Updated: Apr 23, 2019
I think I have been mis-led all these years. I believe—contrary to popular belief—the 1980 hit “Turning Japanese” by The Vapors was not about teenage angst and youth. I reckon David Fenton, the guy who wrote it had just had an epiphany as I did on Saturday night. For the first time in my life, I dined in a Japanese restaurant.
With all the different cuisines that are now available in our amazing city of Bunbury, Japanese—as far as I am aware—is only available at one restaurant. Feeling like we really wanted to try something different, we opted to have a night at Tokyo Jacks. I am glad we did.
As is usual for us, Lisa and I decided to get to town early and have a drink before we got to the restaurant. Being the Easter weekend, we weren’t really sure how busy town was going to be. I was pleased to find it bustling.
Our table was booked for 7:45. On arrival the place was more or less full. The pleasant aroma of Japanese delicacies got the taste buds on alert instantly. We were shown to our table right at the business end of the restaurant. From this vantage point we could see all the cooking going on in the open kitchen. There is something quite pleasing about being able to see your food being prepared and cooked.
We were offered the drinks menu. I am a big believer in the old saying “When in Rome” and tonight it was all about immersing ourselves in the Japanese experience. I quizzed our waiter (who just happened to be the husband of the owner) about the types of Sake, (Japanese rice wine) on offer. This guy knew his stuff and gave us a real in-depth description of the different types he had. We opted for a 300ml bottle of Samurai Sake. This was great as an aperitif, but even better once we started eating. It was a perfect complement for the food. And wow.....The food!
I really like how they haven’t made the menu to complicated. When trying a different cuisine for the first time, it can be really confronting when one is faced with a hundred different dishes with weird names that you haven’t a clue what they are. In this case the menu is very user friendly. The items that I was not too sure of, the staff took time to explain what they were. Most of the dishes are perfect for sharing, so with that in mind, we ordered an array of different things, so we got to try all the styles on offer.
We started off with food from their “Bites” section. We ordered some Popcorn Cauliflower, some Edamame, and some Squid Karaage The Edamame came out first. These are a type of bean that are served up in the pods. There really is something quite comforting about squeezing these little beans out of the pods. They emerge all fresh and slippery, the dish is as much about texture as it is flavor. I really enjoyed eating them. The cauliflower was outstanding. Each small piece had the merest suggestion of tempura batter encapsulating vegetable. Not greasy, not too thick and just the faintest delicate crunch. The full flavor of the cauliflower shone through and the batter gave it the texture. Served with just the right amount of Kewpie mayonnaise for a bit of extra zing. Delicious! The squid didn’t disappoint either.
The chef has really perfected his art and once again the tempura batter was so light, we had to hold the squid down. It was cooked to perfection and not a tough or chewy piece in sight. As well as the mayo, this was also served with a beautiful thick and sticky Teriyaki sauce which lifted the squid to even greater heights.
I guess a Japanese meal would not be complete without some Sushi. They have a good selection to choose from. We opted for the Korean Beef Rolls and the salmon Avocado Rolls. Again, the chef excelled. I experienced what can only be described as Sushi jealousy. I have tried making this at home, and whilst what I knock up is edible, it is like comparing cubic zirconia with diamonds! The rice that caressed the filling was just held together making the Sushi almost delicate….Fragile even.
The Korean beef was tangy, salty and would make the demurest person lick their fingers after.
The salmon was fresh and as a master stroke was dotted with salmon roe that popped flavor in the mouth. It was all served with a good salty soy, pickled ginger and a good old—smack in the face—Wasabi. Both plates of Sushi were visually pleasing as they were delicious. We were starting to get full, but since when has that stopped us?
Following on from the success of the squid we ordered another Karaage dish—the chicken. We had also been enticed by a pork belly dish that was on the specials board. The chicken was as good as the squid. When you pick that piece of chicken up with the chopsticks, drag it through the Teriyaki sauce and then plunge it into the mayo, you are creating something special. The fusion of those flavours in the mouth are sensational! The pork Belly was in a class of its own. The meat was sticky and indulgent. The skin was not the thick crackling that I am used to but had been rendered just enough to give it the faintest hint of crisp—different, but I liked it. The chef had given the same amount of respect to the broccolini that shared the plate with the pork. It was neither soggy or tough and mopped up the sauce and pork juice perfectly. The dish was also served with an amazing eggplant puree which was packed with flavor and danced with all the other elements on the plate.
We polished off the Sake early in the meal, so we ordered a couple of glasses of wine to wash down the later dishes Lisa had her usual Sauvignon Blanc. I went for their house Shiraz. Tokyo jacks is licensed and has a good choice of wines and craft beers, not to mention a big choice of Sake, which I would urge you to try. If cocktails are your thing, they are also on offer to.
Tokyo Jacks. If you have ever thought of trying Japanese but have thought that it was all raw fish and rice, then I would say go and give this place a try. The food was incredible, and to be honest, some of the most flavorsome dishes I have ever tried. The staff are knowledgeable about the food, friendly and efficient.
Emi the owner is obviously very passionate about her restaurant and this clearly come through in the food, the service and the ambiance of the place.
Have I turned to Japanese as one of my favourite cuisines? Yes….I really think so.