[CLOSED MAY 3 2013]
Sushi Nagashima is a humble stall in the humble Hunter Connection food court. Fellow Japanophiles need take only one look at the boss dude, and the steady stream of Japanese customers, to know this place is something extra special. This youtube clip describes the Sushi Nagashima experience far better that we could, a big thanks to whoever uploaded it.
Hiroyuki Nagashima is a master of the front counter, a master showman and a master chef. Kylie Kwong will back us up here, she gave him deserved praise in her most excellent Guide to Asian Food Halls. The food has that magic Japanese discipline and attention to detail that transforms a seemingly simple dish, such as raw fish on rice, into something far greater than the sum of it's parts. Every dish, apart from one or two side dishes, is prepared fresh to order. Even the sushi box and bento boxes at the counter are display only, these are made to order by the uber lovely kitchen gals.
Sushi Nagashima's star dish is the neo churashi, simply sashimi on rice (or brown rice for hippies, or salad for the carbo-challenged).
Tell chef how many and which pieces you would like and he'll whip up your chirashi as you watch. Don't feel that if you have to get one of everything. Folks often order something like "three salmon, two egg." Better a few balanced choices than a mish-mash of everything. (Next time we're in for five each of scallop and kingfish, muhahahahha).
These fancy looking fellas are also for the chirashi.
Chirashi ($9.80), sashimi on rice (or brown rice or salad), with a cup of hearty, chunky vegetable soup on the side. Includes kingfish, tuna, squid, scallop, salmon roe and tofu. On Mr Shawn's first visit, around 2pm, the joint is winding down for the day and chef apologises as there were only a few pieces of fish left. "I'll make something special just for you" says Chef. Chef works his knife in a very Japanese way: fast, rhythmic and efficient. It's a joy to watch. Mr Shawn danced all the way home on food-nerd sunshine after this.
Zuke - $10.80 - one of three winter churashi specials. Lightly dressed sashimi with a little cucumber, pickled ginger and egg. Also available on hippie brown rice or Richard Simmon's salad for the same price. Very happy.
Mini wakame salad - $2.50. A small side of garden and seaweed salad with the most wonderful sweet nutty dressing of crushed toasted sesame seeds and mirin (sweet sake). Highly recommended.
Sushi Nagashima also has a few bento boxes on display at the counter. These are display models only, order one and a fresh one will be made of for you, such as this sensational grilled salmon set ($10.80 with side soup). We've had a few bentos around town but none, repeat none, have transported us back to Japan like this. The grilled salmon was authentically dry and best with a dash of soy sauce. The side nibblies were superb, fresh and cooked with that pure Japanese attention to detail. Favourite bits were the wasabi glass noodles and the perfectly cooked potato croquette.
Grilled salmon with fish head - $10.80 (with side soup). Another bento box from the counter, made fresh to order. Chef says this dish is special and hard to find in Australia.
This is a real fishy flesh-fest, a salvo of salmon, a party of protein. There's a mound of salmon offcuts including spine, fins, and tail. We guess these are leftovers from the sushi making process. There's a lot of flesh, a great deal if your happy to pick out the bones.
At the very bottom there's a happy looking salmon head. Turn him over as there's lovely flesh in the cheek.
The chanko is that big pot of stew meat'n'veggie stew. You get a free cup of it with your churashi or bento box also. This stuff is excellent.
Mrs Shawn has no idea what a chanpon is, so he orders one. Wikipedia says a champon is a Chinese inspired dish and is from Nagasaki.
Champon $8.80 - of the various options chef suggests noodles with pork in a salt broth. It's a plain and filling dish, very Chinese, a bit boring at first. But as often happens with noodle soups, all the flavours melded halfway through the bowl, the magic noodle soup moment we call it. The noodles are great, like spaghetti, and cooked al dente. There's enough slithers of meat to give the dish some oomph, and a handful of veggies. Not 'wow' dish, but a good, plain, healthy, hearty option if you're in the mood for it.
BACK AGAIN MARCH 2013
We get a takeaway chirashi each and have a romantic picnic watching demonstrations at Sydney university.
[BACK AGAIN APRIL 2013]
Mr Nagashima has three summer specials on the board, we give Cold Noodles with Salmon - $8.80 a spin before it disappears with the summer sun. It's a bowl of thin cold white wet noodles with assorted fresh veggies, a little seaweed, a slice of googie-egg-fish-cake-thingy plus salmon roe and salmon sashimi. Yum!
Mr Shawn pours the provided sauce over the top, it's ugly but it tastes good, it tastes like that Japanese sauce made by toasting sesame seeds, the mashing them and adding mirin. It's sweet and nutty and delicious. It does overpower the sashimi and roe though, next time we'll eat the fishy goodies before adding the sauce.
The bummer is that Sushi Nagashima is only open weekdays from 10am-3pm, accessible only to city office workers and self-unemployed bums like Mr Shawn. Try to get in before the lunch rush.
Sushi Nagashima is on the upper level of the Hunter Connection food court, F12B / 7-13 Hunter Street. www.sushi-nagashima.com.au/