82 Campbell Street, Surry Hills, NSW 2010
Café Ish describes itself as a Native-Australian Japanese Café-Bar and certainly delivers that in principle. Everything on the menu certainly has the potential to enthral and amaze with a cheeky spin on ingredients that are usually mutually exclusive. However, it was somewhat of a hit-and-miss adventure.
Cabbage with Wattle Seed Miso Mayonnaise ($6) was a beautiful starter with the crunchy, sweet leaves highlighting the punchy miso in the creamy dip.
Fried Potato and Organic Fetta Mochi with Davidson Plum Tonkatsu Sauce ($5) was something I popped into my mouth with some degree of trepidation but it rewarded with a delightful textural experience. The light and crisp outer crust yielded to a piping-hot, delicately chewy core in which the salty cheese and sugary sauce embraced.
Miso Soup with Kombu and Mushroom Stock ($5) was the perfect palate cleanser with its delightful umaminess.
Sea Urchin and Tuna Salad was an off-menu item that should be a permanent fixture, though I was hard-pressed to find a scrap of uni. The tuna on the other hand was gorgeous, lightly charred on the outside but richly rosy at the centre.
California Roll of Crumbed Crocodile, Avocado and Lemon Myrtle Mayonnaise with a Pickled Rosella Flower on the Side ($13.50) had a lukewarm reception in my group as there was little one could taste beyond the rice and avocado.
Kangaroo, Prawn and Ginger Gyoza with Black Vinegar and White Soy ($12) was something one either loved or hated as it as the ginger could not quite take away kangaroo’s gamey character.
Ai’s “Freaking Awesome” Fried Chicken with Vinegar and Shallot Dressing ($14.50) was good if not completely “freaking awesome”. The light, crispy crust was a tempura and southern-style hybrid that was well executed if somewhat salty. I did appreciate the acidity of the dressing as it balanced out the grease.
Wagyu Ribs Twice-Cooked in Native Flavours, Smokey Soy Caramel. Garlic, Chilli, Coriander and Sesame ($23) was the resounding disappointment of the evening. Tough as leather, it was not tenderly marbled but armoured in fat and gristle. Our first serve was pretty much a slab of fat and the replacement they kindly provided was little better. Being the only guy in my 4-person dinner group, I had quite a workout from all the sawing and dissecting.
Kara-age Crab Omelette with Garlic, Chilli, Soy and Ginger Dressing, Avocado, Shallots and Lime ($24) served to redeem the evening to some degree with a balance of crunch and chew; sweetness and tartness.
The meal was washed down with two sakes. Sweet and dry, warm and cold; both went well with pretty much everything. However, I knew I had one too many cadaver practicals when their crisp, sweet smell transiently reminded me of formaldehyde.
Wattle Seed Maccachino ($6.10) was apparently their signature drink so we had that in place of dessert.
Beautifully presented and possessing a rich, spicy aroma; I had to stop myself from ordering a second cup.