MUST ORDER Above all, the dank roll; also the don roll; dynamite roll; double double gyoza
AMBIENCE If Tokyo had beach babes
SERVICE Slow, but accommodating
WOULD I GO BACK? My most frequently visited restaurant
First off, make sure you book in advance. Even those with a booking can be made to wait. Do not drive all the way to Manly for this on a whim. It’s good, and people know it.
Sunset Sabi is my favourite Japanese restaurant in Sydney. But it’s not really Japanese. The basic vesicles are mostly Japanese (nori, rice, gyoza), relying on Japanese concepts and styles, but mostly Mexican flavours. They’re not skimping on the spice. Generosity with the mayonnaise and sweet sauces is acceptable when it’s this well executed like this.
I’ve been visiting this restaurant for so long that I’ve seen the menu undergo many changes. At the risk of being irrelevant, I am compelled to mention some items that are no longer on the menu in an effort to bring them back. The salmon tartare was my favourite dish; there was an amazing edamame hummus dip (now it’s actual whole edamame),, served with vegetable chips. ‘Tina tuna’, a tuna tartare, was also sadly recently removed. Luckily, they’ve also replaced some shockas (like the inedible duck and watermelon dish), which I therefore need not detail further.
I would also note that over the past year the size of the sushi portions has shrunk markedly.
The restaurant has an outstanding vibe. The chairs are uncomfortable, but they look cool. The bar is nicely lit and all the waitstaff are super good-looking. Aesthetics are covered.
Sabi-mame ($9) is a small plate of edamame covered in truffle, chilli and orange and is a great snack to start a meal. It’s enough to share between four.
Double double gyoza ($12) comes with four pieces, designed to resemble a Big Mac. It is absolutely delicious, filled with wagyu beef and sprinkled with cheese on a bed of pickles, lettuce, tomatoes and ‘thousand island dressing’.
Dynamite ($14) isn’t for everyone, but I’m obsessed. It’s a baked sushi roll topped with prawn and scallop pieces; a bright yellow, spicy, mayo-like sauce; and orange roe.
The nigiri are all great value, for $6 to $7. The kingfish the third ($16) is one of the weakest kingfish dishes I’ve had, since the flavour combos don’t work (especially the burnt tomato ponzu).
If one of your friends doesn’t love sushi, force them to try the dank roll ($18 for 8 pieces). It’s filled with crab, scallop, avocado, mentai mayo and sweet soy. That sweet soy is a Wonka-level invention. You’ll be wiping it up with your chopsticks. Kingfish in Mexico ($17 for 8 pieces) used to be my favourite, but many people find the japapeno overwhelming. Topped with avocado and filled with cucumber, ‘Sabi kewpie’ mayo and coriander, this dish nails the crunch elements.
One of the triumphs of Sunset Sabi’s sushi, alongside flavour, is the crunch factor. All the sushi is packed with filling (so much that there’s stuff on top too), not too much rice, is never gooey, is small enough to be eaten in one bite, and usually has something crunchy inside that could pass for potato chips but is probably tempura.
LA taco ($12 for 2) is great value, with barbecue beef, kimchi, daikon, ginger kewpie and srirarcha.
Super chicken ($14) is fried chicken tossed in spice, served with spicy tonkatsu dip. It’s very hit and miss (can often be dry, and no better than KFC).
Spring soba ($14) is a soba noodle salad that doesn’t sit well with the rest of the menu. It doesn’t work when transitioning between the other Mexican, spicy and crunchy bites. The cold smoked trout, sugar snap peas, asparagus and pea tendrils make for a pretty boring dish.
The beet salad ($12) similarly makes a strange appearance. It’s a misnomer. Rather than being a salad, it’s basically dressed-up, cut-up beetroot on a plate. Call it textures of beetroot? Add chevre/feta, greens and nuts? Also, how is this Japanese or Mexican? Was not a fan.
Just as out of place on the menu, but much more palatable is the cauliflower ($12) which sits is a yummy parmesan and truffle wafu, but needs more seeds.
Red meat is also hit and miss, and I’d avoid it given the plethora of better options. Nonetheless, you won’t regret ordering the beef tataki ($14) if you order everything else I’ve recommended too.
If you have room for dessert, get the sweet burger ($11). Two doughnuts have been sandwiched together, encasing a Japanese whisky cream, matcha white chocolate and fresh strawberries. I was sceptical, but it tastes better than it sounds.
I’ve also done the tasting menu twice, and can attest to it being fabulous value (too much food, in fact). It’s only $45 per person, and you will all come away feeling satisfied. The pace can be a bit slow, and it’s bad to finish with the soba (see above). You can’t avoid this set menu if you bring eight or more people.
Overall, this is a hit-and-miss restaurant. Come with a booking, stick to eating sushi and gyoza, and you’ll love it. Cocktails are also a good idea.
Visit dates: Averaging 8 visits per year.
Apologies for the terrible photos; I usually eat too fast to photograph.
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The Tina Tuna (tuna, white ponzu, avocado salsa and a nori tuille) @sunsetsabimanly keen to get back here this week! Shame I've already tried everything on the menu, but I've got to get my hands on some super chicken asap #sunsetsabimanly #nori #tunatartare #whiteponzu #japanesefoodsydney #japanesefusion