Raw Bar is an institution celebrating it’s 20th year in the industry. A bizarrely named venue that makes one think of a completely different cuisine than Japanese. The odd thing is it was probably named before the raw food movement even had a word. A Japanese stalwart of food preparation and cooking Raw Bar is a venue that I had already planned and pencilled in my second visit before the first visit had ended. Of all the places I have eaten this year Raw Bar steals my heart as the best. And on the “Raw Bar” name – I believe it was named for the seaweed and sashimi used in the Japanese cuisine.
This place is a local’s icon – if I lived in the Bondi area, instead of the Manly area, I would eat at this place a couple of times a week. It’s a meeting place for the cool beach people, half the people would know each other’s names and it would be the “see you on Sunday arvo” vibe for all your mates.
RAW BAR VENUE:
Located at the North end of Bondi Beach, fairly close to the Pavillion, and back on the street opposite the school. It’s right near those iconic markets on the weekends. I had seen it for years, well twenty to be precise, and always written it off as a mung bean serving, kale smoothie place for the greenies of the world to unite and discuss their hatred of emissions. Not that there is anything wrong with that, it just wasn’t my thing. But then I found, out after receiving an invite, it’s actually a Japanese restaurant and I was keen as mustard to try it.
It’s a corner venue with a GIANT “RAW” name on the walls. The windows on both sides can open up and there is indoor and outdoor seating that has beautiful ocean views. I can’t see them opening all the windows up too much, it’s located in a wind tunnel from hell. The inside looks recently renovated with warm woods and leather and greys and whites in the tiles and on the walls. It’s welcoming, modern and yet still maintains it’s Japanese feel while blending it with beachy chill. The kitchen and the bar share space and they are both open to the venue behind the tall counter bar.
The interior tables are close together and the outside offers more space but expect wind on most nights. The place packs out quick so get in early as they take no bookings. And do not expect quiet romantic meals, the place is small, it is fantastic but it is not the place to propose of candle lit romantic privacy. But if you take potential future Mr or Mrs’ here they will fall in love with you because of your food taste.
We started with beers over Spicy Edamame and then I moved on to hot sake, I drank red wine (I am pretty sure haha) and we indulged in yuzu and/or gin cocktails I fell in love with. Karl Misch is the manager and besides being one incredibly awesome dude with previous experience at Longrain and Toko, also has a taste for all the food and all the drinks. He selected everything for me drink and food wise and it all blew my mind. I have to apologise because I photographed my food menu but not the alcohol menu so have no recollection about their names or ingredients but I do remember yuzu and being very happy haha.
THE FOOD AT RAW BAR:
The menu is modern Japanese and it is made to perfection. The chefs have all be raised in remote seaside villages of Japan and have dedicated their lives to Japanese cuisine like monks in the Andes. They worship the spiritualism of nuanced flavours and have studied their art of plating from the artists of history. Not really but their food is so bloody good they need songs written in their honour.
After being around for twenty years Raw Bar’s relationship with all the produce suppliers is the best it can be – these guys and gals get the single best choices of everything. The tuna and kingfish swim to the venue from the beach, the black cod and eggplants fall from the sky as if gifted from heaven and the scampi plucks the chickens before offering itself into a bath of miso to self prepare itself for diners. Do you get my point yet? IT’S AMAZING :).
WHAT WE ATE:
- Spiced Edmame Beans
- Kingfish Sashimi
- Spicy Prawn Tempura Roll – tempura prawn, lettuce, cucumber w/ a hint of spicy jalapeno mayonnaise & topped with crunchy tempura flakes
- Seared Salmon Nigiri
- Tuna Takaki – mild spice crust with wasabi mayo
- Nasu No Dengaku – fried eggplant w/ sweet miso dressing
- Teriyaki with Mixed Leaf Salad (Chicken) – other options available
Then Winter Specials – I do not know if still available.
- Scampi Miso Hot Pot
- Misozuke Cod – Saikyo miso black cod, oven baked and finished with a flamed miso dressing
WHAT WE THOUGHT:
The edamame is a staple starter for Japanese dining and I love the spicy option – made the beer so much better!! The kingfish in the sashimi was so beautifully plated and the freshest I have eaten. The prawn tempura roll was delicious with that jalapeño mayo being a hero and I loved the salmon nigiri. That sear made a nice change – would definitely order this one again.
The tuna tataki was a nice snack with a wonderful unique crunch from the cracker and the teriyaki chicken was a comforting favourite but struggled to stand out among so much awesome around it.
Three of the best dishes of the year……
Then there was three dishes that stood out and will stay with me as three of the best dishes I have eaten in 2017. The eggplant, the scampi and the black cod were all 5 Star dishes that make venues famous. The sweet Miso Eggplant was next level and one of their most popular dishes. 2017 has been the year I have fallen in love with eggplant and last week I actually cooked it for the first time. This is a MUST ORDER DISH if you are visiting.
Then there are two of their winter specials that may sadly be off their specials menu for summer but are things you need to add to your winter visit list. The scampi dish was a work of art that needs to be on display in art galleries. And finally – my single favourite dish of the year goes to the Misozuke Cod – I have eaten this twice now and still dream about it. I dined with an Asian chef and have asked her to make it for me. She explained it is actually a peasant dish and is quite simple to make. From memory (forgive me if wrong) – mirin, sake and miso make up the sauce for this incredible buttery taste bud bestie. It falls apart on your tongue and tastes so good you CANNOT SHARE it – order two for the table.
I eat a lot, it’s a satisfying work hazard. I am closing on 200 venues for the year. RAW BAR at Bondi Beach is the leader of the 2017 pack. I would consider moving to Bondi just to be closer to this Japanese marvel.
SCORE BREAKDOWN: 3/3 food, 2/2 service, 1/1 drinks, 1/1 venue & ambience, 1/1 cost, 1/1 toilets and 1/1 bonus
Raw Bar Deets:
PH: (02) 9365 7200
1/136 Warners Ave, Bondi NSW 2026
BOOKINGS: No – get in early because this place gets queues
Open Daily: Lunch from 12pm & Dinner from 6pm
LOCAL DELIVERY: Yes – Foodora
VEGETARIAN OPTIONS: Yes
GLUTEN FREE OPTIONS: Yes
KID FRIENDLY: Yes
*** JK (and any guests of Spooning Australia) were invited guests of the establishment and/or any PR agencies representing them. However, as always, if it was shite I would happily tell you as such ***