Ugh, Valentine’s Day. The price of flowers hikes up by 150 per cent, enormous teddy bears everywhere clutching love cushions, restaurants advertising their “Valentine’s Day Special Menu” as soon as New Year’s Eve is over. I saw it as the most revolting day during my single years, and even now that I’m in a relationship (which continues to surprise me to this day) I still find it a terribly over-commercialised event. Love your partner? Well the only way you can show you genuinely love her on Valentine’s Day is to send her a big bouquet of flowers, because even if you give her flowers out of the blue on any other day, if you don’t do it on Valentine’s Day – well it’s just not good enough, is it? Love is an emotion that should be conveyed and expressed every day (if possible), whether it’s in small or not-s0-small gestures, and not on one international holiday date alone.
Speaking of flowers, in the old team I used to work with, the boys and I were discussing gifting flowers and one fellow said he has never given his girlfriend of five years (now wife) – flowers. The rest of us were properly aghast, and the fellow’s friend berated him, asking how hard it would be to go to the supermarket and buy two bouquets and wrap them up together?
I was talking to my sister about my upcoming Hong Kong trip in a couple of months and she said that in the designer district they have Armani Woman, Armani Man, Armani Kids…and then, wait for it: Armani FLOWERS. She watched the florists for a little while and said their designs are terribly minimalist – single flower with a vine wrapped around the inside of a glass bowl, that sort of thing. Here, the gourmet of flowers is to get your partner Pearsons, but over there – if you don’t get your girlfriend an Armani Flowers bouquet, well….you’re cut off, mate!
Anyway, so I did end up getting the missus flowers, but not red roses, because I’m not a dumb cliché – yellow long-stemmed roses, tinged with red on the edges. Also a small present – a vintage red silk scarf – nothing too outlandish. We agreed that we would treat it like any other date night of ours, and earlier in the week made a booking at a Japanese restaurant around her old haunt, Cammeray. This was a trip down memory lane for her, as not only were we visiting her old neighborhood, but also the restaurant where she tried sashimi for the first time and discovered that she loved it.
After a quick pre-dinner refresher at Honey Rider, we jump into an Uber and make our way down to Stockland Cammeray Shopping Centre. I had come here once with my sister to Simmone Logue to pick up a wedding cake tasting box, but hadn’t had much time to have a look around. The Tokkuri Sake Wine Bar was right across the square from Simmone Logue.
Our waiter for the evening showed us to our corner table with very comfortable leather seating; I like corner tables as you have your backs to the wall and you can freely observe the rest of the restaurant. The restaurant is sleek and modernly furnished, with dark paneled wood and Japanese-themed trinkets and sake bottles displayed on their built-in wall shelving. There is a semi-open kitchen and the bar is situated right next to the register – no bar seating available.
Our waiter was a very quiet and softly-spoken man, and when offering the wine list said something about a “recommended” and “rosé sparkling” which I couldn’t quite hear clearly – I told him we would look through the menu first before we decided. It was a little while later when I saw the bartender liberally pouring glasses of rosé sparkling wine that I wondered if I had declined a complimentary drink, but then the other tables that arrived after us didn’t receive it so I didn’t quite know what to deduce.
But since we are in a Japanese restaurant and this is a sake and wine bar, we decide to select the Sakuramasamune ($26 for the bottle) and had it chilled. With a mild aroma but a slightly sharp taste, it was quite dry but very palatable. I could see it going well with our sashimi starter.
The Sashimi Small ($21) was eight pieces of assorted sashimi with five types of fish, including tuna, salmon and kingfish. Thickly cut, the sashimi slices were buttery and smooth, served with grated daikon radish and fresh beetroot. I have never seen beetroot anywhere in Japanese cuisine before and I was surprised by how well the earthy flavour of the raw beetroot went with the fresh fish.
Deciding to try something different to our usual salmon avocado roll, we decide to try the Rainbow Roll ($21) with avocado, crab stick, cucumber, tamago and spicy mayonnaise, topped with fresh tuna, salmon, snapper, kingfish and avocado.
Traditionally, you’re supposed to be able to eat a piece of sushi in one bite but with the size of this epic roll it was simply too hard! Beautifully fresh and satisfying, albeit a bit messy to eat.
There’s a long wait after our plate for the sushi is cleared; so long that we start to idly wonder what has happened to our hot food orders. At last, the Agedashi Tofu ($9) arrives with our Pork Belly Kushi-yaki ($8).
The Agedashi Tofu is well-executed; crispy on the outside and soft, silky tofu in the middle, but I would have liked the bonito flakes to be spread a little more evenly over all the squares of tofu rather than clustered on the one.
The pork belly kushi-yaki was okay if cooked slightly un-evenly; the lean parts a little dry, the fatty parts melt-in-the-mouth. It was not quite as smoky as I had been hoping.
We were satisfied at this stage but wanted to traipse over to Crows Nest’s Bravo’s for dessert. So to finish up, we ordered a bowl of that iconic Japanese starter – boiled edamame – and snacked on that while polishing off the rest of our sake. It was unusual concluding our meal with a starter!
Our bill came to just about $85 – just over $40 per person which is quite alright considering that we had shared a small bottle of sake with our meal. While it was good quality food in a modern Japanese restaurant, it’s a little out of the way for me and I personally prefer the more authentic, traditional Izakaya-style establishments. I could imagine though, that it would be very popular with the locals.
Tokkuri Sake Wine Bar
Stockland Cammeray Shopping Centre
450 Miller Street
Cammeray NSW 2062
(02) 9922 2288