When I was young, Dad used to buy a lot of pufferfish, removing their toxins and making fried dishes for me. It is surely a good taste, divine, fresh and crunchy. Many years later, I can still remember the fabulous taste. Now, there is a good Japanese restaurant in Adelaide, which makes safe and tasty pufferfish dishes. Which one is it? Kenji Modern Japanese! The restaurant is located at the south end of Hutt Street and is only a minute away from my place. Many reviewers praised its goodness while others thought it’s crape. However, Kenji has received numerous awards since its opening in 2006. The head chef and owner, Kenji, is one of the guys, who hold a license to prepare pufferfish, in Australia.
Although the restaurant is full for most of the nights, I was lucky enough to book for a table. Many of my Japanese friends have introduced me to this place over the past several years but due to different reasons, I finally went there tonight after shopping for the whole day. Both the outside and inside decor are pretty modernised. Once entered the restaurant, we are welcomed by our waitress as well as the relaxing atmosphere. The music on display was smooth and enjoying.
From the decor, you can really see anything Japanese except the are on the wall. From the awards certificates to the blackboards, everything was very western.
We quickly got seated and were given the menu straight away. The setting on the table showed some east-west fusion with both chopsticks and knife ‘n’ folk available for customers to choose. The menu was pretty extensive, ranging from appetisers and entree to mains and desserts. By looking at the menu, I can directly tell that the mains are Japanese fused dishes. They are not authentic Japanese nor modern Australian. Then, we decided to order mainly sushi dishes and a bento main which was a mixture of sushi, sashimi, tempura, pork belly and miso soup. I am glad that I made this decision on my order and I’ll show you why in a minute. Back to the table, diners got a small bowl of olives. They tasted very different from western styled ones. Although a hint of saltiness can be detected, mainly sweetness was experienced. It seemed that the olives were marinated and preserved in sweet miso paste which has given the sweet taste and a little little bit of bitterness. This was confirmed by tasting the jus in the bowl after the olives were finished. The chewiness and earthy feel of miso are easily delivered to the tongue.
The drink for tonight was my regular, the lemon lime bitter. The waitress was very attention-to-detail and asked me to tell her if the drink was too strong. Good customer service.
Pufferfish (3 ways, $21) was ordered as an appetiser. The fish was done in 3 ways, including fried fish pieces, sashimi with sauce and pufferfish skin jelly. I should say these creations are truly amazing.
1) The fried fish pieces tasted exactly the same as what dad has cooked. They were tender and moist with a chicken-like texture. The fish meat, after fried, smelled very fragrant and the coating promoted some spicy flavour into the fish. The dish was not very crunchy but was enough for people to enjoy.
2) The sashimi on its own was tender, chewy and extremely fresh. Combined with spring onion slices, the spicy taste complimented well with the sweetness of the fish and created a dish with complex flavour. After dipping in the sauce, other complicated flavours have shrink away whereas the main flavour was the fish then.
3) The fish skin jelly was very very very special. It was sweet, fishy, sour and salty! I am craving for more ~~!!! Just to introduce, in some Asian countries, skins of an animal are usually used to make jellies to compliment a dish or to add to dumplings to create the juicy fillings.
Center: Hutt Roll $18.00. Side: Wagyu Beef Roll $18.00; Kamo Roll $17.00.
Now, it comes to my favourite of the night, sushi! We ordered 3 sushi dishes as listed above. Wasabi and pickled gingers were provided. The wasabi were had mixed from powder to be consumed with the sushi and soy sauce. The pickled gingers were provided as palate cleansers.
1) The center of the picture is the Hutt roll, which was consisted of scallop topping and sushi rice. The scallops were fresh and sweet. Although these scallops were not up to the level and standard of the purple scallops I bought before, they were definitely of a high grade! The filling of the sushi roll was fried shallot and fresh cucumber which added the freshness and the crunch to the roll. When taking the sushi pieces, people should be better off to take it as a whole and chew it in the mouth. Nice and crunchy!! I really love this sushi and will be going back for it for sure!
2) The wagyu beef roll, $18.00. Did you guys see the sushi with the rare meat? Well, those are the wagyu beef roll. The beef was cooked blue rare and they were used in two ways. One was, of course as the topping, but they were also used in the filling of the sushi roll. Hence, diner can experience the meat twice in their mouths, creating a unique experience. The topping sauce used was spicy miso, which fully covered the rare meaty smell of the beef. I’ve had grade 7-8 wagyu at home and in restaurants before and I do doubt this beef. Yes, they were chewy and tender but very limited amount of fat can be tasted. I guess the beef used here is lower grade wagyu OR they are just sashimi grade normal beef. I don’t really know but this dish was absolutely amazing and delicious and … and ect . My wife and I loved it soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo much that it is hard to forget their fabulous taste.
3) Kamo sushi roll, $17.00. This sushi was made of roasted duck, bean sprouts and sliced radish. The combination of all the ingredients contributed a rather special sushi dish with fresh vegetable taste and fat-balanced duck meats. I think the sauce was teriyaki. However, comparing to the other two dishes, this sushi is really just a little brother . However, this sushi reminded me a creative sushi dish I had before, which used Peking duck slices, as toppings, to make sushi roll. Oh, absolutely a beauty!
The main dish ordered was the Bento, $35.00. Ehh… I should make it clear that comparing with the sushi dishes, this main was really ordinary. Although it had different bits and pieces of everything, they tasted not as good as the sushi.
1) The sashimi was fresh but not cold enough. The nigiri shushi pieces were good with thick cut, fresh salmon, tuna and kingfish, but they were just the same as/a bit better than ones sold in normal Japanese restaurant.
2) The pork belly was cooked through well with a crunchy, well-cracked skin. The pork belly itself was sweet and can melt easily in mouth but the meat was a little bit overcooked which made it slightly tough. I admit I am picky on this. It would taste much better if I haven’t compared it with the sushi rolls. The method used here for cooking the pork is called red-cook which is common in eastern Asian countries, especially in China and Japan. The Chinese red-cook method was salty while the Japanese has added more sugar in the process.
3) The tempuras were hot and crunchy with better coating and good sauce. The king prawn used in this dish was huuuuuuuuge and was soooo fresh. Surely a nice dish to finish the dinner with! .
4) I want to ask Kenji seriously – how can you make a badddddddddddddd & sh*******ty miso soup like this?! It should not be your standard!!!
We left @ 7:30pm with two fully occupied and satisfied bellies, and Kenji now had a fully occupied restaurant! Thanks to the great chef and welcoming waitress!
Anyway, overall I loved the dinning experience I had tonight and am really keen to introduce and recommend Kenji to anyone. The modern decor of the restaurant does not hide the beauty of Japanese cooking and the fanciness of dishes really increased their flavour and hence the credibility of the restaurant. While the sushi dishes taste MUCH MUCH better and more authentic than a la carte dishes, both of them are beautifully crafted and are carefully created! Again, indeed, I recommend the sushi dishes much more than the cooked dishes, but the cooked ones are already of high quality. It’s just my personal taste!
242 Hutt Street
Adelaide, SA 5000
P: 08 8232 0944