When it comes to my “family” aka my closest friends Vee, Linda and Jay, we look forward to treating one another when birthdays roll around each year. As we’ve gotten older over the years, we’ve removed the need for presents and instead replaced that ritual with one where we take the birthday girl/boy out to dinner for a night of delicious pampering.
Recently it was Vee’s birthday, so we set about organising a night out for us all. Her favourite food is Japanese, so it was only natural that we chose the relatively new Northbridge venue, James Parker Sushi x Sake Bar. We also organised a little sugary surprise to treat her to after the savoury portion of the night.
Image from Dimmi
James Parker has one of the most original interior designs I’ve seen in Perth. Walking through the curved wooden beams is like stepping through the skeleton of a boat, and throughout the venue there’s friendly staff all greeting us as we make our way to our reserved booth.
The menu is extensive and varied, with a good variety of dishes to choose from. It takes us some time but eventually we manage to make our choices and settle back, waiting for the food to arrive. They recommend share style dining here, which is right up our alley, so the dishes came out as ready.
First up was the chicken karaage ($12.00) which came with a dipping sauce of curried mayonnaise. We enjoyed this dish so much we actually ordered another serving! The plate with six chicken pieces was steaming hot; the flesh juicy and tender. The mark of a good karaage for me is about both the inside and outside – and this one ticked both boxes, with the crunchy exterior oh so satisfying.
The curried mayonnaise was a nice original twist on your standard. A good balance of flavour, and just the right creaminess while offering a little spice.
The next dish was the wagyu beef tataki with ponzu sauce jelly ($19.00). I was expecting big things for this dish given how beautiful tataki can be, with the softness and freshness of the meat. However we sadly found this dish quite bland, and the wagyu didn’t have any real marbling which is the real appeal of this cut of meat.
It was pleasant enough in flavour, but just lacked wow factor and in the end we found it didn’t live up to the hype that our waiter had given it.
The lotus root, edamame and aburaage salad ($15.00) pictured at the start of this post was bright and colourful, with varying textures and intensities of flavour. Not everyone loves lotus root but I’m quite partial to them when fried to a lovely crisp and well seasoned. And I am a big fan of edamame, though normally I enjoy them just on their own, popping the bean out of the pod.
The aburi salmon roll ($19.00) was the unanimous favourite for the evening amongst us all. With the creamy avocado, juicy pops of salmon roe and the buttery, fatty torched salmon, it was just a gorgeous sushi roll. I’m a huge fan of aburi, with that slight char and caramelisation to the flesh of the fish – the flavour just soaks into the rice bringing about a great pop of tasty goodness.
I have to say, I would happily return back here for this sushi alone. Yum!
Like the wagyu tataki, the fresh tuna aburi ($20.00) didn’t quite hit the mark unfortunately. The sear of the outside of the tuna was beautiful, the slices even. But there was no seasoning, and the ponzu sauce was nonexistent. For me in particular, I love sashimi and raw cuts of meat, so I think I was more disappointed than any on how this dish wasn’t as impressive as we’d hoped for. Again, not an offensive dish, but just a little lacklustre.
The agedashi tofu ($8.00) looked promising and for Linda and I we both LOVE this dish. James Parker’s version was a little stretchy in the skin, lacking the crunchy outer that I find a real selling point for agedashi tofu. The accompanying sauce was well balanced though, and with just a little extra salt it would have been spot on.
The second sushi roll to come out was the soft shell crab spider roll ($20.00) with cucumber and tobiko. I adore soft shell crab, and was pleased to note that it was well cooked and crisp, with a slightly creamy meaty centre. I thought the presentation of this dish was visually pleasing, and the ingredients nice and fresh. With a smear of the accompanying wasabi, the flavours popped in my mouth.
Our final dish is the aburi wagyu roll ($20.00). With the same wagyu used in the tataki, again it didn’t have the level of marbling that signifies a good piece of wagyu beef. The rice though was firm and sweet, but I would have loved some avocado instead of the lettuce so there was the necessary creaminess to balance things out.
After finishing this dish we all agreed that we weren’t full enough so we decided to add some additional dishes. After devouring our second serve of chicken karaage, we tucked into our final two items.
The prawn tempura ($25.00) had a great tempura batter – light and crisp with a good amount of seasoning. I enjoyed the dashi dipping sauce, and the zing of citrus from squeezing lemon over the top. It’s a good dish, but paying $5.00 per prawn… well I have to say I found the price way too high for what we got.
The pork gyoza ($10.00) is the final course in our dinner. I was actually a bit too full to join in on this one, but from what my friends told me the pastry was nice, with a good amount of crunch, but the filling was really watery, leaking out everywhere. Once you got past this point though there was actually a nice flavour to the filling.
By that point we were all feeling pretty full and happy. There were some highs to the meal and some mid-ground moments, but the service throughout was consistent and positive. And to their credit, even though the have desserts on their menu, they didn’t blink an eye at helping us serve the cake we’d secretly arranged through Sugar and Nice for Vee.
A tower of midnight chocolate, salted caramel and crunchy pearls this epic concoction might look huge but it’s actually around the size of a stein. It’s called a mini tower and serves four people (though after eating so many savoury dishes we only managed to get halfway through it). My god how I love Marnee’s desserts! Sugar and Nice is definitely my go to place for all things sweet.
And if it wasn’t enough for the James Parker staff to bring out the cake, they also sung Vee happy birthday and provided candles! Service like that is hard to find, so we were so appreciative as it really helped make the night extra special and deserving to celebrate my best friend’s birthday.