Iza Kaya Fujiyama - Surry Hills NSW
A pub that opens from 6 pm every night, except Sunday evenings, and which combines a wide selection of the brew from Japan. Sit on casual wooden tables and down the brew with delicate and tasty snacks representing the best of a cultural tradition - and using the freshest of ingredients. This is what Izakaya Fujiyama offers, as if it was nestled on a station up the mountain slope, with narrow boat-like serving utensils and in a venue hidden away from the main strip in Surry Hills. Above , a selection of fresh bluefish tuna, salmon and mackerel. The ambiance was seemingly cluttered but informally easy, as perhaps what a sit down sake shop should be.
There are rice wines, Australian wines, plum wines, well known mainstream Japanese beers like Sapporo and Asahi, soft drinks, straight shots of Ronin, mixtures of high balls and even a Cabernet blend from Yamanashi. The latter named is a rare treat in the Australian market, where it can be a task to ask for wines from outside Australia and New Zealand.
It is meant to be pub-styled food, so servings are necessarily cocktail sized, but each bite of the savoury and not so savoury degustation offers interesting glimpses into the Japanese penchant for texture, intensity and yet lightness, all at the same time. The long beans shown above have been coated with a distinct sesame dressing. Below, the view of Paddington styled terrace houses across Waterloo Street, standing at the front of the Izakaya.
A plate of chef Kenji' Maenaka's fried chicken was sampled, but what intrigued me was the steamed pork belly, garnished with hoba miso and eggplant. Hoba refers to the magnolia plant leaf and miso is the bean based paste that most often is a staple of a soup.
My group of nine persons commenced dinner before the sun set, and located centrally on the venue, had the glare from a direct setting sun, with occasional bursts of cloud cover. Above picture shows the Edamame, salted young soya beans that do go well with beer and the like.
The Izakaya is fashioned in a distinct way, distinguishing itself from the sushi train model and ramen laden civility. It played American tracks from another era in a brash and upfront way. Hey, it is meant to be a pub. It is a Japanese pub. I half expected to see salarymen and geisha types, but being in Surry Hills, the demographic of the guests was not difficult to measure up. Some of them may have wandered from the neighbouring Aussie styled pubs to come have some light and more healthy food, instead of the mash and steaks.
Would I return? I reckon it's a good choice for a group of mates and it provides the setting of a night out, which means there can be other places to adjourn to after the Izakaya. In my case, my group went for the Sicilian gelato joint, Messina. I noticed that all the cooks in the transparent kitchen area were Asian, but the Caucasian staff wore Nippon styled aprons. Staff were attentive and responsive, especially when it came to drink orders. Next time I may try the Satsuma Age, home made fish balls with ginger soy sauce, sounding very Chinese; the kingfish nuta with tortilla, garnished with a lime flavoured miso and eaten with a wasabi mayonnaise; their version of a grilled fish head; and the Fujiyama Jaffa cake, a flourless choc concoction with choc custard, ruby grapefruit and of all things, popcorn.