257 High Street, Northcote
One chilly Thursday evening D and I headed out to Northcote (a first for me: I know, I know, I really need to get out more) to see a university play that a friend of D’s was starring in. Afterwards, feeling cultured and peckish, we traipsed up Northcote High Street to Otsumami, which I’d recently read about on another blog.Before I get to the restaurant, I’d just like to say that Northcote High Street is a really funky strip of shops. On a Thursday night we passed numerous wine and tapas bars brimming with people, as well as cheaper dining options and some fun looking clothes shops, which I’d like to come back and peruse during the day. Past all these we continued, until we got to the dimly lit windows of Otsumami. The place was buzzing, luckily we managed to bag a table but I’d recommend booking.
The menu is split into “Small Food”, “Medium Food” and “Bigger Food”, and the recommended amount for two people is one dish from each category (although I think if you’re hungry you’d go for two big and one of the others). I really liked the simple, dark fit-out of the restaurant, the clean wooden tables and sleek kitchen bar. In the back room there are authentic Japanese tables where you sit cross-legged on cushions, which could be a fun experience.Our Medium Food dish came out first, tori niku gyoza with chicken, coriander, shiitake mushrooms and five spice. These were quite a pleasant rendition of gyoza, they had a nice thin casing with a gorgeous crispy pan fried side. They were tasty but a little dry, luckily the soy-ginger dipping sauce was there to moisten them!
The Small Food dish (which D chose and which, I will admit, I was skeptical about until I tasted it) was the salmon harumaki – salmon, cheese and nori spring rolls with wasabi mayo. D was rather indignant when I told him of my skepticism, but I mean seriously, salmon and cheese? But it works! It works I tell you! Even the sauce that looked like the icing on the chocolate cakes from Woolworths, as incongruent as it appeared, worked well to liven up the rolls. From a purely foodie perspective, I enjoyed the experience of the hot crispy nori with the cooked salmon and the slight cheesy flavour (although I still can’t get over how this works as a dish).
Our “big food” dish was the tsuke sashimi don (which I practically begged D to order) – sashimi marinated in soy, garlic, sesame oil and mirin served on sushi rice with shiso, sesame and nori.
OH MY GOODNESS.
This was amazing! D and I have been reminiscing about this dish ever since, it was so so good. We each took one mouthful, looked up at each other, eyes wide in exclamation, and all conversation stopped until the entire bowl was gone. This was definitely the best out of the three, very fresh and light (served at room temperature), and I simply loved the mirin/garlic/etc marinated sashimi that was perfectly accented by the pickled ginger. It’s like a sushi salad, really, but with the delicious marinade soaking the rice. If you try one new Japanese dish this year, let it be this!
Our meal came to under $40 for the two of us, incredible value for the excellent quality of food and service. I will most definitely be crossing over to Northcote again, if only for the tsuke sashimi don!UPDATE: 26/11/11
We returned to Otsumami recently, and ordered a few different dishes, which I thought I’d write about.We started off with Edamame, a brilliant starter dish and something I would like to see used as bar food (admittedly a rather posh bar but nonetheless). I love popping them into my mouth.
Then came our new favourite dish from Otsumami (yes, the sashimi don has been overturned). The sesame tuna with avocado and sweet miso. Gorgeous pink cubes of raw tuna with a thick sauce that was nutty and tangy and delicious. A brilliant dish. Please order it. I can also report that the chicken don was quite nice, with a kind of teriyaki glaze and nicely balanced.