Zushi sits in a line of outdoor, harbour-view restaurants facing Wulugul Walk at Barangaroo. It feels incredibly Sydney to be seated at its sculpted timber tables beside a futuristic-looking slatted-wood bar and front counter lit by slants of sunlight. We look out on sparkling waters on the edge of the city skyscrapers.
Nearby construction noise drifts past, also very Sydney, as Barangaroo’s waterfront continues to take shape. But we are lost in a sea of salmon, tuna, tofu, duck, prawn, tempura and miso choices, as a kind man pours glasses of pinot gris.
Zushi has forged a reputation with restaurants in Darlinghurst and Surry Hills. Its latest spot has fancy ways with Japanese staples – sashimi tacos, caramelised honey Queensland banana prawns, quinoa and sesame-coated tuna steak with wasabi mash – but what lies beneath is the simple lure of this kind of food. Fresh, beautiful flavour.
The sashimi plate is a pretty arrangement of 12 fish pieces with salmon, kingfish, garfish and tuna.
Each is meltingly fresh, and we divide it with eagle-eyed sharing. Agedashi tofu is not such a winner, rich in taste but erring on the dry side. The tofu is not as silky as it could be and its coating is too thick.
After wolfing down the gyoza dumplings, fat pillows of pork in Japanese vinegar, we pause to consider our appalling table manners. But then comes the duck bento box and all hell breaks loose.
It contains not only more sashimi but prawn tempura, nutty, light brown rice, spinach, pickled cucumber and mouth-watering crispy skin duck breast. Dividing this between us becomes a scientific project. If we had a set of laboratory balance scales, the careful allocation of each portion could not be more carefully done .
Service at Zushi is hot and cold. Sometimes it is hard to find anyone near the tables. Other times staff buzz about, full of personality, and hasten to bring extra water, another menu, more cutlery. Dishes arrive fairly quickly.
The Streets of Barangaroo, the precinct’s dining area, is abuzz with mainly office workers revelling in their good luck. at being able to wander down from the office to breathe sea breezes, eat top-end food and cast their eyes across the harbour.
Zushi’s decor also helps. Designed by Koichi Takada Architects, its honey and granite facade, tables and seating fits a crowd (106 at peak) but retains a calm, mindful vibe. The swooping slatted wood wall behind the bar and semi-open kitchen, inspired by makisu sushi rolling mats, makes us feel cocooned even though we are outside.
Rice wine lovers can engage the services of a sake expert, including sake cocktails, should there be a wait for a table.
Zushi is not cheap but offers good food with flair in a transportive spot. It is easy to linger here wishing you had another empty, stomach.