Gaku Robata Grill’s excellent omakase will make you happy

Gaku Robata Grill: Sydney's spellbinding omakase restaurant.

6 Min Read
Sweet and smoky.

Japanese restaurant Gaku Robata Grill in Sydney’s inner city suburb of Darlinghurst was once known for its robatayaki (char-grilled food) and ramen, but now it’s one of the best omakase restaurants in town.

The establishment is in the hands of two award-winning Japanese chefs: Haru Inukai (who formerly worked under the late French chef, Joel Robuchon) and Shimon Hanakura (a former Aria chef). Inukai tells us that serving omakase is more intense than serving a la carte. We can see why, but the pair make it look easy.

“As you may know, we have had a lot of experience in serving robatayaki, sushi, sashimi, ramen etc,” the duo say on their website. “We hope to bring you taste of authentic Japanese culture. With this experience, we offer you omakase with a high degree of perfection.”

Sake at Gaku Robata Grill.
Service begins.

Starters

Andrea: Chefs Haru Inukai and Shimon Hanakura start the evening with a bang by presenting us with a wooden box. It’s dotted with beautiful ornaments, like golden fans, and looks more like a gift for a special occasion.

The box is full of appetisers, including a monaka that’s tucked inside a paper bag. A monaka is typically a sandwich of azuki bean paste between thin mochi wafers, but in this case, the filling is foie gras. The next morsel, nanban-zuke (fried fish in vinegar), balances the foie gras. Then we have octopus dressed in a tangy persimmon sauce, abalone and capsicum mousse with a cloud-like feel.

Appetiser box at Gaku Robata Grill.
A gift box of appetisers.

Next up is chawanmushi (Japanese egg custard) with spanner crab truffle sauce. I can’t believe how smooth the custard is. The delicate texture mirrors the delicate flavours of custard and crab.

Rex: These subtleties contrast nicely with the strong truffle. As you may have guessed, Inukai and Hanakura inject a little French into their dishes.

Andrea: We move swiftly to the kobu-lime flounder, paradise prawn and scallop sashimi, which stay nicely chilled on top of an ice block. A dash of uni (sea urchin) on the scallop gives it a touch of decadence.

Paradise prawn, scallop and flounder.
Fresh is best.

Rex: On to the sea treasure ball, or scallop and prawn topped off with mousse and caviar. The blend of textures – the crunchy scallop, smooth mousse and buttery caviar – makes for an interesting dish.

Scallop, prawn and caviar at Gaku Robata Grill.
Presented like the treasure it is.

Mains

Andrea: The chefs bring out the lobster next. They simmer it in half a kilo of melted butter and half a kilo of water. Haru Inukai says it best: it’s “a very rich stock”.

Haru Inukai from Gaku Robata Grill in Sydney.
Haru Inukai cooks lobster for us at Gaku Robata Grill.

Rex: Like many omakase experiences, guests eat at a bar facing the kitchen so they can see all the action. We see the chefs work methodically in a sort of production line. They have many things to do in little time, but they work like a well-oiled machine.

Andrea: As the omakase progresses, the chefs serve richer meat like wagyu three ways: a sirloin, tenderloin and outside skirt. They’re perfectly pink and tender. They come with a soy and sesame yakiniku dipping sauce to give them a little extra.

Then comes the sushi, featuring an oh-so-fatty Japanese otoro nigiri and a negitoro hand roll. The duo have outdone themselves again.

Sushi at Gaku Robata Grill.
The sushi is next level.

Rex: It doesn’t stop there. Now it’s time for the char-grilled eel on top of glossy, yumepirika rice. Yumeperika rice is a high-end grain that results from the best rice-growing techniques. The eel’s flesh is sweet but it’s also a bit smoky from the charred top.

Before Gaku Robata Grill served omakase, the restaurant was known for its lunchtime ramen. We were never able to try it but we had solid food envy given the rave reviews.

Andrea: Well, now’s our time, because it features on tonight’s menu! We’re given the choice between ramen with duck and yuzu (a Japanese citrus), clam soy or wagyu in a small or large bowl. I can’t say no to more wagyu. The ramen is so damn good, but I choose the small bowl because I don’t want to fill up. Needless to say, it lives up to the hype.

Wagyu ramen at Gaku Robata Grill.
Would you look at this.

Dessert

Rex: It’s time to refresh our palates, and Gaku Robata Grill offers just the thing: fresh melon, juicy orange panna cotta and a dash of truffle ice cream.

The evening finishes with a palate cleanser of green tea and Japanese nerikiri, a white bean paste that’s shaped and coloured like a berry.

Fresh melon, orange panna cotta and truffle ice cream.
Refreshing and rich, on the one plate.

Andrea: The attention to detail is not just in the food. The service is impeccable, and the decor, like the restaurant’s intricate wooden carvings, makes you feel as if you are in Japan.

You’re in good hands if you come to Gaku Robata Grill. It’s right up there with the most sophisticated omakase experiences in Sydney.


Gaku Robata Grill
2/132 Darlinghurst Rd
Darlinghurst, Sydney

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