New Japanese in Ultimo
Noodlies, Sydney food blog takes a first look
By Thang Ngo
“What is this yellow thing?”
I thrust a dangling strip of yellow and white that’s about an inch long and impossibly thin. Captured between my matt black chopsticks the fried bit of food wriggles, making it difficult for him to focus on it. I lift the chopsticks. He leans forward. The waiter is in all black and my chopsticks blend with his t-shirt until all I can see is the yellow wriggling curio. It’s literally in front of his nose now and he’s focusing so intently that he’s gone cross-eyed. His eyes are black, deep black and I can almost see the yellow wriggling thing reflected in those eyes. I’d give anything for those young eyes, the whites are clear, clean, Colgate bright – I’m instantly ashamed of mine, yellowed, murky things with bursts of red lines. His dark lashes are so closely formed making it look like he’s wearing eye-liner, highlighting the brilliant black and white eyes. I turn away in shame.
“Umm, let me check” he says slowly in that an accent that’s clean, international. A minute later he reappears from the kitchen. “shallots” he says with a confident grin. I knew it wasn’t. It’s not green and there’s no hot, mustard bite.
I pick my battles, sometimes it’s just not worth being pedantic. Pedantic, stubborn types are often bores, I’ve been that, I’ve seen it in other people. But alas, this place is just a month old and I intend to blog about it, so letting go isn’t an option this time.
“I think not” I smile. The whites of his eyes dims a little, like a disappointed puppy. And I hate myself momentarily. In a kung fu-esque manoeuvre, I flip the miso cup lid over with one hand and grabbing my chopsticks with the other, I throw a couple of yellow strands into the lid. I thrust the make-shift mini plate and its cargo at him, “please, can you ask the kitchen? Thank you”.
He too responds like a fung fu master, in a blink of an eye, the ninja disappears behind the floating white curtain walls, reminiscent of the many dramatic curtain kung fu fights from Hero, a 2002 Jet Li martial arts classic.
Takara is a month old and replaces one of the many cheap-and-cheerful, non-descript Asian eateries in the Ultimo end of Chinatown that feeds the school of local and overseas students. It’s obvious this restaurant is trying to be different, a little more upmarket, a tad more spesh.
They take advantage of the corner location – all tables are stretched along the windows so literally every table is a window table. Helped by a long expanse of floor to ceiling glass windows, the place is bright, the minimal, clean layout adds to the airy atmosphere. It stays clean and bright with the help of a white curtain canopy with envelopes diners while hiding the kitchen and other restaurant nic nacs. It’s simple but instantly winning effect that is a little jaw-dropping at first.
It’s 11.15am and the place is empty except for me. Despite a hearty breakfast, I’m famished.
The yellow wriggly things are found in my eel dish, which comes in a typical black and red lacquer-look box, the look extends to containers for my sides, including salad, miso and glass of water. The glistening eel is exactly how I like it moist, tender and leaves a light umami taste which makes you immediately want another mouthful. It’s topped with lightly fried shallots, which are, ahem, green and sits on top of a generous foundation of long grain white rice and these yellow and white things. These ‘things’ have a fluffy, floury consistency, though it’s hard to really discern as the strips are too thin and my palate is clouded by that heady eel.
“It’s omelette” he’s back and before I could ask another question, he disappears.
I’m alone again, floating in the breezy, curtained cocoon of Takara.
8 Quay St, Haymarket
02 9212 2276