Yayoi, now boasting 4 locations across Sydney, serves what is called "Teishoku Cuisine" - set meals that combine rice, soup and several meat, fish or vegetables sides. This is considered the Japanese gold standard as the basis for a healthy diet. The population of Japan enjoy the longest life expectancy in the world, so when they dish health advice (excuse the pun), we can assume that they know what they are on about.
Not long ago, I took a friend here to taste what I consider to be some of the best Udon in Sydney...
Now, my friend was a sceptic. She had travelled to Japan and she was a connoisseur of Japanese restaurants in Sydney (for the record her first recommendation is the Scampi Nigri with truffle oil at Toko Restaurant in Surry Hills). In short, she had no reason to believe I had found an udon that was worthy of her time. That said, she is an agreeable person and was willing to humour me.
Yayoi in Market City opened its doors in March 2018, it sits on the top floor of the shopping centre as a part of the newly refurbished 1909 Dining Precinct.
We were ushered quickly to a booth of our own to the chorus of "Irashaimase!" and given a set of menus to peruse. I am not one that enjoys waving my arms around to attract the attention of a waiter, so I was a personal fan of the iPad order system. Just tap your order into the screen and it sends straight to the kitchen - no fuss, no waiting for someone to take your order, no interrupted conversations. So easy!
I am for all intents and purposes, more or less a teetotaller. I make an exception for umeshu. It is made by steeping Chinese plum in alcohol and sugar and perfect for the consummate sweet tooth. Yayoi has a umeshu menu with 10 different varieties of sweetness and aroma. From experience, I would recommend the Tantakatan or the Umenoyado.
Remember I told you that my friend was a sceptic? Boy, did I enjoy some quiet satisfaction when she took her first slurp of Udon. She looked down at her bowl in disbelief and conceded defeat. This stuff is heavenly - billowy and not at all chewy swirls of noodle in a perfectly seasoned broth topped with a few crispy bits of tempura, seaweed and spring onion. It tastes like the stuff that you can get off the streets of Japan - which is not so easy to get on the streets of Sydney.
This is not to say that all they can do is udon. The rest of the offerings at Yayoi are equally high quality. I particularly enjoyed the oyako jyu - a dish of rice topped with chicken and steamed egg. The sashimi side dish is also highly recommended.