Mention the name Marrickville and any Sydney foodie would immediately think of Vietnamese thanks to the moderate number of restaurants that line the two main thoroughfares of Illawarra and Marrickville Roads. My first choice would be to head out to Cabramatta for Vietnamese but because of the long schlepp from where I live it becomes more of a day-trip rather than quick and casual meal.
A catch-up with friends brought us to Marrickville, they do live there after all, and rather than the usual Vietnamese we headed to one of the places they’ve been frequenting for budget-friendly Japanese food. Gyoza is one thing that always gets ordered no matter which Japanese restaurant we go to. The Sakai version is decent enough the first time we had it but on a more recent revisit the gyoza (6.8) is a little anaemic in comparison, as you can see in the pics below. Beef tataki (9.8) is also a dish I can’t ignore and despite it’s slightly-thicker-than-normal slices I liked every mouthful.
Tempura, in theory, is a nice thing to throw in the Japanese dinner set but somehow after a couple of pieces I always wonder what all the fuss is about. Bland bits of veg and maybe a tasty prawn with that blanketing flavour of oil. And before the aficionado’s pounce I have had great quality tempura and still felt the same. Perhaps it’s just wasted on slouches like me. The Sakae tempura (10.8) is a crunchy jumble of prawn, fish and veg. When it comes to crumbed and fried chicken, torikara (8.8), I simply can’t help myself. I mean who doesn’t like crispy fried chicken?
A bit of freshness comes as generously-piled spicy sashimi don (14.8) with sliced cucumber, lettuce, a wedge of sweet omelette and a vinegared chilli sauce on the side. What more can I say? It’s a medley of raw fish chunks that would satisfy any sashimi lover. Speaking of love … the relationship I have with takoyaki (6.8) runs pretty deep and I insist on trying it every time I set eyes on a Japanese menu that offers it. Grilled octopus balls with special sauce, as the menu declares. The deep-fried octopus balls aren’t the best you’ll scorch your mouth with but the creamy innards and thin crispy shell will have you tucking in for another one. A squiggle of mayo and generous dusting of dancing bonito flakes, who could resist?
A recent lunch-time visit starts us off with agedashi tofu (6.8) and the aforementioned anaemic gyoza filled with pork and veg. As a lunch-time special you can choose a dish from the main/curry/noodle/don options and get a sashimi dish for $4.80 rather than $9.80. Not bad, I reckon. The tuna sashimi (4.8) is perfection. As for the unatama don (12.8), it’s just as it should be – cooked eel with sweet caramelised onion, egg and rice. A cooling dessert of sesame ice cream (5.5) topped with red bean surprisingly tastes more of vanilla than sesame. Odd. Maybe it was the eel that made the sesame flavour less than mild. I wouldn’t scramble to go back a third time but if I was hungry and in the neighbourhood, I’d give it some serious thought.