UMPTEEN restaurants and cafes have opened at the new Yagan Square – some good, some not so good – but Hiss & Smoke has it down pat.
Set in a cozy little spot inside Market Place, the Japanese eatery specialises in skewers and okonomiyaki – think hearty, charred food drizzled in sauce.
There are a few tables tucked away in corners, or you can sit up at the bar and watch the chefs char your food.
Okonomiyaki is a staple in Japan, but in Australia the pancake-style dish can be a little hard to find.
The word okonomi means “how you like” or “what you like,” and true to the name Hiss & Smoke has got a range of pancake options, from the traditional pork belly in barbecue sauce to the weird.
We went weird, ordering the cheesy bacon okonomiyaki.
For $13 you get a huge steaming dish of grilled pancakes slathered in mozzarella cheese, peppered with bacon, doused in mornay sauce and topped with mesmerising benito flakes (long strips of dried, ultra-thinly sliced fish that wave about like their alive as they’re heated up by the plate).
It’s a dish of varied textures: the dry crispy topping, a slight crunch to the outer pancake, and the soft inner section and gooey cheese. It’s not a delicate flavour, but it is bold, satisfying and filling.
Hiss & Smoke has got a wide range of skewers on the menu, so we went for a scattershot selection.
A lot are self-explanatory, simple and well done; like the negima (tender chicken thigh meat, $3.50 a stick) and the rump wagyu (indulgently marbled blocks of meat, $4).
Then there’s the hatsu skewers – chicken hearts. Really, the little parcels of rich-flavoured meat are good.
It’s not tough like you’d expect, and has a firm consistency that pops slightly when you bite into it.
Don’t be scared: you probably tried raw fish in the 1990s and loved it; now it’s 2018 and you can try some hearts.
It’s a little sad that new restaurants at Yagan Square got hammered with negative ratings early on.
Heading to a restaurant in its opening week is like buying the first Tesla or the half-baked iPhone 1.
Early adopters get to try something new and cool, but they have to appreciate it’ll have a few failings.
So it’s a shame that some grump eating at Hiss & Smoke in the first week after it opened didn’t get their chicken karaage fast enough and left a one-star review on Yelp.
A few of the restaurants in Yagan Square received similar treatment.
Ignore them—Hiss & Smoke has it together, and the food’s good value, filling, weird and delicious.
by DAVID BELL
Hiss & Smoke
Market Place, Yagan Square
11am to 10pm