Monday, December 14, 2009
Many decades ago, Balmain was a working-class inner city suburb with a pub on almost every corner. In the early 21st century, it is a trendy inner city suburb where the footpaths are shared with 4-wheel drive prams and there is a pub on almost every corner.
There is also an abundance of Asian restaurants, from Thai and Vietnamese through to Japanese, Chinese and Indian. Some are better than others.
Sugoi Sushi Bar sits in the cluster of shops past Balmain Town Hall, towards neighbouring Rozelle. It opened after the spot was left vacant when Restaurant Pepper mysteriously closed a few years ago. I was particularly excited at seeing the sushi train being installed, as it was a Balmain first.
The interior of Sugoi is modern and sleek, with an open kitchen at the back. You can order noodles and tempura from a menu as well as eating at the sushi train counter.
Since it opened, I've eaten at Sugoi many times, and the food is always really fresh, which is essential in a sushi restaurant. The range of sushi, while not as wide as, say, Makoto, is varied enough to provide the usual favourites.
On this visit, we had the regular sushi rolls, and tried some new dishes. The grilled beef was particularly good, with a chargrilled flavour and sprinkled with a sweet soy sauce.
An impressive dish was the scallops on rice wrapped with salmon and topped with fish roe. They aren't stingy with the serving sizes (this was a 'black' plate, the most pricey), and this allowed the scallop flavour to shine through.
I love soft-shelled crab, and the sushi roll with crab does not disappoint. Again, a good serve of crab. The tuna was a lurid red colour but tasty nonetheless. There were not many sashimi plates on the train, so the sushi rice plates had to do.
Desserts aren't usually a strong point in Japanese restaurants, so it was pleasing to see bowls of fresh fruit salad on the conveyor belt. This one had 2 lychees amid the nicely arranged melon and pineapple. And have you noticed the Coca Cola cans that are out at the moment - the Aussie Summer range with graphics of thongs, cricket and barbies!
Prices at Sugoi are average for sushi train. This is inner-city Balmain, after all, though after a previous experience at Wase restaurant down the road, Sugoi is definitely better value for money. We had 14 plates, and with 2 Cokes and a green tea, the bill came to $67. The service is attentive and eager-to-please, and you can usually get a seat without a booking. In fact, it's sometimes quite empty when we visit, so I wish more people would eat there - it's the only train in the village, haha!
Sugoi Sushi Bar is at 390 Darling Street, Balmain, NSW. Ph: 02 9555 6959. They are open for lunch and dinner Mon-Sat.