Sushi & Sashimi Masterclass – Ocean Room, Sydney

September 23, 2012
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Living in Sydney, we can often take our surroundings for granted. Always on our way somewhere – usually in a hurry – we are so concerned with where we are going, that we don’t bother to look around us while we’re getting there.

Sydney really is a gorgeous place.

I have noticed this more so lately and its really never more apparent than when you’re by the water.

Sun bursting through the roof to floor windows, Sydney’s harbour and Opera House on one side and the finest fish money can buy on the other. I’m at Ocean Room at the Overseas Passenger Terminal, Circular Quay, and am surrounded by other Sydney food bloggers and we are in for a treat.

Chef Raita Noda – Ocean Room’s executive chef – has graciously offered to give us a sushi and sashimi masterclass (*squeeee*).

Chef Raita came to Australia in 1990 from Tokyo, Japan and has always been fond of cooking. Taking up an apprenticeship with Matsukaze Restaurant in Sydney’s Chifley Plaza, Chef Raita also worked at a number of other acclaimed Japanese restaurants in Sydney, before becoming head chef and proprietor of Rise Restaurant in Darlinghurst. It was at Rise that he earned his first chef’s hat in the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, proving to Australian diners that he meant business, and was here to stay.

Contacted personally, Chef Raita was asked to open Ocean Room in 2004 and has never looked back. And really, with a view like that how could you?

Ocean Room underwent renovations in 2009 and the space is nothing short of spectacular. The view really couldn’t be any better but the simple, elegant interior definitely stands its ground. Gorgeous bamboo hanging from the curved room and cascading down the wall, stylish tables with booths for larger groups, it really is a stunning space.

Chef Raita tells us that the food at Ocean Room is Contemporary Japanese – authentic Japanese flavours, but modernised for an edge. In a word “iki” which means modern/stylish in Japanese – or shmick ;) He also explains that sushi should always be slim so that the eater can consume it in one bite. Saying that it needs to be ladylike, and a woman with a huge mouthful isn’t very ladylike lol. He should see me eat!

We’re presented with a bowl of warm sushi rice as Chef Raita explains the importance of the rice in any sushi. It should be well seasoned as it needs to be tasty enough to carry the fish correctly. I don’t think I truly understood what he meant until I had a mouthful (a lady like on of course!) of the most deliciously sweet rice I had eaten. A simple combination of rice, red wine vinegar, sugar and salt, the rice is so amazingly tasty that I could quite happily eat a whole bowl.

Going through around 25 kilos of rice a month, Chef Raita imports only the best Koshihikari rice from Japan, and the process of “cutting the rice” in a wooden basket with the vinegar mixture allows the grains to separate and soak up the flavours.

I’m now on a personal mission to replicate this rice at home. Stay tuned :) I might not even make sushi – jut eat the rice lol.

While Chef Raita prepares the sushi, we’re introduced to Narito Ishii from Wellstone Seafood, Ocean Rooms seafood supplier.

Chef Raita and Narito have been friends for over 15 years, beginning their friendship as a young chef and delivery boy. The history and trust shown between the two is obvious as Chef Raita explains that now, when he places his order he simply lists his top three as “something interesting or unique” and leaves the choice up to Narito. He hasn’t let him down yet ;)

Our first sashimi of the day is a tasting platter of Whiting, Kingfish, Travelli, Scallop, Blue Mackerel, John Dori and Red Imperial. Beautifully presented, we all dive in to try.

All were divine and such amazing quality fish that every bite was pure sashimi heaven. My favourite of the plate was definitely the Imperial. With the citrus rind on top, it was a simple tasting fish brought to life. Absolutely delicious!

Narito lifts the fin of the Bluefin tuna we are tasting today to show us the size. That fin belonged to an 85.6 kilo tuna. The second biggest of the season, the first weighed in at 107 kilos. Mega!

Today is my first time trying Toro and am lucky enough to be sampling both chu-toro – the “medium fatty” section of the tuna, and o-toro – the fattiest part of the tuna, and there for the most sought after (and expensive).

The chu-toro is slightly chewier than regular sushi and lusciously oily on the tongue, while the o-toto literally melts in the mouth and well worth its weight in gold.

Asked what his favourite sushi is to eat at home, and easy enough for us to do, Chef Raita explains the process of temaki – which I would liken to a kind of DIY Japanese fajita. Of course mine wouldn’t look like a hatted chef had done it, but you get my drift ;) Chef Raita also likes this method as you can have more seafood stuffed in to the cone. I like this mans thinking!

A little bit of this…

A little bit of that……

Done :D thanks to the lovely hand model Jeroxie who said it tasted delish and was PACKED with fish :)

Up next is the Imperial, topped lightly with lime salt, this fish works best without soy and after tasting, I have to agree. A very light tasting fish, the citrus helps the Imperial shine through by not overpowering with soy.

I’m normally not a fan of cuttlefish as I find it too rubbery and lacking in flavour but this one is perfectly tender and served with sesame. It works great with the mild nutty flavour.

A random selection, we try the Latchet from Bermagui. Typically used for fish and chips, and pricing at only $7 a kilo, this is the “unique” fish that Chef Raita talks about when he leaves the decision up to Narito. A great decision actually! Its a deliciously meaty fish and makes me want to go out and grab some!

Up last is our final bit of tuna – the akami cut is the leanest out of the three, hence the dark scarlet colour. Its marinated in oil and although chewier than the others, is a very intense flavour.

When asked to pose for a photo together, the boys channel their inner Zoolander and bring it! Such a handsome pair ;)

A wonderful way to spend an afternoon, its clear that Chef Raita is passionate about seafood, and his craft.

Upon returning home and showing Stud my photos form the day, it was quite apparent that I need to book us in for a night of gorgeous seafood at Ocean Room. Well jel of my day, he now needs to experience it for himself.

Save us a seat Chef, we’ll be back!

Dining with a Stud attended the Sushi and Sashimi masterclass at Ocean Room thanks to Wasamedia.

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These views are mine and mine only. I don't claim to be any kind of professional food critic, I just know what I do and don't like and express accordingly. Please contact me first if you wish to use any of my images for another purpose.