I love barbecue in all its forms. American, Brazillian, Chinese…and that’s just the beginning of the alphabet! But I hate actually being outside, so the solution? Tabletop barbecue – like the Korean varieties with the amazing array of side dishes- where the food comes to you.
Now there IS just one very fundamental flaw in an otherwise delicious plan: at the end of dinner, you smell like you’ve been barbecued, yourself. All that delicious smoke lingers and clings, and gets every where. It’s worse than glitter.
Enter the Japanese solution (and there’s ALWAYS a Japanese solution): smokeless charcoal.
Sumi in Japanese, refers to all charcoal, and binchotan is a white charcoal that is sold as “smokeless”. Which, is not entirely accurate, since the fat dripping off the pieces of meat still create flareups and smoke, but by itself, the light grey pieces of glowing charcoal really doesn’t seem to emit any visible trails of smoke that lovers of tabletop barbecue, like myself, are so used to seeing. So magical!
So then, what does Suminoya mean? Well, quite literally translated: barbecue house.
Of course, we can’t be in a barbecue house without food to barbecue, and Suminoya is very conveniently offering set options that allow you to choose 2 or 3 options for lunch, with rice, miso soup, and a side salad. We chose the duck, prawn, beef ribs and skirt steak, for two people.
But wait, you might be wondering why there was a magical fourth option. Well, as part of the Washoku Lovers membership programme – did I ever mention that I’ve got loyalty cards coming out of my ears? – you get an extra option thrown in for your lunch order, for the same price! And like anyone else, I love me some freebies.
Anyhoo, the meat was deliciously tender and very lightly seasoned, which was quite surprising considering skirt steak and beef ribs aren’t known for being tender cuts of meat. There was a certain delicateness about it all, and I’m not sure how I feel about it all. The food, though cooked over charcoal, was only lightly smoky, which kind of defeats the purpose of barbecue, to an extent. The smoke really is what separates this dining option from well, having my meal cooked for me in a pan by the cook, and the lack of a more butt-kicking smoke flavour makes me wonder whether there is really more effort than reward.
Mind you, it’s still a very nice Japanese barbecue. Just a little light on the smoke scale.
We also ordered the sashimi entree, because uh, I love fish. No two ways around it. The fish was fresh and well handled – what you’d expect from a decent plate of sashimi.
This little barbecue house – hidden down Hoskings Place – actually packs quite a crowd, and all my concerns about smoke aside, still allowed me to walk out with a heavy coat without smelling like a barbecue myself, and for that, I am grateful.
Now I hear that they also do an all-you-can-eat…
Washoku Lovers is a free membership programme that gives you perks to many Japanese restaurants in Sydney! We also have visited other restaurants participating in the Washoku Lovers programme, like Izakaya Yebisu! To find out more about the programme and sign up, visit www.washokulovers.com.