At Azuma Kushiyaki – the younger, cooler sister of Chifley Tower's corporate Japanese restaurant Azuma – their schtick is, um, sticks. Kushiyaki, to be exact. While this newish restaurant is a little looser than big brother Azuma, it's still a fairly corporate scene: dark wood, clean lines, quiet service and situated right in the heart of the CBD. That said, it's casual enough that you could take a group of friends for dinner and forget about closing mergers or timeshare.
Kick back, order some beers and start with some Japanese pickles - cucumber, cabbage and daikon. Sweet and tart, they're an excellent way to get the juices flowing. Then it's time to hit the sticks. These snacks aren't just deep fried bits of whatever, or boring old skewers. Try the deep-fried pork jowl with curry salt and freshen things up with spears of cucumber served with a dollop each of dark and white sweet miso paste; or the cute, shiny little pork sausages, all plump and swollen and squiggled with bright yellow American mustard.
The salted chicken skin is a corker – crisp, salty, melt-in-the-mouth rich and moreish, it's the best bit of the roast on a stick. Order juicy grilled lamb cutlets or the meatballs topped with sweet soy. Azuma's version of agedashi tofu (deep-fried silken tofu in a dashi broth topped with bonito flakes) isn't as exciting as others we've had in other restaurants: the bonito doesn't wiggle and wave like it's meant to, it just limply sits there. But the grilled quail eggs are excellent. Served with dark, sweet, sticky kushiaki sauce, they're firm but yielding. And if they sound a bit pervy, well, that's because they are.
Word of the day: nodogoshi – the Japanese word for that delicious feeling in your throat you get from drinking a cold beer or sake. On tap, there's Kirin and Asahi, both high in the nodogoshi factor, as well as a big range of shochu (think Japanese vodka) and sake (rice wine). While the food and beers and such should give the impression of a rollicking fun place, don't be fooled. It's quiet and not the type of joint where you'd have a massive night out, but the food is really exceptional.
If you're a fan of those mealy-yet-creamy-yet gooey textured Japanese desserts, you're in luck because Azuma has a good selection. If you're feeling adventurous, give the cream anmitsu a burl - cubes of seaweed jelly and nata de coco jelly (made from fermented coconut water and red seaweed extract) are served with fruit salad, sweet bean paste and vanilla ice cream. You'll be served a little jug of warm brown sugar syrup with it, which you then pour over the top of everything. It's a very interesting combination of textures indeed.