Gaku Robata Grill
Time Out says
This tiny Darlo diner nails casual fancy Japanese
You’ll need to book, and any more than four diners is going to present a problem for Gaku Robata Grill, which is a tiny slice of a Japanese restaurant on Darlinghurst Road. But these are the entry requirements for getting your hands on one of the best hand rolls we’ve eaten in a very long time.
What’s their secret? Here they arrive unwrapped so you can see the filling proudly presented on one of those delicious, salty, fried seaweed sheets. Roll it up so that the crunchy chip adds a textural shell to a seasoned ball of rice topped with tempura sea eel, pitting its saline savouriness against a sweet balsamic glaze and mayo. A length of miso-glazed eggplant adds luxurious softness to another two-bite roll funked up with generous shavings of bonito. You could eat your way through this one, ten-item segment of the menu and have a great time.
But then you’d miss the robata. The grill is a new addition to the kitchen and is a fiery flavour bed for oysters cooked in their shells, spiked with a yuzu miso cream that’s sharp and rich. At the meatier end, slices of wagyu come in an intensely peppery sauce that puts the pub dinner to shame. Veggos don’t miss out: corn, mushrooms, zucchini, cos lettuce and rice balls all get their time by the coals.
If you always thought that jewels look like candy, you’ll be pleased to know that here you are encouraged to eat a treasure bowl; a bed of rice capped with the riches of the sea in the form of raw tuna, uni and roe in all the colours of the sunset.
Plan ahead and order the sweet potato. It’s not trying to be a healthy dessert, but it genuinely is a whole, sweet, starchy tuber baked so that the centre is soft and sticky. It arrives topped with vanilla ice cream, a miso caramel and candied walnuts to create a fancied up version of what camping dinner dreams are made of.
We really weren’t kidding about the size of this place – maybe you could get four people on one of the scant larger tables, but it’s best for pairs looking for a little casual fancy Japanese and a riff on a Bellini that dries out the tropical fruitiness of peach with yuzu and sake. Just want a tall frosty beer? They have Asahi on tap.
Gaku Robata Grill is many rungs above your lunchtime sushi place (at lunch they only serve ramen, and there's only 40 bowls to go around). It's also a few more above a neighbourhood izakaya that rings with “irasshaimase” greetings. But it’s keeping things more casual than the ascetic kaiseki dining temples with omakase menus and service that borders on the reverential. It’s casual fancy done right, which makes it perfect for date night.
2/132 Darlinghurst Rd
|Opening hours:||Tue 6-10pm; Wed-Sun noon-2pm (ramen only); 6-10pm|