This omakase by sensational chef Takayoshi Watanabe is insanely good

Master chef Takayoshi Watanabe's omakase is theatre as much as it is a mind-blowing feast.

7 Min Read
Chef Taka Watanabe shows off a 30kg grouper.

For one week in November, Japanese master sushi chef Takayoshi Watanbe ran an omakase pop-up at newly launched Oborozuki restaurant in Sydney’s Circular Quay.

It was an opportunity not to be missed. The Instagram-famous head chef of Teruzushi in Kitakyushu in Tokyo’s Fukuoka prefecture has as much charisma as he does technique. Watanabe, with his assistant, Henry Lai, promised an evening of unique flavours, dramatics and even swords, and they delivered.

“We have prepared Japanese heart and Japanese skill along with Sydney’s awesome ingredients for the best experience for you tonight,” Chef Watanabe tells us. “So is everybody ready for a flight from Sydney to Japan?”

Hell, yes.

Chef Taka Watanabe and his cooking knife.
Chef Taka Watanabe and his cooking knife.

Takayoshi Watanabe starters

Andrea: The omakase begins with a decadent tuna, sea urchin (uni) and caviar appetiser. It’s topped with a sprinkling of edible gold and wrapped in nori. It’s a pillowy umami flavour bomb.

Caviar, uni (sea urchin) and tuna in nori (seaweed).
A bite of luxury.

Rex: Chef Taka begins preparing his next seafood morsel: amberjack in miso and sesame seeds, which is inspired by his dad’s region. Green onions give it a buzz. Henry explains, “This dish was born from fishermen from [the] chef’s dad’s prefecture, Oita.”

After this comes something different for Sydneysiders: milt (fish semen). Our Hong Kong friends introduced us to milt a few years back. One friend’s wife was yet to try it too. She enjoyed it until her husband told her what it was.

We have prepared Japanese heart and Japanese skill along with Sydney’s awesome ingredients for the best experience for you tonight.

Chef Takayoshi Watanabe

Tonight, the milt is from a tiger puffer. It’s made into a silky chawanmushi (steamed custard) and topped with juicy salmon roe. Chef Taka and Henry ask their guests if they know what milt is. No one seems to. The chefs don’t elaborate and everyone enjoys the dish. “So creamy!” remarks Chef Taka.

Tiger puffer milt chawanmushi and salmon roe.
“So creamy!”

Takayoshi Watanabe mains

Andrea: Chef Taka begins studying each guest as he plates the next dish; it’s as if he’s painting our portraits – and that’s indeed what he’s doing. But instead of paint, he uses soft-boiled octopus fritters and tempura zucchini. Cute!

Soft boiled octopus fritters with tempura zucchini.
HA HA

Rex: “Who wants to drink a lot?” asks Chef Taka after we gobble down our portraits. Are we moving on to drinks already? we wonder.

Chef Taka and Henry give each guest an oyster dressed in finger-lime juice and gold flakes. Chef Taka takes out a bottle of 12 year Yamazaki Japanese whisky and pours it into each oyster shell. Seriously – why has it taken us this long to have an oyster whisky shot?! The saltiness of the oyster, the mellow oak of the Yamazaki and the tang of the native lime glittering in gold is, well, gold.

Oyster with finger lime and Yamazaki 12 year whisky.
Match made in heaven.

We finish our mains with a bang with stringy lobster gusokini. Henry shows us the live lobsters before the chefs stew lobster pieces, still in the shell, in a fragrant, ginger broth.

When Chef Taka lifts the lid off the big pot of cooked lobster, the steam clouds around his face like he’s just performed a spell.

Henry Lai with stringy lobster.
Serious stuff.

Takayoshi Watanabe nigiri sushi

Andrea: Now it’s time to have Chef Taka’s Insta-famous nigiri sushi.

He prepares the rice in a way we’ve never seen before, by mixing it with sake vinegar (“It’s not Coca Cola”, he clarifies as he pours the black liquid into the rice to our quizzical expressions).

Chef Taka mixes the sushi rice with sake vinegar
A unique sushi flavour.

Rex: We enjoy a succession of nigiri with this umami-laden rice and the finest of seafood. From the Tasmanian salmon with mirin and the buttery otoro to the golden eye snapper and imperador, Chef Taka’s mastery of creativity, technique and drama is on full display.

Chef Taka Watanabe and his nigiri sushi.
How to serve the finest nigiri.

Andrea: The grouper nigiri with yuzu and wasabi gets a special mention. Before he serves it, he holds up the majestic, 30kg fish to the gasps of his guests.

We don’t spend a lot of time thinking about where our food has come from, but we do this evening. It helps us to appreciate what we eat and how it gets on our plates.

Chef Taka Watanabe holds up a 30kg grouper from which he makes nigiri sushi.
Grouper special

Rex: I love the Kobe marbled wagyu ribeye nigiri, served raw but gently heated to melt the fat into the meat. A dollop of caviar and the vinegary rice base balances the rich flavour.

Chef Taka Watanabe's Kobe wagyu ribeye nigiri sushi with caviar and gold leaf
More genius.

Chef Taka also celebrates Australia’s beloved fish and chips with his own spin on the dish: tempura eel roll with crisp nori as the “chips”.

Fish and chips, Chef Taka Watanabe style.
Fish and chips, Chef Taka Watanabe-style.

Dessert

Andrea: We finish with a dessert that doubles as a palate cleanser. Chef Taka prepares chilled, kuzukiri (kudzu and potato starch noodles from Hokkaido) to dip into kuromitsu (a deep, brown cane-sugar syrup). I love that it’s refreshing – not too sweet nor rich and dense.

Rex: That brings us to the end of a phenomenal evening. It was an epic omakase. Chef Taka has served the finest ingredients, and has introduced us to new flavours and techniques.

This was a strictly limited event at Oborozuki, but we hope he comes back to share more of his prowess with Sydneysiders.

In the meantime, Oborozuki offers kaiseki (a more formal omakase) and teppanyaki. If you’re ever in Japan, you can also visit Chef Taka’s Teruzushi restaurant in Kitakyushu, Fukuoka – but book in advance because it’s (unsurprisingly) popular.


Oborozuki
Level 3, 5/71 Macquarie St, Sydney

Experience more culinary adventures at Two Chat Food and follow us on Instagram: @twochatfood.

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