Modern Japanese bites in Barangaroo.
MUST ORDER Sashimi tacos; ocean roll; bao
AMBIANCE Breezy Japanesey
WOULD I GO BACK? With tourists; for that bao; best sushi near the CBD
Zushi is a stand-out restaurant on the Barangaroo forefront. It’s the place I always take tourists because it’s the best value, and the food is left of centre. It also sells my favourite bao in Sydney for only $7 (which is a great thing to feed foreigners. Bao is a lesser-known concept you never knew you missed. You will like bao if you like quesadillas, tacos or pork buns. It’s hard to dislike.)
Banksii and Cirrus are Barangaroo’s next best, but they’re in a higher price bracket. Zushi is probably not even in the top third of Barangaroo’s most popular restaurants. You can always get a table. This is strange, and I can only think that it’s lost a target market: it’s not cheap enough to get the Belle’s Hot Chicken crowd and not sophisticated and Australian enough for the hatted folk out for a fancy lunch. People expect Japanese (especially sushi) to be cheap unless it’s seriously top-tier.
I’ve had nearly everything on the menu by now, and also the $55 tasting menu (five courses). Service is good with the water refills but it’s hard to get their attention and they seem to spill and drop things a lot (happened at some point on most of my visits).
Sashimi tacos ($22) come with raw salmon, tuna, avo, yuzu granita, flying fish roe, sesame oil, tamari and shiso cress. Scoop it all up on crispy wonton crackers and you will be a happy chappy. The granita is sweet and cool. It’s the best way to ensure your sashimi is cold, as Barangaroo can be searing on summer afternoons (the ten- and twenty-piece sashimi platters were too warm on the visits when I had it. And no-one like warm raw fish.)
I wasn’t sold on the ten piece sashimi ($21) with five varieties (including Kingfish, tuna and salmon). It just didn’t taste fresh and flavoursome. They should mention on the menu that it’s designed for two people (with two pieces of each fish).
The Ocean roll ($20) is topped with seared salmon belly and an amazing sweet soy and honey mayo. Inside is salmon, cucumber, avocado, and flying fish roe.
All of the sushi is decent (I’ve tried all of their rolls). Mayo fixes everything. Next best after the Ocean Roll is the Wagyu Roll, topped with crunchy sweet potato shards. The Spider Roll ($18) is not as good as the ones at Toko and Azuma; being less juicy, thick and not lightly battered.
The bao ($7 each) is essential. It’s generously filled with pulled pork, kale, capsicum, tempura enoki mushrooms, coriander, crispy quinoa, and sweet soy. The dough is fresh, warm and bounces back against your touch. If you haven’t eaten bao before, try it first either here at Zushi or order the fried chicken version at Mr Bao.
Standard (good) versions of classic dishes include: the pan-fried gyoza (5 for $15); and caramelised honey prawns ($20) (not as good as the popcorn shrimp at Saké). Nasu dengaku ($16) is caramelised miso eggplant cooked in sesame oil (this version was undercooked).
Yuzu scallops ($28) are definitely not worth their price tag. They’re overcooked and bland (despite the yuzu foam). I think I didn’t like the egg emulsion and burnt butter because it was too rich when you’re after a light Japanese meal. Miso salmon ($32) is lovely, but tiny for the price, simply served with a grilled leek.
On the other hand, I’m not the greatest barramundi fan and I loved the barramundi ($35), which was soft and served in an anchovy broth.
There’s also a Zushi in Surry Hills, but I’ve never been. One of the big drawcards of this one is the Barangaroo vibes and breeze.
Visit dates: 3 times in 2017, 3 times 2018