Shop 3, 76 Ultimo Rd
Haymarket, Sydney 2000
I’m currently on the hunt for a casual Japanese go-to in Sydney, except it’s proving to be harder than I had expected. With so many options available, I’ve ended up feeling more paralysed by indecision, rather than liberated by choice. No sooner have I decided on a place to try will I find another that seems maybe just a smidge better, and the whole cycle will begin again. But of course, I do have to eat at some point, and the restaurant at the top of my list when dinnertime came around was Kura, so Kura it was.
To say Kura is small is an understatement. For those of you who have been to Don Don in Melbourne before it moved to its newer and much more spacious premises, Kura gives it a run for its money. It was a full house the night we went, and by which I mean there were 18 people crammed elbow-to-elbow at tables barely bigger than a desk you’ll find in a primary school classroom. Yet despite that, the menu was extensive, covering everything you could reasonably expect from a casual Japanese restaurant.
Leaving the cheese-and-fish-roe-covered version for another day, I decided to just go with the classic Takoyaki ($5.5, 6pcs). These had a decent amount of octopus in them, but erred on the side of blandness, even with the generous amount of sauce on top. It hit the craving, but only just.
The Steamed Prawn Gyoza ($5.9, spicy) on the other hand weren’t bland, but I don’t mean that in a good way. Not only were the dumplings distinctly pre-made, frozen, and re-heated – the centre was an indistinguishable mush – but it was topped with a chilli sauce whose dominating characteristic was saltiness. Definitely give these a miss.
One thing I did rather like was how Kura lets you order a Half and Half Set ($14.5) from a generous selection of options. I always want to order more food than I can eat, and this option helps me to try a few more things without going entirely overboard. The first dish I chose was the Chicken Cutlet Curry, which had a sauce that was on the plainer side, but an absolutely wonderful piece of tender chicken katsu, covered in a golden, crunchy batter that was neither doughy nor greasy. I would happily eat a full-sized serve of this.
The Tonkotsu Ramen on the other hand was much less thrilling, especially compared to the excellent ramen you can get around town. The broth was passably porky, the noodles acceptable, and there wasn’t much in the way of topping, other than an unremarkable half of a soft-boiled egg. In summary, adequate, but not much more.
I was really feeling the sushi that day, so I ordered the Salmon and Scallop Aburi Sushi ($11.7, 6pcs), which came with a bowl of miso soup. The seared salmon wasn’t all that great; the slice of fish was much too thin, even for the price, and it was topped with an odd lemony mayo which didn’t taste bad per se, but I would’ve much preferred to just dip it into some soy.
The scallops on the other hand fared a lot better. These were fresh and plump, their melt-in-the-mouth texture brought out by a once-over with the blowtorch.
With just enough room for dessert, I went for the freshly made Taiyaki ($6.8, 3pcs). I loved the slight smokiness to the pastry that reminded me of freshly made pancakes, and the centre of sweetened red bean paste was a comforting throwback to my childhood.
So how did Kura fare? To be honest, I wasn’t a fan. With the exception of the occasional highlight, the meal sat somewhere between below average and mediocre. To be fair, I probably can’t expect more given the prices (cheap) and location (central and convenient), but I would’ve gladly forsaken the very extensive menu for fewer, but more well-made options.
Rating: 11.5/20 – medio-kura.
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.