Double Bay gets a new injection of life with the opening of Niji Restaurant & Bar, a fine dining offering of top quality Japanese share food and cocktails to boot.
The first thing you need to know about Niji Restaurant & Bar is that their name comes from the Japanese term for “rainbow”, which is the perfect term to describe the extensive number of cold, hot, sashimi, maki rolls, robata, tempura and smoked dishes on the menu.
The second thing you need to know is that the rainbow theme definitely does not apply to the interior design. Rather that the mish-mash of colours that might come to mind, it’s all warm wood and elegant oriental touches, managing to make spacious high ceilings feel cosy (plus a curved ceiling that’s reminiscent of the hull of a ship).
The new fine dining restaurant to hit Double Bay is a move upwards from its more casual Niji Sushi venture in Kingsford and it’s got some hospitality heavy hitters behind it. Head Chef Kahji Matsuda and General Manager James Lee occupied those same roles at Toko and Sake respectively, but, as James says with a laugh, “We don’t need their approval.”
They’re not wrong. Double Bay can be something of a stale neighbourhood, so Niji is a breath of fresh air. Getting a table on Friday and Saturday nights can be a bit of struggle (we’d recommend booking), as crowds prepare for a night of partying at Mrs Sippy or Pelicano with a few of Niji’s shared plates and more than a cocktail or two in them.
What you need to know about Niji.
The vibe: Buzzy. A mix of stylish dining and plenty of drinks.
Ideal for: Dinner and cocktails to start your night.
Bartender's Choice: Combo on the Beach: 3 rums, tropical fruits, spiced syrup, falernum and absinth ($18).
Try the... Niji Taru Taru: tuna, black caviar, avocado, miso and lotus root ($19).
By the way... There's street seating for a sunny daytime stroll.
Find them on Facebook: Niji Restaurant & Bar
The menu is designed to share, although, as always, this isn’t mandatory. One of the standouts is the ebi tamago: skewers with quail eggs, tiger prawns, basil, chilli and garnished with a herb salt, a perfectly balanced mix of flavours. If you have a big group you may want to grab two of these, as it can take a couple to properly figure out the flavours going on (although it’s delicious nonetheless).
The Niji Taro Taro, a beautifully plated dish of tuna, avocado salsa, black caviar, miso barley dressing, lemon oil and a few crunchy lotus chips, matches the ebi tamago for the pairing together of clever flavours. It’s a light, fresh option that’s so good you’ll be scraping the bowl to get every last morsel.
Cocktails are a mix of expertly crafted drinks and Japanese twists on classics. They’ve revamped the much-loved Bloody Mary as the Bloody Snapper, with celery infused shochu (a distilled rice wine liqueur), vodka, bloody mix, miso and tomato juice, the perfect accompaniment to a mid-Sunday morning feed.
Feel like something more refreshing? Go for the Combo on the Beach, a fruity although not overbearing mix of three rums, spiced syrup and absinthe. With that unique touch of Japanese hospitality, this cocktail comes served on an elegant tray, complete with a star anise and cinnamon stick (mostly decorational) and half a passionfruit caramelised with a blowtorch (delicious). We’d recommend ordering this cocktail for the passionfruit alone - you’ll definitely be left wishing you had a few more.
If you’re the type to watch the experts prepare your food, take a seat at the bar down the back, where skilled chefs in Samurai-style headbands slice and dice with practised hands. For everyone else, there’s the main dining area, a stylish cocoon of warm wood and soft lighting, or street dining, where a little bit of people-watching is in order. While there is an upstairs dining area (available for private hire), it just doesn’t quite match the style or sophistication of downstairs and feels a bit too removed for our liking.
Everything else, however, hits the mark. If you’ve been craving a spot of upmarket yet casual Japanese fare, then Niji Restaurant & Bar should be on your radar.
And when you go, do yourself a favour and order a little of everything.
21 Bay Street, Double Bay
Lunch (Monday to Sunday, 12pm - 3pm), Dinner (Monday to Sunday, 6pm - 11pm, kitchen closes 10pm), Bar (Monday to Sunday 12pm - 11pm)