Ocean Room has had a refit. Relaunched this month with a new look thanks to designer Yasumichi Morita, the restaurant is drawing aces. Executive chef Raita Noda (previously at Rise), along with head chefs Yukio Moriyama and Yohei Abe, is creating dishes that blur the line between bar food and dinner – a casual, grazing-style menu running to more substantial fare.
Start your evening in the bar – there's Kirin on tap, and cocktails if you're feeling fancy. High wooden benches and comfy barstools are all well and good, but cast your eyes to the heavens for the monumental ceiling sculpture: three thousand thick wooden cylinders (they look a bit like the sticks used to play Japanese drums) hang in undulating waves and it's very tempting to run your hands along them.
Start with some chotto dishes - they're the bar-snacky type things at the beginning of the menu. The tuna cornet (or ‘cornetto', as our waitress called it) is a cone of fine rice cracker, filled with a dice of marinated bluefin tuna. The scallop with preserved plum vinaigrette is mouth puckering, with a tender little scallop hiding under all that sourness. Spicy garlic edamame are finger lickin' good, spicy and salty, while a soft-shell crab taco sounds more like something belonging to 90s California. It's a mess of crisp shell and pickled vegetables and it's great with a beer. For us, though, it's all about the curry pan: a deep-fried bread pocket filled with curry sauce and braised beef cheek.
The sushi selection is worth ordering. Yes, there's ocean trout, salmon and tuna. But there's also bar cod, mackerel and sand whiting. At Ocean Room, you can order an entire tuna wing (around 1kg each), complete with map to navigate your way around the gigantic fishy hunk of meat. The back loin, the muscle used to support the head, is lean and intense. The fin muscle – under the chest fin, one of the most active muscles in the whole fish – is what they describe as ‘unique' (read: extremely fishy) while the neck belly is extremely fatty and in winter is known as toro. This is the best bit: fatty and lush, it's like the jamon of fish.
Ocean Room is high end yet without the hushed tones and bottom-clenching tension you may experience at other Japanese fine diners. You can have a good time here and it's ideal if you're a group of four or more (the next table was a family of eight, with an octogenarian Japanese granddaddy at the head, surrounded by kids). Service wavers from perfunctory to extremely good, thanks to sommelier Kristy Dawson, who's knowledgeable yet still keeps a contemporary, modern and breezy Sydney style. The wine list is sizeable, but we're keen on sake and beer and they're happy to serve them.
Although the restaurant isn't new, the refit alone is enough of a reason to go and take a gander - there's good stuff happening at Ocean Room.