There’s no shortage of good Japanese restaurants in Sydney, but if you’re looking for something that’s a little different to the standard sushi and ramen, you’ve got to check out Juan Bowl & Tea.
It’s a tiny space, decked out in a simple, wooden Japanese style decor, complete with bamboo forest patterned wallpaper. Just make sure you book in advance because the place fills up real quick. And it’s not hard to see why!
The menu is short and sweet, consisting of 5 different bowls and tea pairings, but even its just as well, since they all sound equally as delectable.
You’ll want to try their tonkatsu, to experience firsthand the incredibly moist and tender pork fillet. The golden panko crust is light and crispy and although not oily, the fresh veggies go well to compliment the crumb.
Juan’s rice bowls come with two options, a white koshihikari rice or a multigrain variety. We try a bit of both, but decide that white does tend to go better with Japanese dishes like these. The rice in the Tonkatsu bowl is blanketed by a soft omelette, another highlight of this dish. The egg itself is impressively smooth, a result of heating on the one side only.
Menu descriptions are straight to the point and the Wagyu bowl is exactly that. Beautiful thin slices of seared slow cooked wagyu line a mountain of garlic butter flavoured rice. The topping of onsen egg gives it some brunch vibes.
There’s much more flavour than you would expect, and the small dollop of beetroot miso is a surprisingly welcome addition. For those who prefer little more saltiness, there’s also a side of onion sauce.
What I’m really here for is the Unagi Hitsumabushi, that is, their roasted eel rice bowl. It’s covered with a beautiful blanket of egg, and if you’re thinking it looks familiar, you’re right- it’s the same silky smooth egg omelette that appears in the Tonkatsu bowl.
But this one is covered in a bit of shaved halloumi, an interesting touch, but the saltiness does work to season the egg well. And it’s real pretty too!
But dig underneath the egg and you’ll find the real highlight- beautifully roasted, plump pieces of roasted eel. It’s sticky and sweet with a wonderfully delicate texture. It’s a winner as is, but you can also add in some arare (japanese crackers) for crunch, wasabi for a bit of a kick or nori for some extra umami flavour. There’s even a pot of hojicha dashi to make it into a Chazuke (soup).
The Hainan Chicken is a bit of an odd one out on the otherwise very Japanese menu. But plated beautifully with garnish in the form of cucumber, tomatoes, fried onion and picked shallots, it does seem to fit in well- at least looks wise!
You won’t want to miss out on the incredibly smooth and tender chicken. It’s tasty enough to be a stand alone dish in itself, but Hainan chicken is never quite complete without a well seasoned rice and some ginger shallot and chilli sauces to mix in.
Desserts do change around, and the warabi mochi on offer tonight comes in limited quantities, so make sure you get in early! Served in a black sugar syrup, topped with meringue and a sprinkle of kinako (soybean flour), there’s quite a bit going on in terms of taste and texture, but it’s the soft squishy jelly like texture of the warabi mochi we’re loving the most.
The matcha tiramisu seems to be a regular on their dessert menu, which is happy news for us. Presented in a neat wooden box, it’s a serve that’s probably meant for one- let’s just say you won’t want to be sharing this one!
The layers of fluffy matcha soaked sponge lined with creamy marscapone are just like what you would expect, but it’s the perfect balance between the armoatic matcha, the sweet and the creamy that will leave you wanting more.
That’s if you have the stomach space.
But that’s alright, matcha tiramisu, we’ll no doubt meet again in the not too distant future. I’ve already hopped onto Dimmi and made my next booking!