Vibe: 4 stars
Decor: Industria-warehouse homage meets Harajuku laneway bar. Small, buzzy and just the place for small groups. Outdoor dining carries the laneway vibe through and makes smart use of its small pocket of concrete. Quirky and fun.
Food: 4 stars
Damage: Minimal – $60 for 2 will see you sated and happy.
Ah Zushi…underneath those bad graphics lies a super stylish, sophisticate with curves in all the right places.
When the bright orange “Zushi Coming Soon” window decals first went up in early 2010, Mr Surryhills2010 and I were filled with anticipation. Unaware of the older sibling hiding over in Darlo (so many restaurants so little time!), we postulated for weeks about what Zushi could be. The graphics suggested a ‘funky’ (and those who know me will assure you I only use that word ironically) hairdressing salon or a bad gift card store perhaps? Soooo 90s and not in a good way.
You can imagine our delight when the decals came off and revealed was a slick little sushi restaurant reminiscent of many of the Harajuku laneway joints I had known and loved back in Nippon. Like many urbanites around the world since 1990, I have eaten my fair share of sushi. Its definitely a cuisine you either love or hate, and if you love it, you will understand that when the craving hits, there aint no other food that will scratch that itch. Conveniently for moi, Zushi is literally around the corner from my house. And Mr Surryhills2010 couldnt be happier…his love of sushi borders on obsession.
So the design of the restaurant is actually quite something to behold. Imagine a medieval dragon munching up a forest as if it were matchsticks, threw up said matchsticks in a theatrical slo-motion hurl into the night sky and that would accurately portray the roof of Zushi. Post modern pop art at its best….Im sure there is some art wank description that links the mish mash of sticks to an ancient tribal warrior motif by way of “insert relevant famous pop artist here” (and I encourage you to post your own in the Comments section at the end of this post), but this is not an architectural blog, it’s a restaurant blog, so enough about that.
Designed in a laneway style from the front to the back and all the way outside, the architects have managed to create an intimate space that can hold 52 patrons at any one time. Without it feeling cramped or ear piercingly noisy.
On my weekday visit, the place was pumping. In fact on first passby, Mr S and I kept walking coz there was a queue out the front. A chat with some local pals down at Madame Char Char was all it took for the queue to pass through and in seconds we were seated at one of the ground floor tables.
Things we love about Zushi;
- They have carafes of wine on the menu – half carafe, full carafe and bottles. So when Im pretending not to drink for a week, Mr S can always sway my resolve with the promise of only a cheeky half carafe. So Euro; so “its practically good for me!”.
- They serve draft Japanese beer on tap. Nothing quite like a frosted glass of Sapporo Draft. Kanpai!
- The kitchen staff are mostly Japanese. This means what you’re eating is the real deal.
3 dishes you cant go past at Zushi;
The Tuna Tataki. Lightly seared, paper thin wafers of tuna drizzled in ponzu sauce served with a delicious mound of Japanese Coleslaw is seriously orgasmic. And that’s not a word I throw around lightly. Zushi is famous for this dish and one bite and you can see why. You must order it.
A bowl of Edamame. The perfect beer snack. I don’t think I have ever eaten Japanese without first chomping down a bowl of these salty green beauties. And the good news is; theyre good for you! Zushi’s bowl of edamame is huge and I think too big considering its overall place in a Japanese meal but hey, if youre on a budget, you’ll love it.
Finally, the Zushi Signature Spider Roll. Ahhhhhhhhh. Soft shell crab, rolled inside out in nori & rice, with a blanket of avocado so thin Issey Miyake could pop a few pleats into it, send it down the runway at Fashion Week and expect calls from Lady Gaga demanding it as the perfect accompaniment to her next award show arrival. This dish deserves its own restaurant its so good. So fresh the crab is still warm, the perfect amount of wasabi cream drizzled over the top, its hard just to stop at one. Do, as it will give you the perfect excuse to come back….tomorrow.
There’s a great menu of Japanese classics done in a fresh and modern way with just enough of the authentic deft touch you can expect from a proper Japanese chef. Ive also tried the Crispy Scallops (great), the miso (bad), a special of Salmon inside out roll (great) and the Wakame Salad (great). Im lead to believe the Tempura is top notch and from their website photos, Im inclined to believe it.
The menu updates regularly with new dishes to keep you coming back, which Im sure is a tactic to get the locals stopping by frequently.
Zushi has kept the prices down and the quality of produce high with an M.O. that’s all about great food with great value in a friendly loco vibe. The Surry Hills restaurant has achieved that in spades. Awarded the Restaurant of the Year by Lifstyle Food in 2009, the Darlo version of this great sushi joint is clearly where it all began.
If you’re after a fresh, friendly, cruisy meal that’s easy on the hip pocket but heavy on style, Zushi is a great place to start. Would I go back? Hell yeah! Try it out next time in your in the hood. You wont regret it.
285A Crown St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
02 9380 8830
Lunch 7 days
Dinner 7 nights 6-10pm Fri/Sat 6-12am