When Jeremy and I first started dating, I used to make the joke that he never needed to wine me, just dine me. And as our relationship has continued and we’ve now moved in together, I find myself so excited that our culinary journey is still proceeding. Together we find ourselves exploring the different cuisines on offer in our city and also on our travels.
One of our favourite cuisines is Japanese, so it’s of little surprise that in July when Urbanspoon were promoting a 50% off special at Shiro Izakaya in Central Park, we jumped at the chance and booked for late August (as far out as we could to take advantage of the discount keeping in mind we were about to jetset off to Kuala Lumpur).
I’d actually forgotten that we had this booking until the day before when I received a reminder email from the restaurant, which was a pleasant surprise! A mid-week date night is always welcome in our eyes.
We arrived for our booking at 6.30pm on Wednesday night, the heavy glass and wood door opened for us by our friendly Japanese waitress who would look after us for the night. After checking off our reservation she led us to our table, which is situated alongside the wall to wall window of glass, looking at out at the view of Central Park.
It’s a gorgeous view, and funny to be sitting here because the last TV commercial my company produced (and my team worked on as the marketing department) had a short scene with the main character sitting in that same spot!
The menu is impressive, with dish after dish blowing my mind and leaving me salivating. Jeremy and I peruse the options, finally deciding that we’d order a few dishes to share as starters, then have a main item each.
Our meal starts with one of Jeremy’s choices, the Yellow Tail Carpaccio ($19). It’s a beautifully plated cold starter – slices of yellow tail, fish roe, wasabi soy and diced dashi jelly, edamame, herbs and wasabi ponzu sauce.
The yellow tail is fresh and has just the right fat content to give it that luxurious taste that it is well known for. The components all seem to work so well together. The fish is slightly sweet and cool to the palate; the jelly salty and firm. It’s a struggle to pick them up with chopsticks even though I’ve grown up using them!
I love the sprinkling of fresh herbs on top for some texture and much needed greenery; and the crispy lotus root chip. As our meal continues we soon learn that lotus root chips are their go to garnish, and this is something we very much appreciate – we’re big fans!
What a gorgeous dish, and for Jeremy, the dish of the night. Crispy fried soft shell crab with watermelon, baby spinach, lotus chips and a balsamic reduction and wasabi soy sauce.
I too loved this dish. Big, meaty chunks of soft shell crab sit atop the most vibrant and delicious fusion style sauce. Each bite is crisp and well seasoned; the golden brown tempura light and flavoursome. There’s sweetness from the crab meat itself as well as the watermelon cubes, and for even more crunch it seems that the baby spinach leaves have been flash fried giving them some translucency and crackle. Once again there’s more or those moorish lotus root chips to munch away on.
I highly recommend ordering this gorgeous dish if you ever come to Shiro Izakaya, it will not disappoint – and could easily attract even the most sceptical of eaters who haven’t yet embraced my beloved soft shell crab.
Around this time I decide on indulging in a cocktail. I pick the Tokyo Drift ($19) which is composed of elderflower liqueur, sake, apple liqueur, mint leaves, strawberry and topped with aloe vera. Like everything else in this restaurant, it arrives visually stunning and oh so tempting.
I am (to use the cocktail’s name) adrift in a sea of pleasure after one sip. I do so adore aloe vera as a beverage, and this is chocked full of the flavour but with that really lovely light elderflower aftertaste. It’s so fresh and sweet, but not cloying.
I offer Jeremy a sip but I can tell as he swallows it down that it’s not to his liking. He’s never drunk aloe vera before and I have to admit, it is an acquired taste! Luckily I grew up on it as a beverage so I’m in heaven as I drink away.
While initially our plan of attack for dinner was to order a starter each, our waitress is quick to advise us that we probably haven’t quite ordered enough. Never fear though, Jeremy is to the rescue and jumps in straight away with a suggested additional dish, the Chicken Kara-age Salad ($18).
This dish is one that most people are reasonably familiar with and not something I would normally order as I usually tend to avoid chicken where possible due to the hormones injected into the meat (though sometimes it’s hard to resist, like eating nandos).
A beautiful wooden bowl comes out to us with a bed of mixed lettuce leaves underneath crispy Japanese style fried chicken pieces and yes more of those addictive lotus root chips! There’s an accompanying bowl of homemade mustard sauce on the side perfect for dipping the bites into.
The chicken has just the right amount of salt to elevate the flavour profile; the meat tender and moist. This meat has such a high hit rate of being dry, so I’m happy to see just how right they’ve gotten it here. A little squeeze of the provided lemon, and you get a nice acid kick that works with the punchy mustard sauce that has a mayonnaise like consistency.
This was fingerlickin’ good!
