Sydneysiders who love Japanese food will no doubt have tried Yayoi. For those in need of an introduction, it’s a restaurant chain that’s come from Japan, where they already have in excess of 300 restaurants. So it’s no surprise that it was quite popular when they first landed in Australia.
I first visited their Yayoi Galeries branch when they were newly opened and the wait was excessively long. And though the crowds have died down, as they do, the beautiful presentation of the food an standout freshness is reason enough for me to make a visit from time to time. So when I received an invite from FCBA Australia to try out their newly opened branch in Westfield Sydney, I was only too eager to go!
Although the menu is largely the same between their different branches, there are some slight differences. And one big drawcard for the new Westfield location is their Umeshu (Japanese Plum Wine) offerings. If plum wine is your thing, you’ll definitely wanting to make a visit soon. Even if it’s not, you’ll want to check out their extensive umeshu menu- you’ll probably even find a new favourite!
The simplicity of the menu makes it easy for those not too familiar with plum wine (or alcohol for that matter), like me. The 10 options are rated based on sweetness and aroma, so naturally I go for the ones with the sweetest ratio: the Mutenka Umeshu and Nigori Fruit Puree
They’re the perfect balance of sweet and tangy without being too strong on the alcohol flavour- definitely my kind of drink!
The menu’s split into an A La Carte and a Teishoku section. That is, you can either order dishes by themself or as part of a set meal.
We start with the classic Japanese starter that is edamame. It’s great for snacking on with umeshu. The tamagoyaki, a beautifully wrapped, lightly sweetened Japanese egg omelette also proves popular.
The salmon salad is a simple combination of salad leaves and salmon. Nothing too flashy, making the freshness of the salmon the focus of the salad. But if salmon is your thing, try the Salmon Teriyaki. Cooked in a light teriyaki sauce with seasonal veggies, it’s light and more fresh than other versions.
And though the Chicken Namban, which comes with a golden crisp egg batter , is not quite as light, it’s not at all oily and the meat surprisingly moist. It’s not difficult to see why this is one of their more popular dishes, the thin fluffy batter quite unlike anything else. It makes for an impressive crunch before giving way to a succulent, tender piece of chicken. The tartness of the light tartare sauce topping works well to balance out the flavour.
If you’ve got enough stomach space for a full meal, it’s well worth paying the little extra to get the Taishoku which also comes with soup, rice and two sides.
Not that you really need anything extra with the Wagyu Sukiyaki. It comes with the lot. There’s the meltingly tender wagyu slices, mushrooms, veggies, konjac knots and udon all served in the sweet sukiyaki broth. I’m loving the variety, and the generous serve of veggies, mostly in the form of mushrooms, although next time I’d probably order this to share!
And don’t be fooled by the Mix Toji Teishoku. It’s not just the simple omelette it may appear. You’ll find the same delicious wagyu, as well as a fried pork katsu cutlet hidden under the egg, then topped with a tempura prawn. It’s cooked in a similar sukiyaki sauce, although much less soupy than the sukiyaki itself.
The Yayoi Gozen is every indecisive eater’s dream- a selection of 4 of their popular dishes in one beautifully presented bento box. We’ve had the full sized salmon salad and teriyaki, and it’s quite impressive that they’ve even managed to fit a mini sukiyak into the box!
But my favourite has got to be the Unagi Hitsumabushi, a beautiful piece of grilled eel served atop Yayoi’s signature ‘Kinme mai’ rice. The glistening of the sweet unagi sauce is particularly inviting, the sauce working well to compliment the natural sweetness of the eel without being too saucy and overpowering.
But before you dig in, you first need to decide you want to have your unagi- as is, with the accompanying toppings, or with the broth as a soup? There’s no right or wrong answer, regardless of which you choose, it’s definitely a winner.
The lightness of the Japanese desserts on offer are a great accompaniment to the heavier main meals. My recommendation? Go for the Matcha Anmitsu. A simple combination of matcha ice cream, agar jelly, sweet adzuki beans and fresh fruit- it’s sure to be a pleaser.
For something great for sharing, the warabi mochi is the perfect option. It’s not quite as firm as a regular mochi, and almost jelly-like in texture. There’s the matcha and kinako (soybean) varieties to choose from, but they’re small servings so why not go for both?