Stumbled on this place on Cleveland street looking for a quiet family dinner. Truly exceptional Japanese food. The dishes were so tasty, a unique twist given to traditional Japanese dishes. Friendly staff and food is cooked fresh. Highly recommend this little find if you are next in Surry Hills. We all thoroughly enjoyed our experience.
Japanese fusion dishes with perfect balanced flavours in every single dish.
I am Japanese but every single food we tasted took me to such a pleasant experience.
After eating through what we ordered it made us all feel as if we had a digastation course at a hat restaurant. The price is set casual dining though. Seeing is believing, you must go to this restaurant to taste master piece art dish of the passionate chef R K san!
RK San is a little gem, tucked away on a dreary stretch of Cleveland Street on the southern edge of Surry Hills. We’ve eaten all sorts of Japanese food around Australia and many parts of the world, and few – if any – could match RK San’s combination of quality, innovation and value. In fact, I feel severely conflicted in writing a good review, caught between wanting to keep this little marvel our secret and supporting a great addition to contemporary Japanese cuisine in Sydney.
We stumbled across RK San after a great value Indian meal next door at Injoy. Chef-owner RK Tamang tells us he’s been open for just three weeks and although he had almost a full house the previous Labour Day weekend, we are the only two people dining for the first part of this Wednesday evening. RK therefore takes the time between courses to chat and explain his food, his biography and love of cooking. Certainly his c.v. in Australia and overseas is impressive and he has clearly learned his skill well before striking out on his own with this smart little restaurant with just a couple of dozen seats. His latest gig was as executive chef at Geisha Haus in Potts Point and it shows in the dishes he’s brought with him. While he says he’s happy to put together a menu for us, we prefer to dip into his impressively-novel offerings, following our own whims. Not being big eaters, we decide not to order mains or even sushi/sashimi because, although a chef’s sashimi can be a great indicator of a Japanese restaurant’s quality, the menu is full of new dishes.
We order – in order – the spicy edamame ($4), followed by kingfish carpaccio ($16), makimono spider roll ($18), RK’s own “classic cigar” ($10), the new style combo ($18) and sesame panna cotta ($7), though we think RK slipped in two complementary pieces of ocean trout nigiri (normally $5).
We asked for the dishes to be served one at a time, both to prolong the meal and to allow us to taste each dish properly; with great food each mouthful teaches you something and the next mouthful teaches you something more.
The big bowl of spicy barbecued edamame arrived after the kingfish carpaccio, which was fortunate as it proved a lovely picking dish between courses. The kingfish came with char garlic dressing, micro coriander and seedless chilli stick, a delicate combination of flavours that bloomed as we slowly grazed the eight tender slices. RK San’s spider roll is actually several tempura soft shell crabs, in a tobiko cucumber wrap with nori and beetroot amazu daikon, cut into eight pieces. We ask whether we should use the table’s soy dipping sauce and RK wisely recommends we let the flavours in the rolls speak for themselves. We don’t touch the soy bottle again. Don’t be put off by the name “cigar”. It describes nothing more than the colour and shape of this dish; the taste is in a different world. The menu describes them as “sashimi grade diced tuna in a pastry shell, nori and Malto Ash (sic) with spicy mayo, accompanied with saké shot”, but nothing can prepare the tastebuds for the flavour that comes flooding from each mouthful. The “cigar” is a fragile tube of brittle pastry held together by anticipation, so do not hurry; half a dozen careful bites punctuated by “oohs” and “aahs” is the way to go. The ocean trout nigiri was moist and tasty, but the next dish was a revelation, the carpaccio of salmon and snapper seared with smoky hot sesame oil and truffle ponzu with salmon roe. The plentiful, almost translucent slices of fish and juicy roe floated in a ponzu sauce that cried out for a spoon to finish every drop. We could have continued eating like this all evening, but real life called so we ended with the sesame panna cotta with raspberry sauce and strawberries, a delicate but surprisingly nuanced dish just large enough to share.
Complaints? Very few and none that would stop us returning again and again, though next time with a better wine than the cleanskin chardonnay we took on spec. Beautiful food like this deserves the best wine you can afford.
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