It’s the Zen moments that distinguishes a Japanese food experience, finding richness in the bland, seeing profound insight in a single brush stroke. So it is with with Katsu Yachiyo, blink and you might miss it, outside there’s no lurid flashing neons, just the light blue noren doorway curtains to flag what goes on inside.
Katsu Yachiyo is part of a cluster of restaurants on Devonshire Street, away from the Crown and Oxford street eating hubs and their hordes of hungry punters, here, the restaurants are smaller, more intimate – Devonshire is your girl/boyfriend while Oxford is the best friend that just wants to party and get laid.
The Zen experience continues inside; minimal, functional, balanced, both side walls are transformed into floor to wall menus, etched with crisp white chalk strokes. It’s a small space with around eight tables, tightly placed though not cramped, the open kitchen occupying the far left corner, partitioned by a counter and a row of brilliant blue and brown sake bottles. Here two young chefs, with compact but highly styled hair work in perfect harmony, barely a word passes between them.
At front of house for this Thursday lunch time is a Japanese waitress who is impossibly polite. I feel a million dollars. She hands me the menu with both hands and eyes modestly averted, she may be also cracking a Mona Lisa smile, it’s hard to tell as all I can see is the straight black stands of hair at the back of her head. The menu extends beyond Japanese standards to include crispy wasabi salmon, blue eye cod shabu shabu, green tea noodle salad and an impressive range of Japanese sake that can be bought in small servings or larger bottles.
Noodlies, Sydney food blog feels like a light lunch and order udon gozen, while it’s just $10 the dish comes as three separate mini courses delivered to my table, vip-style – salad and miso, then agedashi; the crispy outer stays crunchy ’til the last bite with a firm tofu centre that tenderly dissolves in the mouth, udon comes in a wide metal dish over a heated clay brick, the slippery, eel-like white wheat noodles floating in a pond of dashi stock, the salty flavours are just perceptible which gives your senses a good exercise.
Katsu Yachiyo is glorious Zen in the middle of Surry Hills.
208 Devonshire St, Surry Hills