Each evening at around 5pm, a cluster of people congregate out the front of a shiny new shopfront on Marrickville’s Illawarra Road. They’re here for Okami, an all-you-can-eat Japanese diner that has 25 outlets in Victoria but has only just arrived in Sydney. Not only is it outrageously cheap – $34.80 for two hours in which to tackle more than 30 dishes – but the food is fresh and tasty.
“Japanese cuisine can be expensive if you want to try a range of dishes,” Okami’s executive chef Nick Goh tells Broadsheet. “We want everyone to afford a high-quality Japanese dining experience and enjoy huge variety and amount of food. We have our own central kitchen and distribution centre in both Melbourne and Sydney to deliver fresh ingredients daily to each restaurant, so we can ensure the quality of food across all restaurants, while also providing an affordable dining experience.”
When you see the menu for the first time, it’s not hard to wonder if there’s a catch. At other all-you-can-eat venues at a similar price point you might expect a couple of meat or seafood dishes alongside a lot of low-cost carbs such as potatoes and rice. But at Okami, the menu is actually packed with dishes you’d happily order at any other Japanese restaurant.
Goh says the most popular items at the moment include the generous sushi and sashimi platters, beef carpaccio and prawn gyoza. “Main courses such as the teriyaki steak and seafood tempura are also very popular. It’s hard to only pick one from them.”
Other small dishes include squid salad, takoyaki (octopus balls) and chicken karaage. It’s wise not to fill up on those, though, considering the main menu includes hearty dishes such as chicken katsu, miso steak, udon noodle soup, prawns and yakiniku (grilled) beef. The dessert menu of ice-cream (vanilla, black sesame and green tea) and mochi rice cakes is a welcome light end to a meaty, carby meal.
Plus, there’s an à la carte takeaway menu of sushi, bento boxes, rice bowls and katsu. And if you can’t get to Marrickville (or struggle to book a table), the fact that a Silverwater location is slated to open soon – and that the chain aims to establish up to 15 locations in Sydney by the end of next year – might come as welcome news.