When I heard that a former chef from Bodega had decided to open a traditional Japanese izakaya, I thought for a moment that heaven had somehow crept into the everyday. It was within an Osakan izakaya that I fell in love with everything Japanese (especially the chindogu) and Bodega remains one of my favourite Sydney restaurants. Izakaya Fujiyama sounded about as far up my alley as anyone could go* and I’m still surprised it took me so long to visit, especially given how much I enjoyed the place.
The standout dish on the menu was Kenji’s Fried Chicken: the chef’s take on the stalwart of the Japanese beer snack, chicken karaage. The morsels were crispy on the outside, succulent in the middle, delicately spiced and utterly moreish with Kewpie mayonnaise the perfect accompaniment. I could safely dine on this alone as long as the Sapporo draft and Hop Yebisu kept flowing. Is there anything better than a dry, crisp beer and well-cooked fried chicken on a Friday night after a tough week at work? The life of a salaryman has its benefits, it seems.
Off the specials list, which was extensive, we indulged in teriyaki beef ribs that were richly flavoured although the meat didn’t fall off the bone quite like you would hope. It wasn’t a bad dish though. The fried Queensland calamari picked up where the karaage left off, lightly battered and bite-sized, and snacked upon between banter and beverages in the comfortable and bustling atmosphere of this unassuming Surry Hills eatery.
To counter the fried offerings, we ordered the sashimi plate and all fish were of the highest quality in particular the tuna, so tender you didn’t even need to use your teeth to break it apart. In a similar vein, the peppered crispy pork belly was so ridiculously tender that you were almost forced to smile in ecstasy as the fatty goodness invaded your taste buds. We weren’t dieting here folks, we were dining, and it was delightful.
A visit to an izakaya isn’t complete without edamame, which we were reluctantly gifted due to a waitress forgetting to immediately provide our order to the kitchen. Our gripe wasn’t with the mistake but the passive aggressive response when it was pointed out. But this speed bump on the evening’s generally excellent service was the exception rather than the rule and even if we had been served by the Gallagher brothers themselves, the meal and the atmosphere were so amazing it wouldn’t have mattered. We paid $180 for three and we’ll all be back next Friday, when the working week ends and the salaryman again needs to unwind.
52 Waterloo Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9698 2797