All this should add up to something pretty neat. But that’s the thing. It doesn’t.
I joined the queue, perusing the menu on the fly. There’s a choice of bento boxes, sushi and side dishes. I love a good Bento box, and remember the good old days where an enormous bento box lunch at Sono set you back $15. Back then, I ate one at least once a week and chewed the fat with others in my industry, who also had no defence for the lure of light as a feather tempura, tangy teriyaki beef, perfectly seasoned rice and anything else the chef deigned suitable for our bento boxes.
I got to the front of the queue to be told that I could only order sushi at that station, and that I needed to join the other queue. OK, sure. I joined the other, longer queue to be told by the manager that we could order bento boxes at the other queue. The manager then turned his back to us to engage in a long chat to a mate passing by. Not a stunning introduction to Nagomi. I settled on the Teriyaki Beef Patty bento box and went with the option to substitute the rice portion for sushi for an extra $2, fearful that if I wanted sushi, I’d be asked to join yet another queue. I was given a number and took a seat at the indoor bar area with other lone diners. My number was called not long after that and the bento box presented at the counter, the ‘box’ entirely comprised of moulded paper containers in a larger cardboard tray. The stool wasn’t matched to the height for the bar, which necessitated leaning forward to operate my chopsticks. Not a major problem, more an oversight on the part of the fitout designer that made eating a little awkward. Perhaps a clever trick to ensure tables are turned over quickly?
The contents of the bento box were however a problem. Salad with mesclun, mandarin segments and a scoop of potato salad were fine. Gyoza, crocquettes and a few edamame beans were OK, but not amazing. I had trouble getting the sushi pieces out of the cardboard container, as the rice was overcooked and had become welded to the cardboard. The fillings of spicy tuna, pork and tempura prawn were decent, but not what I would have chosen (if you take the sushi option, you do not get to choose your sushi). The beef patty tasted reminiscent of my mother’s meatloaf with some green beans, zucchini, carrot and a pool of tasteless brown sauce. The beef was cheap and over minced, without any pleasurable flavour or texture. Perfectly blanched green beans were easily the highlight of the bento box.
Nagomi has been open for 4 – 6 weeks with an interruption in trade during the floods, which damaged the underground infrastructure and food storage areas at Eagle Street Pier. The concept is good, the location is great and there is serious money and resources at the venues disposal with its backing from the established Sono group. I hope they can refine their service and food offering to successfully differentiate themselves from the myriad other Japanese lunch options available in the CBD.
A little birdy tells me a new interstate player is opening in the last remaining tenancy, known for its waterside location and ‘hot’ kitchen. Any guesses?