CCU had been so busy of late, she had had no time to bake at all! Uni this, uni that, reading this, assignment that, honestly it felt like her Saturday nights were god sent!
One Saturday night, she decided enough was enough, so calling up two friends, she decided to whisk them down to Neutral Bay to enjoy a nice hearty Japanese dinner.
CCU and her friends certainly got a lot more than just hearty, delicious food…
Before we even began our eating journey, I was completely out of the whole ‘driving to Neutral Bay’ thing, so we left a little extra early, arriving therefore half an hour early before our booking.
Well.. no it really wasn’t an oops, because my mates and I (I have been requested to call them ‘Tofu Master’ and ‘Honorary Vegetarian’ – you shall see why… :P) trawled down the main road…
And we ended Mooberry for a little ‘dessert before dinner’ action ;)
I only managed to get an action shot of my pre-dinner dessert as you can see (I am generous!), because this was the first time I went out to dinner with these two, and I didn’t want to scare them away with the constant photography before our dinner even began :P
When we actually arrived to the restaurant, I think we were all thinking the same thing – it was tucked away, with a large sign out front, and perhaps was one of the cutest restaurants I have seen to this day.
Bright red and white lanterns adorning a waiting seat, and the hostess outside. It was very traditional and fitting with the cuisine :)
The manager came out to greet us, bowing a little as is custom in Japan (we were all melting by now, but by the end of the night I definitely reckon we were puddles) and took us to a cosy corner booth, right next to the well lit glass cabinet showing a wide array of alcohol and drinks, surrounded by green plants.
The whole room had an antique feel, with its wooden floors and greenery surrounding us :)
What I really liked was the fact that despite the size being smaller than your usual restaurant, they still accommodated a place for a shrine of sorts, traditionally Japanese, as well as a small corner for small children to be left in, complete with toys and games. I am not going to lie to you when I say that I really enjoyed those when I was little, and if it was acceptable, I would love to sit and chill in one now :P
And, it was a really exciting moment, because FOR THE FIRST TIME, we used a wholly automated iPad menu service, even though initially, they presented us with menus as well. These iPad menus have been trending for a while now, and though I have seen them before, I have never voluntarily used one.
It was fantastic!
Not only did it show your entire order, but for basically all of the menu, there were photos of each dish :)
As we were to find out, if a dish was not available, it automatically was removed from the iPad menu, much more resourceful than placing a sticky note on each individual menu! :)
Furthermore, it corresponded well with the hand held menu, as on the plastic menu, each dish is numbered to make it easier to find on the iPad.
Before coming here, I had heard great things about the menu as it had been expanded to include special new dessert items, as well as a broader range of savoury dishes. That was so appreciated, because Tofu Master and I were both vegetarian!
We sat down, revelled in the new experiences, and constantly, we kept getting asked if we needed anything, if we needed help in working the iPad (Generation Y for the win!) and enjoying ourselves!
Starting off with water, we ordered it and it came basically immediately which was pretty good. But when we needed more, we expected to have to press it again. Nope, instead, our jug was continually refilled and our glasses as well, courtesy of the servers. It was almost as if they had a third eye just for this, and every time our water was running and even we hadn’t noticed, a server would be pouring for us happily :)
To start off the dishes though, we decided to actually initially go with the Fried Potato ($7.80) but BAM! We threw caution to the wind and ordered Lotus Root Chips w/ Chicken Salt ($5.80). It was scary, I mean, we have grown up with the idea of admiring how pretty Lotus look, not devouring their roots!
But it was definitely not a mistake. Crunchy and delicious, it definitely had an oriental flavour, but it was fried perfectly, and generously scattered with chicken salt. Definite tick :D
We were contemplating ordering a second bowl but no, we controlled ourselves and moved on. Initially we were going to order the Vegetarian Spring Rolls ($7.80) but unfortunately, they had run out (a shame but at least I know a popular must-try item when we return!). Instead, Tofu Master and I decided to order a Veggie Tempura Platter ($19.80, main sized) to share.
It came with three bowls of warm soy dipping sauce (generous!), and was massive. Yum :D
And with cutlery sets because as I have mentioned before, chopsticks and I are a dangerous combination. :P
Including sweet potato, pumpkin, eggplant and capsicum (the staples), it also included fried zucchini flowers, and normal zucchini on a bed of grated carrots as well, which made my night! The batter was light, and though looked a little oily, did not taste it at all. It was light, flaky and delicious!
