Scratch beneath the hipster veneer and many venues come up lacking. Underlying kooky décor that includes a glowing sakura ceiling in the upper bar, and erotic shibari prints, Edison bulbs in birdcages and dangling autumnal leaves downstairs, is both clever architecture (courtesy of FJMT who did neighbouring Surry Hills Library) and a raison d’etre. Fusing Taiwanese street food and Japanese cuisine came about because owner Gemma Lin grew up in a tiny Taiwanese fishing village where “on a clear day, you can see the coast of Okinawa,” her partner Adam Hunt explains. Taking cocktails with him at the base of a Japanese maple, it’s hard not to share in his enthusiasm for their “bitchin’ bar”. Our liquid journey flows from the smooth Brand New Old Fashioned ($19) using Nikka from the Barrel, to Brewing Dude Kamoshibito ($36/300ml) from their interesting sake list. It’s perfect if you like full, funky rice flavours. Chase it with imported Japanese beers, including my favourite Koshihikari Echigo Rice Beer ($16/500ml). Maintain control using a steady stream of bar bites, from tender sashimi off cuts in Popcorn Fish ($19) to sticky-sweet Buffalo Wings ($19) topped with chilli threads. Your must-haves both cleverly employ red Sichuan peppercorns – floating in excellent Homemade Miso Soup ($7) and enlivening pickled cabbage accompanying their achingly tender One Bite Beef ($31).
403 Crown Street, Surry Hills
Ph: (02) 9331 8881 mamasan.com.au
Taiwanese, Japanese, Cocktails $$$-$$$$