso soup, I just wanted a little more depth to the soup but no worries…because that rice – wow! Yayoi’s rice has got to be the best cooked rice I’ve ever had. Period. I didn’t even know rice could be so brilliant until now. Mind is blown I tells ya! My friend’s wagyu hotpot was equally as good. The broth had that umami, rich flavour you want in a broth that provides the main flavour to all the vegetables and starchy beings within the bowl. And the udon noodles? Like the rice, I have a newfound respect for them.
Look, I hate a nit-picky, ultra-detailed restaurant review as much as the next food lover but Yayoi was worth every little ounce of space on this page. Book a table for next weekend. Actually, why not tonight?
Yayoi Japanese Teishoku Restaurant, 38 Bridge Street, Sydney NSW 2000, (02) 9247 8166. Find them on Facebook.