NIJI Restaurant & Bar Reviewed by Ron Lee
21 Bay St
Double Bay 2028
Where did you go on National UFO Day?
At their request, I ended up at possibly the eastern suburbs’ most innovative Japanese restaurant.
For a start, the NIJI (Japanese for “rainbow”) looks like a different Japanese eatery. The elegant and minimalistic, wooden, carved partitions and slatted, rounded wooden ceiling embraces all who enter. We were greeted warmly and professionally by Kate, who has worked all over the world and admittedly favours Japanese restaurants.
We decided on small portions of several dishes that kept on coming, and the mixtures of subtle and more stunning flavours, often in the same dish, made for an interesting evening.
To warm us up in preparation for what was to follow, we were given Spicy Edamame Soy Beans with Sea Salt and Truffle Oil.
Then came the Tuna Confit with Fennel Salad Mint Oil and Tomato Miso Sauce, which set our expectations of some unique taste experiences.
The Goats Cheese Tempura juxtaposed the fineness of really good, light tempura with a surprisingly heavy and contemporaneously fluffy goats cheese. The complementary Honey Mayonnaise made for a powerful dish.
Scallops with Spinach Sour Cream was spectacular. The three elements that I would never have thought of combining, worked wonderfully.
Seafood mousse is often fluffy, light and lacking in flavour, but the Prawn, Scallop and Whitefish Mousse was flavoursome and quite substantial.
The Tuna Belly with Wasabi was an expected combination and it filled the mouth with freshness. In fact all of the food at NIJI was extremely fresh, a quality especially essential in a Japanese restaurant.
It seems like the NIJI so far was all about seafood, and every dish fulfilled our expectations, but an outstanding offering was the Twice-Cooked Pork Belly with miso, amadare and sea salt. I’m more accustomed to the Chinese method of cooking pork belly, and process of braising and grilling made for a melt-in-the-mouth delight.
I don’t drink, and this is what my companion had to say about her choice of wine and cocktail.
I started with a specially made cocktail to celebrate National UFO Day called "The ET" which consisted of Calle 23 Tequila, Ilegal Mezcal, sencha green tea and lime juice with a sorbet foam. I loved the blend of flavours, the lime juice gave it an edge.
For the wine I chose, E. Guigal Crozes-Hermitage Rouge Rhône Valley France which Kate recommend, and was perfect with our meal. A great recommendation!
The adventurousness of the NIJI chef paid off over and over again, taking traditional Japanese cuisine as the base and blowing the lid off any preconceptions that the patron might have.
Double Bay restaurant patrons often stay in the familiarity of Knox Street, and will usually go around the corner into Bay Street to visit Mrs Sippy and Limoncello, but for a unique culinary experience, I encourage you venture a little further up Bay Street to NIJI. You’ll be in for a pleasant surprise.