And after dipping it in that sauce, the tempura was even more tantalising. I can remember the taste even now!
Honorary Vegetarian, called as such because he had only one meat item the entire night, and even that was seafood, decided to try the Soft Shell Crab (1$16.80) which was actually special value due now having 4 pieces! It looked lovely, and it came with a sesame dipping sauce. Looking suspiciously like tempura, but with more batter, it lived up to its name in having a soft inside and was basically devoured :D
We were basically completely full at this point (the pre-dinner dessert was kicking in!) but decided to rest a while before continuing our eating spree :D
As we sat, chatted, and snap chatted basically every single moment of the night (I may exaggerate a little, but I promise, I was not the only person photographing on my table :P), a very sweet waiter came up to our table and offered us a try of his hometown’s special Japanese Sake Ippin, an alcoholic beverage traditionally eaten with dinner.
I was driving, both Tofu Master and Honorary Vegetarian are turning 18 in 1 and 2 months (basically) respectively, so we had to decline, but yet another reason to return via bus :D
Next to order, we didn’t really want cold Udon noodles, a staple of Japanese cuisine, and decided instead to see what the fuss about Ramen was, if you ate them properly in a restaurant and not as part of your Yr 12, 12am study diet :P
We pressed a ‘call service’ button on the iPad and promptly, a waiter came up :) – True, his grasp on English was not the best which made conversation a little difficult but his willingness to serve as best he could was so lovely, none of us minded! We asked about the Ramen Hot Pot ($28.80), and even though it does usually have pork pieces in it, the chef happily obliged to making it without and adding in some extra tofu and bean sprouts – score!!!
When it came though, we were so confused. Similar to the Japanese Barbecue Restaurant I visited (also in Neutral Bay, funny that!), it came on a stove, with a side of cold ramen noodles. Um… what?
We learnt (eventually, we were legitimately babes in the wood) that this is to ensure you can eat it at your own pace. You turn the gas on, and heat up the hot, spicy soup full of vegetables and delicious tofu (hence, Tofu Master!) and let it boil and warm for around 10 minutes.
Once you have eaten the vegetables, leave some soup behind and traditionally, you then add in the ramen noodles and reheat for a couple of minutes till they are warm.
It is quite literally two meals in one :D
After initial difficulties, we understood the concept and leisurely (because our stomachs were at breaking point) slurped vegetables, ate soft, spicy tofu and then moved on to the noodles. They were soft and perfectly cooked, and did not become too soft despite being reheated, which was a definite plus :D
For our final part of the evening, we could not simply ignore the dessert menu, even if we had admittedly already technically had this part of the meal. But Izakaya had revamped theirs, and it looked so tasty, we just could not say no!
Because we were so full however, we decided to share a smaller dessert, and all I can say is that when we return, we shall definitely never be sharing again, I promise you! We ordered the Samurai Roll Cake w/ Vanilla Ice Cream ($5.00), and despite not coming with the raspberry coulis as in its picture on their new special desserts menu, it was one of the most delicious desserts ever!
Two rounds of airy, spongey angel food cake, one speckled with something looking like poppy seeds in its batter, both were filled with delicious velvety cream. The icing sugar added to the sweetness, and the vanilla ice cream was rich and smooth, tasting very fresh :D
And I loved the berries on top. They just added to the overall presentation!
It was only after this colossal amount of food that we were finally done with our meal. It was basically exquisite :)
- Fast service with constant check ups
- Lovely atmosphere, a blend of traditional and modern Japanese style
- A great new range from the menu, whether it be noodle, hot pots, seafood, red meat or salads and rolls
- Fresh plates and cutlery between courses
197 Military Road,
Neutral Bay NSW 2089
Phone Number: 9953 4059
Booking: Recommended, they were full on Saturday night with guests waiting
Will we be sharing any dessert? No. Just no. :D
It feels like all I am doing is reviewing of late, but I promise you mes cheris as soon as I can find some time (ahem… easter break ;), I will be back and baking a storm! Or at least equivalent to a rain shower, I dunno… :P
Till then, enjoy this food porn!
Disclaimer: Go Bake Yourself and her friends ate as guests of Izakaya Samurai Restaurant, under the limit of $80. Despite being sponsored, all of their opinions are their honest and their own.