Mmm… What’s that you’re eating?

The things I’ll ask my stomach to do for food! There are many who will attest to the fact that I’ve put a lot of strange things in my mouth over the years (who hasn’t eaten play dough?), but even I will admit to being a tad negligent when I stepped into Makoto Sushi Bar, in Sydney’s Spanish quarter, for a sushi lunch.

To put this into context, I quite enjoy sushi, sometimes even crave the stuff. But, as someone with a mild seafood allergy, I always make sure I know exactly what is going into my mouth. However, that task was made difficult when I realised I could not decipher the menu before me. Fortunately, not as dangerous as one might think. To date, my sushi-devouring palate has remained quite safe , ordering chicken karaage (Japanese fried chicken, which sounds awfully unhealthy) and things with avocado, but I could see none of that here.

In the heart of Sydney things are always bustling, which is exactly how I found Makoto – full of people who just about had to fall over themselves to get a seat. We were seated relatively quickly. Double-decker sushi plates moved before us, and there was a decent variety, but one thing we did notice was the amount sashimi going around which signalled to me that this place was good for fresh. So there was no better opportunity to extend our palate than now.

Here is what I learned – anago is saltwater eel and unagi is the freshwater variety. I’m sure eel-eating officianados will know the presentation differences of these dishes, but to me, it was all the same – eel. And those things look strange in the water. I took comfort in the fact that it had been lightly barbecued, because there was this tenderness to the meat that made it very appealing. The taste was not at all what I had expected; the flavour was strong, a little bit salty and almost garlicky, but there was this sweetness which came from the fleshy, skin-like bit at the underside of the roll. Definitely unique and worth a try.

While this sudden burst of ‘brave’ existed I opened up my senses to another oddity on the food scale. South East Asia regularly harvests this stuff, and only about a dozen of the more than 80 different species in the world are fit for human consumption, so I really hoped the ‘Jellyfish Master’ was on his game when I picked a plate of the clear slimy stuff. I’ve been told there  is a jellyfish outbreak going on in the waters (one could assume as a result of over-fishing) and to address this potentially devastating ecological issue, more and more jellyfish are being harvested for us to eat.

As a child growing up, my summers were spent on the North Queensland beaches, where jellyfish were reviled for their nasty sting. I couldn’t help but pray a little prayer that I would not be consuming something poisonous by eating the jellyfish tentacles on my plate. Served much like any other sushi roll, with delightful sticky rice, where the jellyfish replaces the fish (or chicken, or beef, or pork) the texture of this dish was as expected; rubbery and wet. What was a surprise was the flavour.  Marinated in soy sauce and vinegar with a hint of chili or ginger, the jellyfish seemed to absorb those flavours, making it not at all an unfavourable experience.

As far as sushi goes, Makoto is definitely a place to put on your map. It was exciting to watch the chefs behind the counter prepare the fresh sushi and sashimi for customers; working hard to keep abreast of the flurry of orders coming in an out, service was incredibly attentive, and plate prices were pretty reasonable all things considered.

Overall rating:  3.5 out of 5

Makoto Sushi Bar details:
 Address – 119 Liverpool Street, Sydney NSW (Spanish quater)
 Food – Japanese, Sushi
 Drink –  Licensed
 Prices – Sushi/sashimi plates from $2.60 – $6.60

Makoto Sushi Bay is open Monday to Friday from 11.30am-2.30pm and Saturday to Sunday from 12pm-3pm for lunch. They are also open Monday to Sunday from 5.30pm-10pm for dinner.Telephone 02 9283 6767 for further information.

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