It seems we might just be seeing the renaissance of The Rocks. Joining the likes of 101 George St, Frank Mac’s, Hickson House Distilling Co and The Keel is Bay Nine Omakase, a luxe new “chef’s choice” sushi diner in the historic Campbell’s Stores waterfront dining precinct.
The literal translation of the Japanese word omakase is “I leave it up to you”. In his book The Story of Sushi Trevor Corson describes omakase as “what the sophisticated customer says to the chef when settling down at the sushi bar. Sushi connoisseurs seldom order off a menu. Traditionally, sushi bars in Japan didn't even have menus.”
At Bay Nine Omakase, diners are invited to leave it up to young-gun Tomohiro Marshall Oguro (ex-Sushi E, Fish Face). Oguro has spent the past decade working under the watchful eye of seafood savant Stephen Hodges (Fish Face) and acclaimed sushi chef Naoki Fukazawa (Yoshii, Sushi E). At just 28, Oguro is one of Sydney’s youngest omakase chefs, and he’s not afraid to play the youth card.
“The omakase scene is booming in Sydney – it feels like there is a new one every six months,” Oguro tells Broadsheet. “All the chefs are super experienced, older guys. Rather than trying to compete with that, I want to make Bay Nine Omakase different, and bring my sense of fun and youthfulness to the dining experience.”
The sense of fun will no doubt be fanned by a strong sake selection, with more than 40 varieties to choose from. Sake flights are also on the menu, alongside a range of predominantly Japanese spirits. The fit out is minimal, with dramatic lighting showcasing the sandstone bones of the 1799 warehouse. But it’s the storytelling element that takes centre stage at the 10-seat omakase bar, with Oguro believing that the relationship with the chef is as important as the food.
“I believe it’s just as important to develop a genuine connection with each guest sitting across from me at the counter as it is to deliver them a highly memorable collection of dishes,” Oguro says. “We are going to tell the story about each dish to the customers.”
Oguro creates a new menu every day for the omakase counter, while a set menu (where some dishes from the omakase make an appearance) is served to diners in a separate 30-seat area. The menu is anchored by a selection of nigiri, flanked by a revolving range of hot seafood dishes. Wagyu sukiyaki – a dish usually served in a hotpot and shared – is blanched, thinly sliced and served on a small plate with egg yolk, sea urchin and sweet onions.
“It’s my take on surf ’n’ turf. Even though [Wagyu and urchin] are polar opposites they go together so well,” Oguro says.
The menu of the day is created around what fish has been caught in the last 12 hours, and Oguro adapts his technique daily to suit his produce. Depending on the flavour profile of the fish it might be steamed, salted, seared, grilled or poached. He uses the tsumoto-shiki bleed-out method to age fish, which brings out the umami notes during the ageing process without stripping the fish of its natural moisture.
Bay Nine Omakase is part of the Venues Collection, which also includes Harbourfront Seafood Restaurant and Watersedge, both also located within the Campbell’s Stores precinct on The Rocks side of Circular Quay.
“We are in one of the most iconic waterfront spots in Sydney,” Oguro says. “I want to make it a fun and casual environment, different to other omakases.”
Bay Nine Omakase
Campbell’s Stores, Bay 9, 7–27 Circular Quay West, The Rocks
(02) 9251 0897
Thu to Sun 12pm–10.30pm