The Pixies' Here Comes Your Man is playing as we head through the restaurant to a chorus of irasshaimase! If you think listening to music that isn't Japanese bamboo flute is strange in a Sydney Japanese restaurant, try being shouted ‘welcome' in Japanese by a bunch of indie-looking white guys.
Welcome to Ivy's sushi restaurant, where waving cats greet you and Astro Boy models stand in a row like shooting gallery ducks. Forget American Psycho or Wall Street - sushi just got cool again.
There are two giant sushi trains choo-chooing around the room hauling assorted plates of nigiri, sashimi and inside-out rolls with just about any fish you care to name (mackerel, garfish, salmon, tuna belly and bonito to name just a few) on the rails. There's also an excellent seaweed, pickled white radish and cucumber salad to be had. Hell, there's plenty to choo choo choose from. You're given a little ticket signifying which dish you're eating (each plate has a different pattern/colour indicative of price) which is then stamped off as you eat - it's a bit like the system you see at yum cha, only with fewer grumpy trolley dollies and more cutey-pie gal helpers and good lookin' men in jeans.
But the really interesting stuff isn't on the sushi train; it's on the a la carte menu. The rich, delicate, smoky beef tataki (which means ‘pounded' in Japanese), is lightly seared, thinly sliced and dressed with ginger and soy accompanied by a tangled bird's nest of shaved daikon and crisp green leaves. Spicy prawn tempura bites see sweet, plump prawns lightly battered and deep-fried - a little like eating a prawn McNugget. Yum.
If you really want to push the boundaries of raw fish though, try the sashimi pizza. So wrong it's right, tasty as hell and twice as kooky, you get a fine dice of deep crimson sashimi-grade tuna spread over a piece of flat bread and topped with a judicious drizzle of wasabi aioli. It's a power-packed omega-3 punch and at $12 a hit, you could make a tasty lunch of one of those with a sake cocktail on the side for $20.
What really works here is the pace. You're never left without a drink or food and wait-staff are constantly tempting you to try more dishes. There's a great vibe with plenty of buzz, and whether that's a result of the music, the food or the staff, it's hard to say. The goodness is a sum of its parts. The value is sound if you don't go super hard on the train, the menu's interesting and the room's cool. And any restaurant that plays the Pixies is OK by us. Here's looking at Choo, kids.