It was a sunny afternoon, and my friends and I were in the mood for a light meal. We were in walking distance from Bondi Beach, and decided to stroll along Campbell Parade and look around. I suggested Japanese, one of the cuisines I never get sick of no matter how often I eat it. My friend said that there was a Japanese restaurant nearby that she had always wanted to try. The end result of this led us to Soy Japanese Restaurant.
Udon - An unexpected and pleasant surprise
Upon entering the restaurant, we admired the open window space, light-filled interior and wooden lamp shades. The décor at Soy is perfect for being situated near a beach. It is neither too fancy, nor too sparsely decorated. Soy is a small restaurant, with both indoor and outdoor seating. It was a warm day, so we chose seating inside to escape the heat of the sun, and spent several minutes looking over the menu.
Light filled ambience
In the end we decided to order the Crab Cream Croquette ($11), Pork Gyoza ($12), Small Mix Sashimi ($15), Soft Shell Crab Roll ($15) Hot Rock Wagyu Beef ($29) and Udon ($10). We didn't wait too long for our entrees to arrive, about 10-15 minutes. The appetisers that arrived first were the Crab Cream Croquette; the Mix Sashimi, and the Soft Shell Crab Roll.
Crab Cream Croquette - very creamy but not particularly crisp
The Crab Cream Croquette was deep fried and coated in breadcrumbs with a very creamy interior of crab and potato. It was served with a thick and sweet brown sauce on the side. The sauce tasted very similar to tonkatsu sauce, a Japanese sauce that is generally served with Japanese pork cutlet. Despite being fried, the exterior of the croquettes didn't taste particularly crisp. The inside of the croquettes were very creamy and contained bits of crab mixed with potato. The sauce provided flavour, as the croquettes on their own were a little bland.
The small Mix Sashimi contained three pieces of salmon, kingfish and tuna. I didn't see the value in paying $15 for nine small pieces of raw fish, but sashimi is expensive in most places in Sydney. The sashimi was served with a slice of lemon and a dollop of wasabi. The lemon was squeezed onto the sashimi slices, and dipped in soy sauce and a tiny bit of wasabi. The lemon juice provided a tinge of acidity, and the soy sauce and wasabi gave the sashimi a hot and salty flavour. Beware of using too much wasabi, as your eyes will water. It is particularly overpowering when too much of it is eaten. My friends and I didn't think the sashimi was very fresh.
Soft Shell Crab Roll with a side of wasabi cream sauce
The next dish that arrived was the Soft Shell Crab Roll. The Soft Shell Crab Roll arrived on a long plate and had seven pieces of sushi. The Soft Shell Crab Roll contained small pieces of soft shell crab, seaweed and avocado, and was topped with fish roe. The soft shell crab had been deep fried, and gave the roll a nice crunch, contrasting with the soft creaminess of the avocado. There was also a pale green sauce on the side that we dipped the Soft Shell Crab Roll in. It had a mild taste of wasabi and cream.
Menu at Soy Restaurant
After we finished our appetisers, our two mains arrived. The first one that was brought out was the Udon. My friend had ordered the Udon and expressed some dismay when she saw that it was a hot noodle dish. It was already a warm day and we didn't particularly want to eat something that was hot. However we ate it anyway, and enjoyed it nonetheless. It was a very simple dish of thick udon noodles, pieces of seaweed and a thin broth, but I enjoyed this dish the most. The broth was quite watery and thin, in the traditional style of udon soup, and had the distinct flavour of bonito. There was a subtle hint of seaweed flavour. Neither the bonito or seaweed flavours in the soup overpowered one another, and worked quite well together. The noodles were cooked to perfection.
Other side of the menu at Soy
Shortly after we'd begun to eat the Udon, our waiter brought out the Pork Gyoza. Although the Pork Gyoza was listed under entrees, they had failed to bring out this dish at the precise time. None of us were too bothered by this though. The pork gyozas were pan fried and served with a sweet, thin sauce. The top and inside of the gyozas were soft, while the bottoms were crisp. The classic combination of shallots and pork in the gyoza was nice, but nothing spectacular.
Pork Gyoza - nothing special
The last dish to arrive was the Hot Rock Wagyu Beef. We had been looking forward to this dish, however we were disappointed when we tried it. The wagyu beef came out raw, with a side of three dipping sauces. The waiter brought a hot plate for us to cook the meat on. I really enjoy restaurants that provide DIY ways to cook meat, as I will often eat beef almost raw.
Low grade wagyu beef with a trio of dipping sauces
However, my friends and I agreed that the wagyu beef that we'd been served was of a very low quality. We knew it even before we'd eaten it, as wagyu beef has visible white ripples through the meat, of which provide the trademark taste of the wagyu and its fatty texture. Our wagyu beef barely had any ripples at all. It tasted like regular beef, and we were very disappointed by this. For the same price, we could have gotten a much better quality wagyu for the same amount at a different restaurant. There was nothing that stood out about the dipping sauces either.
The hot plate that the wagyu beef was cooked on
All in all, our dining experience at Soy Japanese Restaurant was quite mediocre. Nothing was very bad, but nothing was very good either. The service was polite and professional, but our waiter barely spoke two words to us. It's simply a matter of personal taste, but I much prefer the restaurants with chatty and warm waiters and waitresses. The bill came to $102.50 for six dishes. We divided it three ways and it came to about $35.00 each (rounded up). My friends and I all stated that we weren't very full from the dishes we had eaten. We came in search of a light meal and got exactly that. Therefore, I wouldn't recommend this restaurant for people with large appetites. The price was also medium range. The ambience was nice, and the vicinity of the beach to the restaurant make it a good spot to eat lunch before going swimming. However, this is a restaurant I probably wouldn't bother going to again.
Where: 38 Campbell Parade, Bondi Beach NSW
Why: For traditional Japanese cuisine
Cost: Medium price range
When: Lunch from Thursday to Sunday, and dinner seven nights a week.