For his main, Jeremy chooses the Grilled Snapper ($32). It comes with red wine teriyaki sauce, port wine reduction, green tea sea salt, bok choy, jalapeno salsa, grilled lemon and snapper with sauteed vegetables.
It comes out as a work of art in terms of plating on a plain white canvas. In the centre lies the gleaming snappr; with sections of the plate allocated the different accompaniments. It’s like looking at a Jackson Pollock. It’s chaotic, but gorgeous at the same time. I like how different it is to anything I’ve ever seen before, and each element on the plate has it’s own role.
While the Caramel Miso Pork Belly is calling out to me, I am on a massive seafood binge these days so I opt for a different signature chef, the Miso Toothfish ($35). It’s toothfish marinated in Shiro’s style sweet miso with edamame and lotus chip.
Patagonian toothfish is a cold water fish which is actually one of my favourites to eat, especially in Japanese or Chinese cooking. It’s my go to dish when dining at Bonsai in Northbridge, and something I can often persuade my mum to cook if she feels like spoiling me.
Like Jeremy’s snapper, the toothfish comes out looking like artwork. There’s different components, including edamame hidden underneath chilli slices and a cold seaweed salad in the corner which has a nice level of heat to it. There’s also a watermelon cube topped with fresh herbs, and a cooled down boiled cherry tomato. So many different textures and varying levels of sweet and savoury!
What I particularly like though is the pile of herbed crumbs and the truffle salt that sat in two of the corners. I’m quick to sprinkle both atop of my fish and as I bite down on that wonderfully soft and ethereal flesh, I get the rich salty crunch that contrasts so brilliantly with the meat.
I would have absolutely no hesitation in ordering this again. The fish is perfectly cooked; it’s so soft and falls apart but isn’t mushy. The skin underneath is silky to my mouth and has just the right amount of rigidity to it as I barely tug with my chopstick.
Since we’re taking advantage of the 50% off deal from Urbanspoon/Dimmi, we decide to go all out and order dessert. Jeremy’s off sugar with the exception of when we eat out, so I know he’s going to enjoy his choice of Tempura Ice Cream ($11) before it even comes out to us.
It’s like an explosion on a plate. A golden crisp tempura ball filled with green tea ice cream, surrounded by icing sugar and green tea sugar, diced strawberry and a chocolate sauce.
This dish is very much like a Japanese take on the Chinese classic, fried ice cream. And they’ve done it justice! The batter is light but thick enough to house the ice cream and prevent it from melting. The green tea ice cream is strong in flavour, and surprisingly it works well with the strawberry and chocolate flavours that accompany it. It’s such a fun dessert and I’m pleased to see him clean up the entire plate before emitting a satisfied sigh.
For my dessert, I opt for the Banana ($11) after learning the Yuzu Meringue Pie is sold out (damn!). But it is definitely not a consolation prize. No, this is a masterpiece of carefully constructed elements – banana maki, caramelised banana, sugared almonds, black sesame ice cream and a slick of dreamy caramel sauce down the plate.
There’s probably more icing sugar and green tea sugar than I’d say necessary for the dish, giving it a slightly messy look but outside of that the dish is beautiful. The banana maki is savoury and sweet at the same time, the pastry crisp and thin. It cracks with just the slightest pressure of my spoon.
The caramelised banana is outstanding – a fresh piece of fruit with a covering of toffee on the end, allowing you to crack through with as much excitement as you would with a creme brulee. And those sugared almonds, well they’re one of the best things on the plate for sure! Sweet, crunchy and delicious.
This is one of the few times in my life where I’ve eaten black sesame ice cream, and I’m happy to say that this was my favourite of all experiences. It’s a distinct flavour, full of sesame and flecked with the occasional textural crunch amid the velvety smoothness in the custard. A great accompaniment to the banana, and a wonderful way to finish our meal.
When we finish up our meal, we go up to the counter to pay and indulge in some gushing appreciation. I have to admit part of me is wondering if we’ll have any issue in redeeming the 50% discount since we booked so long ago, but we didn’t even need to mention it. They automatically factored it in, taking our food bill in half (drinks are at full price).
So our night only cost us $96 in total, including my cocktail! For the quality of food (and quantity) we indulged in on this occasion, that is definite value for money as I would happily pay full price for it. I really enjoyed Shiro – from the courteous and attentive staff, to those stand out flavours that have left me a very satisfied customer. With so many other delicious sounding dishes on the menu, I will come back – perhaps for lunch one day so I can enjoy the sun streaming in through those clean glass windows that overlook our city park.
Needless to say after our first experience taking advantage of an Urbanspoon offer, I will be keeping my eyes peeled for the next one they promote!