Replacing the spectacular Flying Fish at the apex of Jones Bay Wharf is an ambitious meeting of two accomplished culinary champions, ambitiously clashing Japanese and Chinese flavours at the behest of The Star Sydney, debuting their very first off-site restaurant.
Chase Kojima (best known for Sokyo) and Victor Liong (best known for Lee Ho Fook) drive the considerable conceptual weight of Chuuka, an homage to 19th century Chuka cuisine. The little known culinary perspective was created when Japanese chefs began adapting Chinese cuisine according to local tastes. It’s rarely seen in the west, but is evidently something that should be explored often given its distinctive mish-mash of flavours that, for Sydney, is a welcome change from the norm.
The venue may take some getting used to. Flying Fish maximised the tip of Jones Bay Wharf with charm unmatched. Chuuka has opted for something a bit darker, commissioning tattoo artist Deepak Munsami to ink the walls while the space has been opened up with a few scattered tables vying for the minimal amount of light offered at night.
Bridge views certainly help add a bit of romance to it all, especially outside where the cosy open-air bar section offers prime position, and its own truncated menu. But if it wasn’t for the artwork, which does indeed add a bit of personality, the space would feel impersonal and rather unexciting.
Miserable outside? You’ve got no choice but to disappear into Chuuka’s dining space, where the experience kicks off perfectly. That is, if you’ve made the wise choice to start with Chuuka’s signature roe service, offering the choice of 30g house marinated trout row caviar ($38), 30g Tasmanian sea urchin roe ($48), or 10g Siberian Osetra caviar ($115). Whatever the option, the service comes with a generous platter of lush cashew cream, shallots, chives, soft tea eggs, and enough potato rice cracker to scoop it all up. Expensive? Yep. Worth it? You bet.
The good impressions roll on with an exceptional Wagyu beef tartare ($22) dressed with pine nuts, nashi pear, cured yolk, wasabi, and toasted seaweed. Fatty and sweet, the meat has plenty of flavours to play with.
Move onto the wok fried king brown mushrooms ($26) with rolled rice noodles, garlic chives, asparagus and soy sauce. It’s an earthiness overload, sweetened by the “superior dark” soy sauce liberally slathered onto the chewy, pasta-like noodles. It’s not the most diverse dish on the menu, but will be a clear highlight for those who like those rich, squishy little browns.
Though if you want something with a bit of a bigger palate, go for the bang bang chicken ($18), undoubtedly one of the superstars of the menu. The soft silken chicken is given most of its flavour from the yuzu kosho, richness which should be offset by a lovely shiso salad with peanuts and aromatic Suchuan chilli oil.
Surprisingly, the most disappointing dish on the menu is one of the most demanding. A usually reliable Wagyu short rib ($59) is plated with carrot kimchi, sweet miso, baby cos lettuce, ginger and spring onion relish. On paper, it should work brilliantly. On my visit, the meat was rubbery and tasteless. On off-day most likely, but a costly mistake for such an ambitious and pricey dish.
Whatever lows were found in my choice of mains were definitely atoned for by, what I feel, is one of the best desserts going around Sydney at the moment.
The Chuuka frozen yoghurt service ($38) is a spectacularly massive bowl of freshly churned yoghurt sorbet layered with mascarpone ice cream and frozen French meringue.
It’s the perfect blank slate for the colourful side bowls, each containing a different topping that you simply sprinkle onto the dessert. Those bowls include yuzu and ginger jam; raspberry, freeze dried beetroot and pink peppercorn; roasted hazelnuts and kinako; Vietnamese coffee jelly; matcha milk crumb; and bitter chocolate and cocoa nibs. Perfection.
THREE AND A HALF STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Address: Suite 62-64, Jones Bay Wharf, 26-32 Pirrama Rd, Pyrmont NSW 2009
Contact: (02) 9657 9882
The writer dined as a guest of Chuuka. This is not a sponsored post and all opinions are that of the writer’s
Feature image: Mark Metcalfe/Getty Images for The Star