There is something both exciting and comical about walking into a restaurant and glimpsing plates and plates of sushi revolving around on a motorised train.
With so many sushi trains in Sydney, sometimes it can be hard to find one that sets itself apart from others. Sushi Train Newtown, situated across from Newtown Station, aims to do just that. Behind the sushi train, chefs slice into beautifully thick pieces of raw fish and artfully assemble nigiri and sashimi with precision and speed. As guests enter and leave, calls of appreciation are sung by the chefs and staff in Japanese.
This Sushi Train restaurant has a special fish case sitting behind the sushi train, with a glass casing that enables diners to glimpse the large portions of fish inside. The chilled case enables the chefs to keep and slice raw fish for sashimi and sushi on site rather than at a central kitchen, meaning everything is as fresh as possible.
As well as an impressive array of sashimi, sushi, nigiri and ships on the train (with lots of vegetarian options too), the menu also includes items such as carpaccio, udon, donburi, and conventional ‘hot dishes’ like chicken teriyaki, tempura, gyoza and okonomiyaki. Sushi unique to this branch includes chilli wagyu beef rolls, baby squid nigiri and surf clam nigari, and ranges in price from $3.50 to $5.50.
In contrast to many other conventional sushi trains, the restaurant also offers a seasonal chef’s recommendation menu which features special sashimi sourced directly from the Sydney Fish Markets and Japan. The wide variety of sashimi this Sushi Train offers is really something special, listed on this handwritten menu which changes according to seasonal availability. Diners are able to pick and choose the variety and quantity of sashimi they’d like, each of which is carefully prepared and beautifully presented. All are generously sized, and each piece is cut thickly against the grain.
Chef’s Recommendation Sashimi
Among tonight’s offerings are Toro (blue fin tuna belly), alfonsino, Uni (sea urchin) and scampi, along with salmon, tuna and kingfish. Each of the seven varieties of fish we try has a distinct flavour and texture, and presenting them in alongside each other really enables us to appreciate this.
Tuna and alfonsino sashimi
Large pieces of freshly sliced sashimi are beautifully arranged on a long platter atop mounds of radish. The salmon sashimi has a clean, mild flavour, while the tuna is noticeably richer. The alfonsino is a white fish we’ve never seen nor eaten before, with a little bit of finely chopped ginger which adds a nice heat. Eating this little-known fish as sashimi lets us savour its delicate, refreshing taste. The kingfish sashimi, in contrast, has a very strong fishy flavour, and we’re told that this is a sign of the fish’s maturity.
The scampi sashimi has a texture reminiscent of oysters – slightly jelly-like, with a little bit of bite. The flavour of this translucent, white meat is very fresh and delicate compared to the other sashimi.
Uni (sea urchin) sashimi
We’re told that sea urchin is a seasonal sashimi that is at its best in winter. It is topped with a good piece of wasabi and a dollop of ponzu jelly. The sashimi is composed like a ‘ship’, with the slivers of uni resting on a small mound of rice and the whole thing wrapped in cucumber. Eat it all in one mouthful to savour the creamy crunch, followed by the heat of the wasabi.
Blue fin tuna toro sashimi
Toro is considered to be the king of sashimi. Toro in Japanese refers to the belly of the fish, which is the fattiest and often most expensive sashimi. This blue fin tuna toro is sourced direct from Japan and has a very peculiar colour which is unlike any other sashimi we’ve seen before. Each piece is a pale, translucent pink, with thick lines of fat and a glistening surface. The sashimi is quite chewy and almost meat-like, and it is this exceptional texture and distinctive flavour that enables us to see why toro is one of the most prized sashimi on the market.
Small salmon sashimi ($6.50)
The salmon sashimi from the normal menu has a darker colour and more distinctive marbling than that of the sashimi platter from the special chef’s menu. This tastes slightly less fatty, with a more subtle salmon flavour that is not so rich. Washoku Lovers members can get two extra pieces of sashimi when they order this dish and present their card.
Seaweed ship ($3.50)
The seaweed ship has a good amount of fluorescent seaweed nested on a ‘ship’ of rice wrapped in nori. The distinctive sesame flavour goes perfectly with the ever-so-slight crunch of the umami seaweed strands.
TK – grilled salmon and scallop ($5.50)
One of their more popular and higher-priced sushi, the TK is a luxurious ‘ship’ which features grilled salmon wrapped around rice, topped with a grilled scallop, chilli sauce and a small amount of finely chopped egg mixed with mayonnaise. Grilling the raw fish gives it an alluring aesthetic as well as an extra depth of charred flavour.
Tiger Roll ($5.50)
Another popular sushi from the train, the Tiger Roll consists of freshly cooked tempura with a careful layering of avocado, a drizzle of chilli mayonnaise and scattering of crispy tempura bits. The tempura inside is still warm and crunchy when this sushi arrives, and it is quite a generous serving compared to other plates at the same price.
Aburi Salmon ($4.50)
Aburi (grilled) salmon nigiri melts in the mouth, with fine shavings of red onion providing textural contrast to the soft fish. There are a number of other aburi nigiri available too, such as beef and chashu (roast pork).
Even though we visited on a weekday night, the restaurant is buzzing with people and many wait in line for a spot at the train. The atmosphere is warm and friendly, and you can be in and out in a jiffy if ordering from the train only. The inner west branch of this popular sushi train franchise offers top quality sashimi and sushi in Newtown at a considerable price, compared to many other high-end Japanese restaurants which can often charge much more for such fresh, high-grade produce. If you’re in the mood for a more lavish, luxurious meal, the chef’s recommendation sashimi really is something that must be tried, as well as some of the more unconventional sushi from the train.
316 King Street,
Newtown, NSW 2042
Contributed by Maddie Kwong, who dined as a guest on behalf of 2 Hungry Guys