Japaz is a restaurant which combines both the Japanese Izakaya style and Spanish tapas style of serving small plates, often accompanied by drinks. The idea of Japanese-Spanish fusion intrigues me, so we make a booking for 8pm and a bunch of us venture out to see what Japaz has to offer.
Sir D and I are fashionably 15 minutes late (since we got caught up in Masterchef!) but the others arrive on time. When we arrive, Queen Chu tells us that the waiter has asked about our order several times already so we quickly make some selections. Midway taking our order, the waiter excuses himself to serve another table which BLT in particular finds very rude. We end up ordering about 12 dishes between 7 of us, since none of us are big eaters, and the waiter insists that this will not be enough and recommends that we order fewer selections but double up on them. However, we decide that we prefer to sample more of the menu so we stick with our order - to which the waiter again insists on ordering more dishes. This overattentiveness continues throughout our meal, and whilst his concern for our appetites was genuine, many of us find it quite unpleasant (as though he was trying to milk more money out of us!). Apart from this, the service is otherwise impeccable with dishes being removed promptly after they are finished and water being topped up regularly.
The first dish to arrive is the fried eggplant, which is crumbed on the outside with soft, juicy eggplant on the inside. The honey balsamic dressing tastes sweet at first, but then the flavour of the balsamic takes over. I'm not usually a big fan of eggplant but I actually quite like this dish.
The portobello mushrooms are also crumbed in the same way as the eggplant with the mushroom juices oozing out with each bite. I enjoy this dish but it could probably do with a bit of sauce to give it a bit more flavour.
BLT, Sir D and I order scallops and they are absolutely delicious - the buttery sauce pairs beautifully with the scallop which is cooked to perfection. This is a firm favourite of ours and is highly recommended.
BLT wants to try the stuffed piquillo capsicums so we order 3 of these to share between us. We are surprised to find that it is a cold dish, and the flavour of the capsicum is quite overpowering so the stuffing of crab meat, baby rocket and spinach is quite lost on all of us.
The meat dishes start arriving and the first one is the pan fried chorizo. We all agree that the sauce and flavour of the chorizo is delicious, but BLT, Sir D and I find that the chorizo casing is a bit tough, making it quite chewy to eat.
The pork belly is one of my favourite parts of the pig and this dish definitely does it justice. The pork is very soft and there is a nice layer of fat on all of the pieces. The small cubes of pear are dotted all over the dish and the balsamic sauce compliments the pork and the pear well, giving it a nice full flavour.
The lamb meatballs are swathed a delicious tomato salsa which is rich and moreish. I find the meatballs a touch dry, but this dish is one of Queen Chu and Captain Awesome's favourites.
The beef cheeks is a dish that we are mixed on - Nat, Sir D and I love the fall-apart softness of the beef but Queen Chu and Captain Awesome think that this makes the meat lack texture. It is a comforting, home-style dish, reminding us all of the oxtail braised in red wine which all of our mothers make. The almond sauce however is very subtle and none of us taste much almond flavour at all.
The last dish is the grilled quail which arrives on a bed of cooked savoy cabbage in a fiery red tomato-based sauce. It isn't the star of the night when compared with some of the other dishes but is nonetheless very good.
Japaz offers some interesting and delicious tasting food in a casual atmosphere. It does come with a price tag but I would definitely return to sample more of their menu and also to revisit some of the fantastic dishes we had tonight. It was a shame that the pushiness and slightly unpleasant demeanour of the waiter tarnished an otherwise enjoyable night but hopefully this was just a small oversight on the night that we dined.
165 Wycombe Road
Neutral Bay, NSW
Ph: +61 (02) 99040688
Lunch: Thursday and Friday, 12pm-3pm
Dinner: Monday - Saturday, 6pm - late
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