Yakiniku is Japanese for "grilling meat" and when visiting a yakiniku restaurant like Nikaido at Neutral Bay, that is exactly what you do. Nikaido has recently opened and the restaurant looks amazing. It has a blend of old meets new, with even small traditional Japanese seating areas located away from the main dining area. If you are planning a visit, make sure to ask for the traditional seating area for that authentic experience.
Upon arrival, your iPad is loaded up and the traditional Japanese yakiniku sauces are brought out to your table. Trust us when we tell you to order your meat with only salt and dip your cooked meat into the sauces provided. They are prepared specially for yakiniku, so don't be afraid to soak your wagyu!
Nikaido has taken their own twist on this traditional Korean favourite. Consisting of braised beef, kimchi, bean sprouts, carrot, bamboo shoots and greens, topped with a raw egg, they are definitely taking the literal meaning of "Bibimbap" which is a mixed bowl with rice. The beef really elevated this dish and the kimchi was a strange, but welcomed addition. We are mostly accustomed with dolsot bibimbap where the above is served in a hot stone pot, so it was good for comparison. Taking this aside, we still prefer the dolsot bibimbap.
During our travels in Japan we literally lived off street food, going between Okonomiyaki, Takoyaki and Gyoza almost every day, so it's safe to say that we love takoyaki when it is made right. Nikaido serves the fried wheat battered balls with diced octopus, fresh ginger and tonnes of the ever so delightful takoyaki sauce and mayonnaise. We were very pleased with our choice, each takoyaki ball brought back another memory of our holiday with the thick golden batter and nicely cooked octopus. The only criticism would be that there wasn't enough octopus, we only found 1 or 2 at most pieces in each.
Gyoza would have to be the perfect side dish. We cannot think of a situation where gyoza would not be invited to the table, especially when they are cooked so well. We couldn't get over how crispy the base was, it almost had us questioning whether it was crusted parmesan. If we hadn't ordered so much food, we would have asked for a second or third serving!
Premium Wagyu Beef Rib
We opted for all the recommended meat dishes tonight, which included the Wagyu Beef Rib and Wagyu Beef Skirt. Wagyu beef is great for their high marble score meaning the fat is consistently dispersed throughout the meat leaving it to soak up more flavour, and when cooked properly it will dissolve in your mouth. Knowing this, Matt took on the challenge to be head chef, using the 1 turn method! Because you are cooking on an open flame with such high quality, thinly sliced beef, it is very easy to overcook or burn so it really is a quick grill on either sides. My tip is to cook it as long as possible on one side to form a bit of a burnt crust before turning over for a few seconds! Highly recommend this selection!
Special Wagyu Beef Skirt
Skirt steak is considered to be a fattier piece of meat, which is perfect when the fat is marbled. Again, we ordered this dish to have salt seasoning only as opposed to the soy or miso option. Remember, yakiniku is all about the sauces! Similar to the rib, the meat was just as tender and we found it held more flavour. Another of the recommended dishes from Nikaido's menu.
We thought we had one too many beef dishes. We don't trust ourselves to cook chicken, so pork was the next best option and were we glad we chose it. The fat/meat ratio on these slices is insane, you can see from the picture above that it is about 3 quarters fat. This just means more to grill and really get the flavours going. This was by far our favourite meat dish, it really surprised us. The miso glaze really did make the difference here, it worked quite well with the pork! Keep in mind that there is a fee to replace the metal mesh on your barbecue, so save all marinated meats for the end otherwise you are going to end up with burnt marinade throughout all your food.
The flames are on quite high! Chef mode ON.
Lemon Lime Bitters
The staple drink. You can't go wrong with a good old LLB when you don't feel like drinking!
What a great night it was dining at Nikaido. The food came out fast, the staff were friendly and attentive and the view, while not amazing, offered some good conversion topics as you watched people run for their buses or couples walking through the rain. Probably not the perfect first date spot (as your hair, clothes and every inch of skin smells like barbecued meat afterwards - YUM), but definitely an experience to take someone special if you haven't been!