Soul satisfying and striking in its simplicity

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The melt-in-the-mouth sashimi was superb. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

“Traditional dishes are on the menu, as are sushi and sashimi, hot pots and modern creations. Fresh produce is guaranteed,” says dining reviewer WENDY JOHNSON.

JAPANESE cuisine, when well executed, is so elegant on the plate and tantalising to the tastebuds.

Wendy Johnson.

Quality ingredients are key. Colours, shapes, textures are key. Dishes are never overly complex, but rather striking in their simplicity.

Iori in the city has been creating fine Japanese dining in a relaxed and unpretentious atmosphere for a long time, and our recent trip didn’t disappoint. It’s no surprise that Iori has won multiple food awards over many years.

Traditional dishes are on the menu, as are sushi and sashimi, hot pots and modern creations. Fresh produce is guaranteed.

The melt-in-the-mouth sashimi was superb. It was cut and plated with precision and such a pretty presentation. It’s a delicacy and Iori has sashimi down to a fine art. Our dish arrived with a dollop of bright green wasabi, cucumber for freshness and slices of lemon for a lovely citrus feel. The raw tuna and salmon were stunning (regular $21, large $38).

The salty and piping hot miso soup was a real hit of umami flavour – meaty, earthy and hard to define in some ways. Every sip was soul satisfying.

Tempura is a favourite of ours, but only when the batter is super crispy and super light, which it was at Iori ($36). The tempura pieces were served with a special dipping sauce and a special salt.

Wagyu sirloin… very rare seared, super thinly sliced with a secret sauce. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

Another stunning looking dish was the Wagyu beef ($36). It was very rare seared, super thinly sliced and arrived with yet another style of secret sauce. The marbling was marvellous and the capers added zing. The plate was further evidence that Iori combines art and food into one.

Agedashi tofu fans will love Iori’s take on this famous dish ($15). The bean curd wasn’t over-the-top fried and the dried seaweed and shallots rounded out the tofu with perfection.

Matcha cheesecake… slightly sweet, grassy flavour. Photo: Wendy Johnson.

We topped off our experience by sharing matcha cheesecake (gluten free and $13), loving its slightly sweet, grassy flavour. The crust was perfect and the cheesecake creamy. Fresh blueberries and strawberries added an additional sweet element.

Iori has a great range of sake and plum wines. There are also plenty of white, red, sparkling and rose wines to choose from, reasonably priced. Top shelf spirits abound.

The décor and different eating zones are all designed around making you feel like you’re in Japan.

Smaller individual tables are mixed with a longer communal table or you can sit at the sushi bar and watch the action in the kitchen.

The staff wearing kimonos looked elegant and although the restaurant is quite dark of an evening, taking on a golden tone, there are pops of colour everywhere you look. Staff are confident, calm and collected, listening carefully to customer queries.

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Wendy Johnson
Wendy Johnson: Food reviewer for Canberra CityNews magazine since 2004, covering stories for true foodies to digest.

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