When Sushi E opened, it felt like a game changer for Japanese food not just in Sydney, but all over Australia. I can't think of any other places around at the time that threw themselves so far in to serving up exceptional quality sushi and sashimi and did it so well.
It was one of the reasons why I chose Sushi E as one of my first "fine dining" destinations when I was first getting into eating out. It was a funny night, looking back. We ordered the second cheapest bottle of wine (which was still bloody expensive at nearly three times retail), I didn't know how to pronounce ceviche when I ordered it, we hadn't figured out that food can be shared and we had to stick with cheaper dishes that would get us full before our money ran out.
I still remember the food well. The tuna ceviche was bright, sharp and studded with chunks of exceptional tuna. The rolls were perfect constructions of taste and texture. The sashimi was of a quality I never thought was possible.
As great as it was, I knew it could be better. It was here, at Sushi E, that I decided that eating out shouldn't have limitations. If I couldn't afford to go to a place and order what I wanted, then I'd go somewhere else. It might mean having a few more cheap nights out before you can afford the big one, but it makes the experience that little bit sweeter knowing that if you want something, you can have it. It's greed, basically.
And now, years later, I'm back at Sushi E for my second go. I think I'm probably even more excited this time.
We get a seat at the counter, in nearly the same spot as last time. To complete the loop, the person I went with all those years ago is here tonight too. We start with a bottle of champagne. Last time we did the same, but it was when you could call sparkling wine "champagne" (remember that?).
From what I remember of it, the menu hasn't changed much. If at all.
We kick off with sashimi, as is required at a place like this. My eyes aren't quite as wide to the joys of raw fish as they were on that previous visit, so I'm not as impressed. There's no denying the quality of the fish here, but it's not mind-blowing and might not even be world class. Still among the best in Australia? Probably, though it isn't as peerless as it once was.
The spoons also arrive early. Delicious bites of salmon tartare, spicy scallop and a few other things. The appetite is in high gear.
Tuna tataki arrives on a bed of mixed leaves with a sharp yuzu dressing. The slices with the charred outside go down exceptionally easy.
The same salad is back for the spicy scallops, which are quickly seared with the blowtorch with some mayo and miso. A great flavour combo.
Chicken kara age is solid, with a crunchy, powdery coating over marinated chicken. Not mind-blowing, but above average.
I know how to pronounce ceviche now, so a return to the tuna ceviche is a must. It's exactly how I remember it, with big chunks of magnificent tuna, ripe cherry tomatoes, micro leaves and a sharp citrus punch.
Onto the rolls. The spider roll, filled with crispy soft shell crab, is pure enjoyment to eat. The dynamite roll has heat coming from every direction, but still keeps the flavour of the tuna.
It's all washed down with an excellent drinks list, which is what we'd expect from a Merivale establishment.
While it was excellent to return to Sushi E and the meal was extremely enjoyable, I can't help feel that the old girl is looking a bit tired. The menu hasn't changed in the slightest and feels out of touch, service is a bit slow and the quality is there but it's in danger of losing out to places like Sake and Sokyo who seem to be pushing forward. And you get the feeling they don't care about it. Diners (and their expectations) have changed rapidly over the years; Sushi E hasn't kept pace.
I'll come back again, with far less of a break between visits, but I'm not sure how long it will be before Sushi E becomes an afterthought when people talk about great sushi in Sydney.
RATING: Will return to [?]