Tucked in a side street off the main drag of Martin Place, Suminoya is in a perfect position to be missed by the vast majority of CBD workers. However, if you’ve got a hankering for a culinary free-for-all and an authentic Japanese yakiniku (grilled meat) experience, this is definitely a hidden gem worth visiting with a group of hungry friends, especially in the dead of winter.
With Suminoya giving you carte blanche on their BBQ menu for 90 minutes, this is definitely not a diet-friendly experience…but it’s oh so good. The restaurant ensures you eat in moderation by imposing a penalty if you have a large amount of uncooked food left over, so order as you go and don’t be too ambitious until you get a feel for how large each serving is. My dining companion and I (two people with average appetites) had about 2 main rounds of dishes (including sides/salads and meat), with around 4-5 types of meat each round and we were absolutely stuffed by the end of the night.
The $60 premium all-you-can-eat package gives you access to a huge selection of Australian Wagyu beef, along with other types of meat, seafood, salads, sashimi and Japanese curry and soup, which you can order at will through a convenient touch screen. We also got access to the drinks buffet, where you can order Coke, sweet Calpis (which tastes like Yakult) and Aloe Vera drink at your leisure. Suminoya’s attention to detail – wet towels for your hands, a little bucket of ice for your drinks – really stood out to me and made the entire experience very easy.
The amount per serving (even for ‘jugs’ of soft drink) is also small enough that you probably won’t be overwhelmed by any order. Just remember that where the screen says ‘1p’ (for scallops, seafood and sashimi), they will literally bring you one piece if you only order one. Japanese yakiniku differs from its Korean equivalent in that the marinated meat is less sweet or intense in flavour, which I enjoyed because it allowed the flavour of the meat to shine through more strongly.
As with Korean BBQ, your experience is unfortunately is slightly dependent on your grilling skill. My tips for cooking are as follows:
- Don’t grill everything at once.
- Try to grill one TYPE of meat each ‘round’ as they all have different optimal grilling times and it’s easy to lose track.
- Have one person be in charge of grilling and serving per ‘round’. This gives everyone a chance to eat ‘freshly’ grilled meat.
- Personally, I also think beef is the most forgiving meat when grilling BBQ so if you’re a newbie, start with that.
The variety of Suminoya’s menu can be a little overwhelming so having tried quite a lot of dishes there, here are my key recommendations:
Definitely shell out an extra $10 for the Australian wagyu beef because the wagyu is a vastly superior grilling meat. The regular beef ribs were thinly cut and frozen but there was a fairly uneven balance of meat and fat on some of the ribs, which made them hard to eat. There was a range of wagyu cuts but try to find the thinly sliced wagyu loin (I think?) which was melts-in-your-mouth tender. Then again, you really can’t go wrong with any of the wagyu.
Scallop: You have not lived until you’ve had freshly grilled aburi scallop, but you do need to be careful not to overcook it. The scallop tasted quite fresh and absolutely brilliant when dipped in sweet soy sauce.
Garlic butter prawns: These tiny prawns have been carefully shelled AND cleaned for you and all you need to do is plonk it down on the grill in its aluminium bowl to infuse it with a delicate garlic butter flavour.
Namuru: this dish is a small dish of cold vegetables and pickles. The pickles are excellent at cleansing your palate to cut through the richness of the grilled meat.
Duck: this depends on personal taste as duck meat is quite gamey and is thick so it does take a little longer to cook. However, it’s quite unusual to find it as a BBQ meat, so it’s worth trying. I found the skin a little too thick but the meat was quite satisfying.
There is a whole bunch of other, more typical Japanese side dishes we managed to try – potato salad, wakame (seaweed) soup, grilled corn and Japanese curry on rice, as well as dessert in the form of matcha and black sesame ice cream. I’d say the quality is decent, but not particularly mindblowing. Still, if you’re looking to introduce someone to a huge range of Japanese cuisine in one night, this all-you-can-eat really delivers.
There are a bunch of vegetables available for grilling (I particularly recommend the shiitake mushroom) as well as salads and some soup, but this is definitely a carnivore’s stomping ground at heart. If that’s your thing though, get on it.
1 Hosking Place, Sydney NSW
Phone: (02) 9231 2177
I Ate My Way Through dined as guests of Suminoya